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Rhys Cordelle
11-08-2009, 03:32 PM
I have a character I want to write about who has asperges disorder/syndrome. I realise that portraying this character accurately could pose a challenge but I'm keen to try, and I intend to research the condition as fully as I can.

The issue is that he doesn't live in a society that has any understanding of asperges syndrome. To the people around him he is simply odd.

I'm interested to hear any advice you can give me on how to approach this character accurately, and how to help my readers understand him without giving them an explanation of his condition.

Rarri
11-08-2009, 03:41 PM
One of the best things you can do is learn more about Aspergers Syndrome itself. There are also a lot of books out there looking at Aspergers; i can't comment on its accuracy, but The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Curious-Incident-Dog-Night-time/dp/0099450259/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257680376&sr=8-1) is a well known (first person) portrayal of a boy with Aspergers.

bonitakale
11-08-2009, 04:11 PM
Jeffrey Cohen, author of The Asperger Parent: How to Raise a Child with Asperger Syndrome and Maintain Your Sense of Humor has written some mysteries in which the main character, Aaron Tucker, is the father of a son with Asperger's.

And there's some historical stuff on the web. Or, you could look up bullying in general, if your society is medieval or something.

StephanieFox
11-08-2009, 09:45 PM
Just so you'll know, the Am. Psyciatric Assoc is planning on dropping the term. However, there are organizatons of people with Asperger's who are embracing the syndrome and calling for Asperger's pride as evidenced by the following products:
http://www.autisticgenius.com/

Also check out:

http://www.freewebs.com/aspiefrommaine/linksandsupportgroups.htm

And, check out books by Temple Grandin, Steven Shore and Liane Willey Holliday.

Karen Junker
11-09-2009, 12:17 AM
I've read a manuscript by someone who made her heroine have Asperger's, but she neglected to fully clue the reader in on the cause of the heroine's odd behavior and dialogue. The character came across as very unlikeable. You have a challenging bit of work ahead of you! Best of luck with your project!

Rhys Cordelle
11-09-2009, 12:46 AM
I've read a manuscript by someone who made her heroine have Asperger's, but she neglected to fully clue the reader in on the cause of the heroine's odd behavior and dialogue. The character came across as very unlikeable. You have a challenging bit of work ahead of you! Best of luck with your project!

This is what I was worried about, though my story won't be from his point of view.

It seems like a lot of the information I've found so far is focused on children. I'm really looking to find more on how it affects their adult lives.

Thanks everyone for the great advice. I'll look into the sources you all suggested.

Kitty Pryde
11-09-2009, 01:59 AM
I have a character I want to write about who has asperges disorder/syndrome. I realise that portraying this character accurately could pose a challenge but I'm keen to try, and I intend to research the condition as fully as I can.

The issue is that he doesn't live in a society that has any understanding of asperges syndrome. To the people around him he is simply odd.


Um, me too! :D One, get to know people with AS. I know about ten people with AS pretty well, so I find it pretty easy... I think it would be really hard to capture a character if you haven't spent time with people with AS. You can always find good volunteer opportunities to work with special needs kids/teens.

If your character is just thought of as weird...are there other people with AS/autism/other disabilities around him? How does society view people like him? Are they blessed with special gifts from the gods? Are they considered cursed, taboo, or thought to be changelings? Are they hidden away, or is there so much labor to be done that they end up getting trained to do work. Do people recognize his special abilities and find a job where he can put them to good use? Or do they simply think he has a lousy personality, and thus not like him? Is anyone trying to teach him social skills by rote, as we do in our world? Or is he shunned by society?

Oh! I know: watch The Big Bang Theory on tv--the character of Sheldon has Aspergers Syndrome, but they never say it on the show (because they like to make fun of his poor social skills, and if they named his disorder they couldn't mock him as viciously). That's the most realistic portrayal of a character with AS I've seen on TV. There's a DVD of season 1 I think. There's another movie called "Mozart and the Whale" about two characters with AS that is supposed to be good too. I bet you can find some good documentaries, too.

Another good idea: get far inside the character's head: he's probably of above average intelligence...but there's loads of social interaction stuff going on that he is mostly blind too. He probably has a good idea that people know stuff that he doesn't, that people find it easy to tease him and he can't get the upper hand. If he has isolated interest areas, what are they? Does he talk about them constantly, or has he learned to shut up about them because other people get mad? If I think of anything else I will post again!


One of the best things you can do is learn more about Aspergers Syndrome itself. There are also a lot of books out there looking at Aspergers; i can't comment on its accuracy, but The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Curious-Incident-Dog-Night-time/dp/0099450259/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257680376&sr=8-1) is a well known (first person) portrayal of a boy with Aspergers.

The kid in Curious Incident etc... has autism, not Aspergers Syndrome.




And, check out books by Temple Grandin, Steven Shore and Liane Willey Holliday.


Temple Grandin has autism too, not Aspergers Syndrome. The disorders are related, but not the same.

Menyanthana
11-09-2009, 02:11 AM
I don't know people with Asperger's, but I know people who have some of the symptoms.
The "not being able to tell how others feel" for example.
It's like being blind, and no one around you knows it, so people are always angry at you because you stepped on their toes.
Or, even worse, they don't say that they're angry, they just behave strange and you can't tell why.

Rhys Cordelle
11-09-2009, 04:44 AM
Um, me too! :D One, get to know people with AS. I know about ten people with AS pretty well, so I find it pretty easy... I think it would be really hard to capture a character if you haven't spent time with people with AS. You can always find good volunteer opportunities to work with special needs kids/teens.

Volunteering is a great idea. I will look into it :)



If your character is just thought of as weird...are there other people with AS/autism/other disabilities around him? How does society view people like him? Are they blessed with special gifts from the gods? Are they considered cursed, taboo, or thought to be changelings? Are they hidden away, or is there so much labor to be done that they end up getting trained to do work. Do people recognize his special abilities and find a job where he can put them to good use? Or do they simply think he has a lousy personality, and thus not like him? Is anyone trying to teach him social skills by rote, as we do in our world? Or is he shunned by society?

The population in this setting is quite small, and as things like autism go undiagnosed, people with these kind of disabilities do not get treated together. So to answer your question, no, he does not have others with similar disorders in his life. He does, however, have a cousin who cares a great deal for him and tries very hard to teach him how to behave in social settings. There's no official religious opinion on what he's afflicted with, though some might believe him to be cursed. He's definitely not hidden away, he plays a vital role in the plot. As for your other questions, these are things I'm still figuring out. Right now I'm trying to decide on what narrow subjects are of particular interest to him, and whether he is able to control his tendency to go on long monologues about them.



Oh! I know: watch The Big Bang Theory on tv--the character of Sheldon has Aspergers Syndrome, but they never say it on the show (because they like to make fun of his poor social skills, and if they named his disorder they couldn't mock him as viciously). That's the most realistic portrayal of a character with AS I've seen on TV. There's a DVD of season 1 I think.

I absolutely love Sheldon. I think he's adorable :) There is a new zealand made drama called Shortland Street where one of the doctors has AS. She is a very interesting character to me and they aren't afraid to portray her attempts at social interaction going wrong. When she first joins the cast a lot of the other characters think she is an awful person because she has no sympathy and says inappropriate things, until they come to understand her better.



Another good idea: get far inside the character's head: he's probably of above average intelligence...but there's loads of social interaction stuff going on that he is mostly blind too. He probably has a good idea that people know stuff that he doesn't, that people find it easy to tease him and he can't get the upper hand

Yeah he's definitely intelligent. Thanks very much for all of your insights :)


I'm not sure if it is a behaviour that would fit with someone who has AS but I was considering the possibility that he could take a sort of investigative approach to social behaviour, to the point where he might cause events to occur simply for the sake of observing peoples reactions. An example might be breaking an object that someone has expressed is valuable, or saying something he has learned is insulting, to see if everyone he says it to reacts the same way. I'm not suggesting that this is how people with AS behave, but I wonder if portraying him this way would be a mistake.

Cath
11-09-2009, 07:19 AM
Adding Aspergers into the thread title to see if we can attract some more helpful folk to answer your thread, Rhys.

For research, can I strongly recommend our own John Elder Robison's "Look Me In the Eye (http://www.amazon.com/Look-Me-Eye-Life-Aspergers/dp/0307395987)" as someone who lived with Aspergers for a long time before it was diagnosed.

suki
11-09-2009, 07:33 AM
There is another recent book you might want to take a look at - Marcello in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. The MC has "an Asperger's-like condition" (as the MC describes himself). I found the book really well-done, and thought Stork handled the MC and his place in the spectrum really well.

~suki

Xelebes
11-09-2009, 07:35 AM
Temple Grandin has autism too, not Aspergers Syndrome. The disorders are related, but not the same.

The only difference I know of is the severity.

I'm someone with Asperger's. What is it that you'd like to know specifically?

Edit - I'm going to post in a new post.

Xelebes
11-09-2009, 07:47 AM
All right new post.

I'm someone with Asperger's and lived with Asperger's before the diagnosis came about. No Asperger's specialists were in Alberta until the mid 90's, which would have made me about 10 years old when he (Dr. Golden) first came around. I had the benefit of having other family members on the spectrum with me.

- My grandfather had classic signs of Aspergers. He managed to make a living as a manufacturing agent, honing on new inventions and buying them to sell. He fought in WWII as an officer, a lieutentant. He pulled a few social gaffes and had to be moved between batallions before the war ended because of them. He divorced from his first wife for... I don't know why. He did pretty well, I have to say though. Don't really know much about him as he was really quiet and didn't really speak to his grandchildren, though he loved us very much.

Xelebes
11-09-2009, 07:53 AM
I'm not sure if it is a behaviour that would fit with someone who has AS but I was considering the possibility that he could take a sort of investigative approach to social behaviour, to the point where he might cause events to occur simply for the sake of observing peoples reactions. An example might be breaking an object that someone has expressed is valuable, or saying something he has learned is insulting, to see if everyone he says it to reacts the same way. I'm not suggesting that this is how people with AS behave, but I wonder if portraying him this way would be a mistake.

I have not met many Aspies who do this. Most of the time they are avoiding interaction because they are scared of the reaction. Braver ones don't care about other people's reactions so much.

Rhys Cordelle
11-09-2009, 07:59 AM
Hey :) Thanks for posting.

You mention your grandfather displaying signs. Is it common among people with aspurgers for other family members to have it too?

One other thing I'm very curious about is reaction to the senses. I've read that people with asperges can be overly sensitive, or have a reduced reaction to, things like taste, loud noise, lights, etc. but what I couldn't find out is how these can affect a single person.

What I mean is, can someone with aspurges be very sensitive to light, while having low sensitivity to noise, or is it a case of all senses being either heightened or dulled?

Also, are these typically constant or changeable? Can you be sensitive to loud noise one day and then have normal or reduced sensitivity to it another day?

Xelebes
11-09-2009, 08:37 AM
Yes, it is common for other people in the family to be on the spectrum. My grandfather was most definitely on the spectrum as is my older sister and my younger brother.

When someone is hypersensitive to things, they usually tend to avoid certain things or try to control said sensory issue and they'll do this with much protest if they can't get it. It's usually only a couple senses that are affected like sight and taste or sound and touch. Sometimes it is three or whatever. For me it is sound and I like controlling the sound, filling my ears with pleasant sound when I have the opportunity. Since I have no earplugs or an ipod, I usually just phase out and day dream when I'm doing things away from the computer. Touch is another issue of mine where I react badly to feeling wind. I usually wear layers - like right now I'm wearing two layers just because it feels nice, not that I am particularly cold.

For the most part they don't change over time. They are pretty static from what I can tell.

Rhys Cordelle
11-09-2009, 09:10 AM
Thanks Xelebes :) That's really helpful info.

Kitty Pryde
11-09-2009, 09:15 AM
I absolutely love Sheldon. I think he's adorable :) There is a new zealand made drama called Shortland Street where one of the doctors has AS. She is a very interesting character to me and they aren't afraid to portray her attempts at social interaction going wrong. When she first joins the cast a lot of the other characters think she is an awful person because she has no sympathy and says inappropriate things, until they come to understand her better.

I'm not sure if it is a behaviour that would fit with someone who has AS but I was considering the possibility that he could take a sort of investigative approach to social behaviour, to the point where he might cause events to occur simply for the sake of observing peoples reactions. An example might be breaking an object that someone has expressed is valuable, or saying something he has learned is insulting, to see if everyone he says it to reacts the same way. I'm not suggesting that this is how people with AS behave, but I wonder if portraying him this way would be a mistake.

You have to be careful with tv shows--sometimes the portrayal of a character with an autism spectrum disorder can be ridiculous. Grey's Anatomy recently had a heart surgeon with AS--her character was totally outlandish and unrealistic. In that no one would behave the way she did, no matter what her diagnosis might have been!

I guess you could try to have him incite behaviors in others. My only reservation would be that, if he's had a lot of experiences being bullied, attacked, shunned, whatever, then he probably is somewhat afraid and doesn't want to "rock the boat" by inciting possible violence or negative reaction. Little kids push boundaries and try to get a rise out of people, that's natural, but I might think an adult would be too wart to try that. But everybody's different, so maybe so :)



The only difference I know of is the severity.

One difference is the severity. Another difference is that people with AS have no impairment in self-help and verbal skills growing up (talking, understanding other people when they talk, dressing, toilet training, feeding themselves, etc), but people with autism do have in impairments in one or more of those areas. Another difference is that people with AS usually have an above average IQ, and people with autism usually have an average or below average IQ.

Xelebes
11-09-2009, 09:45 AM
One difference is the severity. Another difference is that people with AS have no impairment in self-help and verbal skills growing up (talking, understanding other people when they talk, dressing, toilet training, feeding themselves, etc), but people with autism do have in impairments in one or more of those areas. Another difference is that people with AS usually have an above average IQ, and people with autism usually have an average or below average IQ.

Not to derail the topic too much but that is what I meant by severity. People with Asperger's (and HFA) do have difficulties with self-help and verbal skills, it's just not as profound as those with LFA.

Autodidact
11-09-2009, 10:13 AM
I have a character I want to write about who has asperges disorder/syndrome. I realise that portraying this character accurately could pose a challenge but I'm keen to try, and I intend to research the condition as fully as I can.

The issue is that he doesn't live in a society that has any understanding of asperges syndrome. To the people around him he is simply odd.

I'm interested to hear any advice you can give me on how to approach this character accurately, and how to help my readers understand him without giving them an explanation of his condition.

Read Born on a Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet. It's a memoir by a brilliant man with Asperger's. I think you will find it very helpful, and it's a very good book.

Rarri
11-09-2009, 01:12 PM
The kid in Curious Incident etc... has autism, not Aspergers Syndrome.

Whoops! Apologies for that, shows how long it is since i read the book.

Kitty Pryde
11-09-2009, 08:37 PM
Not to derail the topic too much but that is what I meant by severity. People with Asperger's (and HFA) do have difficulties with self-help and verbal skills, it's just not as profound as those with LFA.

From the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers Syndrome (in the DSM IV manual):



(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)

(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

Wiskel
11-09-2009, 08:43 PM
An interesting theory of Aspergers (and the autistic spectrum in general) is that it's about recognising patterns....or perhaps more acurately not always recognising them.

Problems are in 3 different areas...with a generous "misc" fourth catagory to catch the things that don't fit eslewhere.

Language is a complicated pattern. In theory, it's a literal way of using words to convey ideas. Being human though, we play with it, twist it and contort it to make it interesting.....especially writers. We talk about it raining cats and dogs when any idiot knows it rains droplets of water, clouds have silver linings when they're actually gray and sometimes we can't hear ourselves think even though deaf people can think perfectly well thank you. It takes a greater degree of skill....a greater ability to recognise patterns to understand colourful language than it does to understand literal meaning.

People are the most complicated patterns on the planet. Our tone of voice, body language and mood colour everything we say and everything we do. then we all have the audacity to be individuals and react differently to exactly the same situation. If you struggle with patterns at all then you're going to struggle with people sometimes.

So, if you struggle with patterns, what do you do? You might seek out patterns that never change. Maths has the decency to ensure 2+2=4, even if it's raining. Even at 2am when you're hungover, so you might find that easier to understand. Computers always do the same thing too and they don't have body language to worry about. Engineering and physics and chemisty are fairly safe too. you might prefer these things as they're predictable. If you want even more predictability you might try to harmonise your routine and use the same cup, eat the same food, wear the same clothes and do the same thing in the same way everyday.

Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory is a good and a bad example. He illustrates the routine and social side of aspergers quite well, but he's also thick skinned and bossy. It's not uncommon for people with aspergers to start out that way, but a few years of the world getting angry with them or bullying them usually produces anxieties, insecurities and even avoidance of stuff that doesn't work for them. You could write a Sheldon, you'd create a truer picture if your character didn't have such a thick skin or loud voice. It would be equally true to write a shy person with Aspergers who preferred to avoid arguements than win them.

The hyersensitivty falls into the "misc" category. It's usually pretty consistant, not variable from day to day, but it has the same qualites as background noise does for any of us. On days when I'm feeling under the weather or working to a tight deadline then people distracting me or a creaking door will bug the hell out of me. On a great day the last thing I care about is background noise.

Your idea of your character conducting "experiments" to see how people react is ok and does happen...but you need to balance it with their intelligence and anxiety. They will not deliberately do things that they know will lead to them getting emotionally hurt any more than I would.

There's a theory that says that people who are shortsighted are more likely to enjoy reading and become academics. It doesn't hold true but there is a nugget of common sense in it. people do things that are in their comfort zone more than they do things that aren't. The same "common sense" approach holds true for aspergers. They are more likely to be into computers and science as those things are more likely to be within their comfort zone, but someone with aspergers could be anywhere doing anything if they're comfortable with it. Their differences mean their comfort zones don't always gel well with other people.

For a better account than I can give google Temple Grandin. she's a highly articulate and intelligent woman who is on the spectrum but comfortable enough around people to share her experiences, and skilled enough to be able to share her point of view on the world in a way that those of us not on the spectrum can understand.

Craig

Xelebes
11-09-2009, 10:10 PM
From the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers Syndrome (in the DSM IV manual):

Criterion IV refers to a general language delay but not a specific language delay, like dyslexia, hyperlexia, selective mutism and so forth.

Criterion V is vague and looks for gross delays and doesn't count specific delays that are minor to the issues of those with LFA. For example, delay in tying shoes, delay in running, etc.


An interesting theory of Aspergers (and the autistic spectrum in general) is that it's about recognising patterns....or perhaps more acurately not always recognising them.

I prefer the theory where it is an issue of timing as it is with timing things that I have the most issue.

efreysson
11-09-2009, 10:46 PM
I was diagnosed with Asperger's about ten years ago, (I'm 27 now).

I don't really know what to add to all this, but feel free to PM me with any specific questions.

StephanieFox
11-10-2009, 01:31 AM
There are several television characters who are Aspys including one on the show 'Community.' Although this is a comedy and often the character's foibles is played for laughs, so are all the characters. I think the representation of this character is generally sympathetic. He seems to be good natured and kind. He does remind me of several Aspys I know.

http://alternativechoicespa.blogspot.com/2009/09/aspergers-on-nbc-funny-or-just-plain_18.html

stormie
11-10-2009, 01:40 AM
I've read through this thread quickly, so I don't know if this was brought up. No two Asperger's are alike, just as no two high-functioning autistics are alike. With Aspergers, it's mostly the lack of social sense, social cues. Like they were born without the manual on life (to paraphrase my older son and my nephew).

One other thing and then I'll shut up. They can also have components, such as, Aspergers w/ OCD, Aspergers w/ paranoia, Aspergers w/ OCD and paranoia, etc.

K.Bristow
11-18-2009, 06:32 AM
I concur with Stormie.
My nephew has been diagnosed since he was 2 and he's 13 now. He has a photographic memory, is brilliant but has trouble with things like sound conflicting noise. Can't stand to be at a party or a movie threater. He had little in the way of pain reseptors so we taught him about pain and what can and can't be touched, played with etc. He has a fixation with baseball cards but can put all MLB statistians to shame. He is "normal" in most other areas of life. If you need any further info or help, PM me and I'll hook you up with my sister (Alex's Mom). She believes that the more people who are educated about this can understand greater the challenges and need for research and funding. Hope you get whatever you need for your project. Common rule to follow - no two people are alike with or without Aspergers. Alex is Aspergers w/ ADHD. Brilliant but can sit still long enough to focus even if he could, if he's not on his meds.