Letter: Darien High School student opens up about his Asperger’s Syndrome

To the Editor:

Since I was born, I’ve had Asperger’s Syndrome—but few know what it is, or that I have it. In essence, Asperger’s is the mildest form of autism on the spectrum; in fact, many people go their whole lives without knowing it’s within them. I was diagnosed with it at age nine. Little wonder, as I was displaying the classic signs; I didn’t speak regularly until I was four, and I had a practically non-existent social life at that point.

Yet, like almost all with Asperger’s, I was intensely focused on a certain subject — which, for those with this condition, can be something as random as meteorology. For me, it was cars — still is. Music became another interest later on; I found solace in Led Zeppelin when I was in middle school, and eventually, in more progressive and heavier stuff (though I do appreciate some mainstream music).

Yet, this intelligence in certain interests and a high verbal IQ (I was several reading levels above the norm in elementary school, and I love writing in my free time to this day) comes at a cost—the aforementioned poor social skills. In elementary school, I spoke to few people, and when I did, it was beyond awkward most of the time. I connected better with my teachers than with almost anyone my age. I truly did not think I would have the amount of friends that I do today.

Although I can hold normal conversations now, it’s still a pain sometimes — i.e. my heart rate increases and my palms sweat when I have to think of something to start a conversation with or to say—and it still sometimes comes out with an air of dissonance. Additionally, I can’t fathom the physical and social intensity that comes with taking part in a sport, so I’ve never played one.

Instead, besides writing, I usually walk and drive places or make music in my spare time, which doesn’t require anyone but myself. Is it worth having Asperger’s? It’s a social handicap with a stupid name straight out of a South Park episode, but it’s gotten me so many places.

Only one in 250 people or so have this condition, and I ultimately appreciate having it.

This Thanksgiving weekend finally felt like an appropriate time to say something about my experience with Asperger’s. Sharing this was cathartic.

Tyler Roland

Tyler is a junior at Darien High School.