Healthy Mind

Living with asperger’s in college

Starting out at college is a tricky time for all people, no matter what your personality is like. However, when you have Asperger’s Syndrome as well, it does make it more difficult. I am a first year journalism student in DIT and can say that, without a doubt, my Asperger’s has made this transition trickier for me in comparison to most of my classmates.

Asperger's Syndrome, a developmental disorder, is an ASD (autism spectrum disorder). It impacts mainly on a person’s ability to communicate and socialize, as well as many other things.

One key issue I have found surrounding Asperger’s is a lack of knowledge on what it is and how it affects people. Many people have a set idea of what autism is and do not realise that Asperger’s is slightly different and that it can change a lot between each individual person.

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time once said: “There is no right type of Asperger’s. People with Asperger’s are as varied as Norwegians and trombone players.” I find this to be extremely true, I have met many other people who also have Asperger’s and no one person has the exact same characteristics of the condition.

I am lucky enough to have a very mild form of Asperger’s and therefore most people I meet cannot tell at first that I even have it. In one way this degree of mildness can be a double edged sword. As I previously mentioned, there is often lack of knowledge about the different forms of Asperger’s and autism that people can have, and once people see that I can hold a conversation they assume that I do not have any social impediments.

One crucial way in which my Asperger’s affects me is with my communication with people, mainly the fact that I do not understand sarcasm or irony.

This has affected me hugely in college as it causes me to become offended rather easily when I misinterpret jokes made by my course mates. I also cannot lie well and am, at times, brutally honest, I will often blurt things out before realising what I have said.

As opposed to many people with an ASD who find it difficult to communicate, I communicate too well and find it difficult to know when to stop talking. I have found that this can sometimes annoy people as they find me to be too ‘intense’.

All of these grouped together affected me hugely in school as I always found it very difficult to make meaningful, lasting friendships. However, I have found that in college people are much more understanding and accepting once I explain to them the particulars of my Asperger’s and have made many good friends both through my course and extra-curricular activities.

This does not mean that it is easy for me to forge good relationships with people, I am very conscious of the ways that my thinking is different to other people and I over-think and over-analyse many of my words and actions.

I also look very deeply into the words and actions of others around me and can often misinterpret a harmless comment to mean that somebody is annoyed with me.

This also affects me in a large way work-wise in college. Constructive criticism comments from well meaning lecturers have played on my mind for weeks and because of this I have many assessments which I was convinced I failed (I passed them all in the end).

My academic college life is also affected around assessments and exams; having Asperger’s means that I work very well around routine, dates and deadlines. In short, I like to know what to do and when to do it. Being in college suits me hugely because of this.

Having a structured day with classes and knowing when to have everything submitted by means that I can easily plan ahead and see what I need to get done.

One way in which I, and every other person in DIT, are very lucky is that the college have excellent disability and counselling support services. Here I have been able to access counselling where I am able to talk through issues and worries that I encounter in a private and confidential manner.

I think that the main issue surrounding any ASD is the lack of knowledge that a lot of people have about them. Many people watch The Big Bang Theory and see how Sheldon acts and assume that we are all the same.

However in my experience, once you explain to people how you are affected by it and let them know the way in which your mind works, it need not be an issue in your daily life. It does make things more difficult, but I would never say that I am ashamed to be an ‘aspie’, nor would I wish it away in the morning.