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Life On The Spectrum

Pulitzer-winning music critic Tim Page, on his Asperger’s:

So preoccupied are we with our inner imperatives that the outer world may overwhelm and confuse. What anguished pity I used to feel for piñatas at birthday parties, those papier-mâché donkeys with their amiable smiles about to be shattered by little brutes with bats. On at least one occasion, I begged for a stay of execution and eventually had to be taken home, weeping, convinced that I had just witnessed the braining of a new and sympathetic acquaintance.

Caring for inanimate objects came easily. Learning to make genuine connections with people—much as I desperately wanted them—was a bewildering process. I felt like an alien, always about to be exposed. Or, to adapt another hoary but useful analogy, not only did I not see the forest for the trees; I was so intensely distracted that I missed the trees for the species of lichen on their bark.

I resemble that! I’m not an Aspie proper, but I’m uncomfortably close to what Page describes here. And especially here:

If I wasn’t deeply interested in a subject, I couldn’t concentrate on it at all—those dreadful algebra classes, those Bunsen burners, the mystifying and now deservedly extinct slide rule! Late in each semester, when it became obvious to me that I had no idea what I was supposed to have learned, I’d attend some makeup classes and try desperately to pay attention. As the teacher rattled on, I would grind my teeth, twirl the tops of my socks around my index finger—once I poked myself repeatedly through my pocket with a pin—anything to keep my mind engaged. But it was impossible: a leaf would fall outside the open window, or I’d notice the pattern of the veins on a girl’s hand, or a shout from the playground would trigger a set of irresistible associations that carried me back to another day.

God, yes. If anybody aside from some specialists had known what Asperger’s was when I was in high school, I wonder if it would have made a difference for me?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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