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What Asperger’s Is Like

The Interacting With Autism project has created the short video above, intended to show what life is like for people with autism and Asperger’s (which is high-functioning autism). The live with sensory overload, which can cause intense anxiety, even among the highest functioning Aspies. I saw this video on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and asked my son Matthew, who is a very high-functioning Aspie, to what extent this clip captures what his experience is like.

He watched it, and said: “That’s incredible. That’s exactly what a meltdown is like. Exactly.”

I noticed he seemed a little jangly. “Are you okay?” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “That was just really, really accurate.”

He gave me permission to blog his reaction. I am grateful for that, because if you live with an Aspie, or someone with autism, it can be very difficult to understand what their experience is like. I speak from regrettable personal experience. For example, before we knew what Matt was dealing with, I can remember putting him into a lukewarm shower (he was six or seven), with him yelling, “It’s burning me!”, and me putting my hand into the water stream, saying, “Oh, come on, it’s barely warm.” To me, it really was barely warm. To you, it would have been barely warm as well.

But not to him. It really did feel like it was burning. I thought he was throwing a fit just to be annoying. I can barely think about episodes we had like that without feeling overwhelming guilt. Of course I didn’t know. His senses have calmed down a lot as he’s gotten older, but he still has his moments. Watching this video tonight, and then having him watch it and validate its content, is a powerful reminder to love that kid more, and to be more tolerant of him and the cross he carries. 

If you have an Aspie or someone with autism in your life, even at the margins, please watch that video. It’s important.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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