Hi my name is Grant and I experience Asperger’s Syndrome.
I am a visual dominant thinker and when I was a boy I did not read or write well. I also had special interests, collecting things, such as stones from the garden or the bush, shells from the beach, and leaves from plants. I liked the patterns that I saw in these natural forms. I remember I would put the leaves up to the sun and look at their vein-like branches, tracing the patterns with my eyes, looking at how leaves from different plants are similar in some ways sharing common qualities with each other, yet also different. I noticed that even two leaves from the same branch were more similar, yet they were still not exactly alike. The more I studied the natural world the more I noticed the same patterns arising. I would do this for hours……days and weeks returning to look again and again tracing their patterns in my mind. This in time led to my interest in the Fibonacci sequence.
I was not able to concentrate well at school and I also talked at the wrong time. I had a few unique speech problems such as not pronouncing words correctly. I went to an inner city High School and I was told that I would amount to nothing because I did not take my studies seriously, I was disciplined and physically caned in school for my difference. It was a very difficult time for me. I did not cope well.
I grew up in an era where Asperger’s was not a diagnostic condition. My family, teachers and friends did not know why I was different. I knew I was different, a unique person. I knew that my experience was different but I did not know how to explain my difference to others. Just like the leaves of a plant are different, we all are. No two honey bees are the same yet they still make honey. How wonderful that there is so much variance and colour in our world…….
I dropped out of school before I had completed my basic education, due to non-acceptance and environmental stress. I liked art at school and history. I wanted to do art but my family said it was a waste of time and that I needed to stop being a dreamer. I thought they must be right and so I tried to be more “normal” and functional. I tried and I tried…….. I tried to concentrate more and I tried to stop being a dreamer. I put my head down. I went to work on a building site where I used a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a broom for most of the day. The more I tried to stop dreaming the more dreams I would have. I kept my inner life to myself and I became very lonely and felt isolated from people. I learnt to “pass”, by copying others.
When I was young I did not like to wear certain fabrics, like wool, nylon or polyester, I only liked to wear cotton clothes. I experienced painful headaches and did not know why, neither did my Doctor’s. It was due to being hypersensitive to my environment. I also experienced social anxiety, which when I grew up was called, “avoiding your responsibilities”. I thought about what my teachers said to me and I thought that actually it was wrong of them to say that to me, or to anyone else.
I started to dream of a new future. I wanted to help other people. I did a Welfare Workers course when I was 28, 13 years after I had dropped out of school. After I completed my course a new dream of going to university came to me. I was being sung by my dreams……
I started university in 1995. My program was a Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Social Inquiry) I wanted to understand society and where I belonged in it. It was difficult, I experienced fatigue and also had difficulty with being in lectures and in tutorials. The neon lights caused me headaches and I still had my learning difficulties.
I continued after failing a few courses and thought to myself that I am here for a reason and so I need to continue. When I completed my first degree I understood so much more about human society and about myself. I now knew that my dreams were powerful and that dreaming was part of my creativity. No child should be told not to dream……..
After working in various settings I decided to return to my education. I started a Master of Arts program at Griffith University. In 2009 I received my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult. Wow……thinking about it now I was both shocked and also relieved. I now knew that my difference was neurological in origin. My neurology was different to other people. Just like the leaves and their vein-like branches I observed in the garden, different and unique, yet with shared characteristics held in common between others. I returned to my art as a creative healing space, a temporal refuge, while I was completing my MA. In my dissertation I wrote about my experience as a visual dominant thinker, the vividness of colours and the depth and contrast of shadow and light. I wrote about Asperger’s Syndrome and I painted seven works which became part of my Master’s. I came to understand that in each species on the planet variations within their phenotype is observable and is natural. Variation is actually the potential causation for further adaptation.
My art is something that I love. I find great inspiration in its creation and appreciation.
No child should be told that they are wasting their time in creating art or music, etc and not follow their natural creativity….
Another dream came to me and it was to become an Autism educator and a disability specialist. I am currently completing a Master of Social Work program and I have applied to enter a PhD program. I intend to undertake research on the lived experience of other individuals like myself who live with Autism. I hope to reveal their experience, life challenges and their adaptive ability to cope with their environment, providing new insights regarding the spectrum, their unique characters and abilities.
Thank you for reading my story!
If you have a story you would like to share, I’d like to read it.
Nature has taught me much and so have my dreams…………….