Explaining aspergers to children

At one of my performances recently, I was approached by a child who asked me

“what is aspergers?”

In all honesty, I had trouble describing it. I felt completely tongue tied and didn’t know what to say, so I decided to write.

I found this great video which can be shown to kids to kick off the explanation:

Aspergers affects different people in different ways and instead of using the generalized Google searched picture of aspergers; I’ve gone for the more a “how aspergers affects Nichole” approach.

Aspergers for one is not a disease, it can’t be caught; it is completely safe to hang out with me. Aspergers is part of the Autism Spectrum.

Some things I have trouble with:

Social Interaction- 

  • having a desire to make friends, but sometimes not knowing how to go about it
  • trouble understanding others feelings and body language
  • trouble with creating small talk
  • sometimes I can be pre-occupied with my own thoughts and that is all I want to talk about, much to others dismay
  •  I may rock or fidget alot, this is called stimming. It doesn’t mean I am ignoring you or not listening, quite often if I draw while in meetings or conversations it actually helps me focus alot better, rocking however usually means I’m a little stressed and I need a break.
  • I may withdraw from a situation, going for a walk and getting a drink is one of my favourite things to do especially when I am in a situation that I need ultimate focus- like teaching children on the trapeze. As a child I used to flip the trampoline up and kick a ball into it as hard as I could. I may also sit alone and place my headphones in (usually only the right as I can’t stand the feeling of having anything in my left ear).

I am definately alot better now at socializing then I was even one or two years ago thanks to some very patient parents, workmates and friends. I find it easier to interact if I know I already have something in common with someone such as circus, sport or musicals.

Relationships-

  • Some days I can be very huggy and I will hug just about every person I come in contact with, bouncing around cheerfully, other days though I may struggle to even make eye contact with that same person I was hugging just yesterday.
  • I find it hard to read people, knowing what they are thinking or if they’re being sarcastic, at times I may even ask you if you’re joking.
  • I may get upset very easily at criticism, quite often I find it hard to be told off for something especially when I have genuinely tried my hardest. It helps for someone to explain what I can do to improve the situation that way I can take it away, reflect and work on it for next time. If I don’t know how to change it I will often cry and over think everything.

Physical-

  • Sometimes I may appear to be in my own world or even slip into my own world while someone is talking to me, is this because I find you boring? definately not, I don’t know why I do so during conversation but I can explain out of conversation; quite often it is to recharge. I find it happens more when I’ve spent a whole day with a group of people and I go into overload, kind of like a volcano, there is only so much one can take,
  • Engaging in tasks; I can spend hours and hours doing some tasks, I understand if it needs to be sped up, you can tell me, but maybe I could teach you something about how I’m processing and going about the task?
  • Spending hours “researching” and learning, I love reading and finding information especially on my special interest areas. I can sit and read the library out of encyclopedias or I may just simply read the same book over and over again.
  • Clumsiness- I have a slight habit of running into things…..
  • I love collecting things, when I was a child it was tazos, pokemon cards, football cards etc I even have folders of old gymnastics pictures and articles in storage. These days I love things such as playing cards, hair scrunchies.
  • I may come across as a little “weird”, please don’t judge me until you’ve talked to me, you may even like me.
  • Memorising facts and figures comes easy to me, especially if it is in a topic I really enjoy, such as history and mathematics. I can still roll off my timetables that I rote learned in grade 5.
  • Expression- I am working hard at showing expression, particularly when I perform. Facial expressions are not a strong area for me so please bear with me.
  • Special interest areas, my special interest areas are gymnastics, circus and musicals if you haven’t worked this out yet (or if you don’t know me in person) I can talk for hours and hours. If you get bored; why don’t you introduce me to your special interest area?
  • Reading body language, tone and facial expression – this is one area I have immense trouble with. I am getting much better but if I am staring at you a little too long it is often because I am trying to work these things out. I like to improve these areas when I travel by “people watching” at bus terminals and airports. Jokes often will either be missed on me or will laugh alot, quite often there is no middle ground. If you think I have missed something or not understood it properly, please let me know.
  • Single minded- some days I will be so completely and utterly in my other world, focusing will be hard but if I have a task to do such as teaching I will become engulfed in teaching.
  • Sensitivities-  I am very sensitive (that is a joke), jokes aside many aspies are sensitive to lights, touch, smell etc. I mainly have trouble when there is a lot of noise in a small enclosed space or flickering lights but things such as bright colours may set me off if I am near overload.
  • Uncoordinated-  I am very uncoordinated in some areas, such as anything that requires balance, this is also partially due to my ear problems.

I am what is known in the aspie world as a sensory seeker. I think this term is pretty self explanatory but let me explain anyway. For me it is like a bug going to the light, there is certain things I will gravitate towards. Some of these include:

  • Spinning- I love the rides on the showgrounds that spin really fast and can go on them without getting sick
  • Climbing- My favourite thing to climb is those spider web contraptions in the parks but if there is not one of those I will climb anything that I can such as the monkey bars, trees etc
  • Hanging upside down – I enjoy this and will often hang upside down for long periods of time off of things. I love hanging upside down from the trapeze or hammock at work it helps me think clearer, kind of like making decisions in the shower.
  • Sensory play- probably why it takes me much longer to do the dishes, I sit there and play with the suds, I also love water over the top of me, the feel of gak, mud, clay pretty much anything I can get dirty with.
  • Chewing on things- this use to frustrate my mum and probably still frustrates others because usually it is my shirt or jumper, I will suck or chew on it while I think, often without realising and I find myself doing it when I am upside down too.
  • Having trouble speaking soft or loud, I have trouble monitoring my voice so if I am too loud or too soft please tell me as I may not realise.

This is just a start, if you have a question please don’t hesitate to ask me !

Nichole

7 thoughts on “Explaining aspergers to children

  1. I have aspergers too, it was only recently diagnosed even though I’m in my late teens. I feel like your list describes me too, I have a lot of the same things. I think it’s really cool that you’re doing something as awesome as circus work. I wish I could perform more often.

    • I was diagnosed as an adult, so I can kind of understand the challenges and looking back thinking how come they didn’t pick this up the signs are there. Just remember to keep smiling and do what you enjoy, don’t ever let anyone take it away from you.

  2. We are so proud of the work you do with the children in The Lockyer Valley Nichole. And also the improvement on your own trapeze skills. You have come so far in a short while and you will only get better!

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