Let me begin by saying that every “Aspie” (person with Asperger’s) is different. It’s a spectrum condition, meaning that some have it “more” and some have it “less”, but there are common traits which all Aspies share.
From this point on I speak for myself only.
I’m at the more extreme end of the spectrum. I was diagnosed late at 37, having led a wildly varied and interesting life in three different countries. As a child I was expelled from 5 different secondary schools, and ultimately left education at the age of 15 with no qualifications. Around this time I was sharing the rent on a house with my 21 year old girlfriend.
I’m still discovering things I can do, and I still automatically assume they’re things anyone can do, which is common among the late diagnosed.
Among the more interesting are “perfect pitch” and “perfect rhythm”, which is basically the ability to exactly recall musical notes, sounds and beats. I’m also a natural mimic, which means that I pick up people’s accents within a few words, without actually meaning to. I don’t make much use of this besides doing accents for fun..
My spacial and abstract thinking is also quite good. I seem to instinctively know how things work, but in truth I see objects and dissect them in my mind until their workings make sense. I’m not usually conscious of this happening, but I can make myself conscious of it. As a result I’m good at visualising concepts and planning how something should be built, be it data, real world, or completely abstract. I make use of this daily in work and play; building and designing things keeps me out of trouble, and in work.
Third I’d have to say is muscle memory, and how easily I can burn it. Common among Aspies is an extremely developed rote memory (repeated recall), and my belief is that we can burn new muscle memory by repeating not only our own movements, but the movements of others. My first obsession was martial arts, but I disliked learning names for things and history. I was interested more in the mechanics of the body, anatomy and application. A punch is just a punch; the path it takes is all that varies. By my early 20’s, me and a small group of fellow martial artists were sparring for sometimes 8 hours daily. Turns out many Aspies discover a love for martial arts, so this one isn’t just me either.
Then there’s the one I often call the Quantum computer effect. I can check through lots of possibilities quickly and find the one that fits the model. This seems to work for both pattern matching, visual type problems and abstract reasoning, such as how two people might get along. The visual part is well known for Aspies. We’re commonly able to pick out the one incorrect tile from a complex symmetrical mosaic. I find it relaxing actually, and wrote a little game based on the idea.
Unfortunately, it’s not all Superman/Sherlock Holmes.
An autistic brain is unbelievably reactive. Every noise is extremely noisy, every light extremely bright, every emotion an extreme. Our thoughts trigger their own thoughts and those thoughts must be allowed to reach their conclusion or a bottleneck occurs.
Eye contact is an essential part of human face-to-face interaction, but it’s difficult when it leads to feeling how the other person does at that point. It’s perfect empathy. And it sucks.
Conversely I find it difficult to understand facial expressions and the context of what’s being said until I find time to recall the interaction later (using rote memory). This makes conversation difficult sometimes, and leads to me only really talking about the things I like to talk about. It’s not selfish; these subjects are the only ones I can risk talking about without worrying about sounding stupid sometimes. You’d be surprised what a buzzkill it can be to ask “how do you mean?”. And even Aspies hate buzzkills.
Over time this has done its own damage. I hate to say it but the less people I’m friends with, the happier I seem to be. I spend less time figuring out how to fit in to your world and more enjoying my own. I only wish I’d realised this sooner, as much time has been wasted trying to do something I’m not designed for.
Questions or comments are welcome.