This is a page for discussion of matters connected with Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism as Dr Hans Asperger himself called it). I think two or three of my readers have Asperger’s because they are out and open with it. I have been through some issues in my own life as a human being and as a priest, and I began to suspect Asperger’s about a year ago.
I am on a long waiting list for a full diagnosis from the autism centre attached to the main hospital of Rouen, but I consulted a psychiatrist recommended by the autism centre as having studied autism. I prepared my file thoroughly, spoke with the psychiatrist and answered his questions and did his first-level tests. He is in no doubt that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, but a version of it that has spared me most of the frequent sensory issues and clumsiness, or the obvious characteristics of a “nerd”. My fear of being medicated was unfounded. He merely prescribed me a light plant-based remedy for anxiety. I am extremely thankful for his enlightened attitude as a mental health professional. Such professionals do exist!
That is something for a priest! Modern selection procedures in most mainstream churches, in dioceses and religious orders systematically screen out anyone with such a condition or any mental or physical illness. They set out to admit only suitably formatted extroverts and “neurotypicals”. None of us is perfect, from these invisible defects in our brain neurones to very handicapped people who cannot walk or communicate without sophisticated electronic equipment like Stephen Hawkings. All disabilities can be overcome by compensating, using what is good and whole in our minds and bodies. We learn to live in society and in relationships by using the intellect where the intuitive emotions are weak or deceive us in our judgement of personalities.
Here are a few useful links:
- Tony Attwood – an eminent Australian clinical psychologist specialised in Aspergers Syndrome
- Wrong Planet – a forum for discussion (I’m not on it)
- Asperger Ministry – Evangelical / Protestant but interesting from a Christian point of view
- Life on the Spectrum – very practical approach with online tests
A word of warning, as people with Asperger’s and other abnormalities react against discrimination, bullying and ignorance, they like any other minority tend to make it an identity issue. If this becomes too tiring to the “neurotypical” community (the majority of humanity with “normal” brains and nervous systems), there can be blow-back. I have read opinions from Fundamentalist Christians attributing autism to demonic possession. There are groups of “neurotypical” women who have been married to “aspies” and complain that they were deceived and badly treated – and seek “justice”. Some people would make pariahs of all atypical people in the same way that English and American asylum psychiatrists in the 1950’s were little better than sadists and quacks, not much different from their German counterparts conducting hideous experiments in the Nazi concentration camps a decade before. We have to be balanced and must remember that we live in a “neurotypical” world and it is for us to adapt as best we can. It isn’t easy but it can be done – more or less well.
There are coping techniques, and help is available for those who need it most. We compensate with our intelligence what we fail to “get” with our intuitive emotions. We strive to be polite and courteous with all, kind and patient, no matter how much pain we suffer. This is a part of our Christian witness (this is a Christian blog).
I am not a specialist or a therapist, simply a common mortal bearing this condition which is both a painful cross and a gift from God. I give the clear disclaimer that those looking for a diagnosis and guidance should go to qualified psychiatrists or autism centres affiliated to recognised hospitals, and follow therapy with equally qualified psychologists and counsellors if necessary. I am a priest who is limited in the pastoral and “people” aspect of the ministry, but more suited to teaching through modern forms of media. Of course that doesn’t mean that I would not do my duty and visit a person needing a priest, at the drop of a hat. The only thing is, where I live, it doesn’t happen. I can only relate my experience which is not the same as for others. If certain situations bring great suffering our minds can be better focused on things that really matter (at least to us). Remember the Parable of the Talents. If we are given exceptional faculties of concentration and hard work, we are expected to use them. This page is primarily for those who have Asperger’s or live in proximity with such persons. As I have said, I have no professional competence, only the experience of having lived my entire life with this difference in the way my brain is made.
Comments are welcome.