by Brian Satterfield
(Dallas, Oregon, USA)
I think about my nephew, diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, also known as autism spectrum disorder. ASD is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Julian was an interesting case for me because it was the first time I had been around anyone with this diagnosis.
One day in particular, Julian and I went to the park to play. The play structure in Avery Park and the dinosaur bones are a favorite draw for 5 year olds. But Julian had reservations, as I encouraged him to go play on the giant play structure he said to me, "I don't want to." He was a very articulate child having a mastery of vocabulary that did not belie the problem soon to be discovered. "Why not?" There was not much emotion in his face as he looked at the structure and said, "its going to tip over if I get on it."
This was not the last time I would hear something like that on that cool, sunny, spring day. After he had played for a bit I took him over to the dinosaur bones. This was too much for him. He said that he wanted to go home.
As years passed, I observed other symptoms of sensory processing disorder such as hypersensitivity to touch/tactile input, oral hypersensitivities, and a fascination with computers. Now at the age of 25, he has learned some skills to live with. He is not as socially awkward and can carry on appropriate conversations about things he is interested in.