As a mental health advocate I believe it’s crucial for me to discuss and spread awareness on topics and conditions other than the ones I live with. April is National Autism Awareness month. This condition was something I knew little about before meeting my significant other, Haven. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s at a young age. Asperger’s, is considered “high functioning” on the autism spectrum. However, it’s still affected his life. Autism is a developmental disorder. In my recent research I discovered that in 2013 the DSM-5 replaced Asperger’s and other developmental disorders with the term Autism Spectrum Disorder. Meaning that Asperger’s is no longer a diagnoses and anyone who was previously diagnosed with the condition is now considered to have Autism Spectrum Disorder. That being said, this interview was conducted before I knew that and since his original diagnoses was Asperger’s, I will refer to it as such. Knowing that April was approaching I decided to take a chance and ask him if he’d be willing to talk about the impact Asperger’s has had on him. After much consideration he agreed. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
For the purpose of this post, the format, questions, and answers have been slightly altered.
Name: De’Haven Cummings
JM: How old were you when you were diagnosed with Asperger’s?
DC: I was 4 or 5. I didn’t understand what Asperger’s was at the time.
JM: When did you first realize something was different?
DC: I first realized something was different in elementary. I would be taken out of class with a few other kids to work on writing and reading. I was tested every Friday on how fast I could read. I was in some type of speech class.
JM: Growing up, did your parents ever bring up your diagnoses or try to talk with you about it?
JM: How did/does it feel knowing they didn’t?
DC: I think that maybe my mom didn’t want me to feel like I was less. I did used to wonder why I was like this, why I was the way I was and I would have felt better if it was mentioned.
JM: At what age/time did you fully become aware of your diagnoses?
DC: My current age, 21. I was nearing the end of my schooling and my life coach discussed my 504 plan with me. It motivated me to do research.
JM: What was finding out like?
DC: When I first found it, I was taken back. I was shocked and didn’t know how to take it.
The conversation then transitioned into dealing with different relationships while having Asperger’s.
JM: How does Asperger’s affect your relationship?
DC: It makes it a little difficult at times. A lot of major things are minor to us. A lot of “normal” things are more difficult. There are times where I’m not that empathetic towards my partner.
JM: What are some things you want your partner to know?
DC: Don’t take my facial expressions personally. I know that at times I have the wrong reaction. I’m forgetful and things fly over my head. Sometimes it’s hard for me to show love but when I do, it’s true.
JM: How does it affect relationships with family and friends?
DC: People with Asperger’s aren’t always interested in things others are. When I was younger I was fascinated with maps while others were into sports and stuff. Also, a symptom of Asperger’s is poor coordination. Finding this out made me understand why sports was never a thing for me.
De’Haven goes on to explain that it’s hard for him to socialize. He often avoids eye contact and has had others perceive this negatively. He discusses how he craves solitude and that it brings him joy and peace. He says, “sometimes having Asperger’s causes me to have child-like tendencies.” He notes that he sometimes takes things literal.
JM: What is a typical day like for you?
DC: I can still have a great day. I have a routine from the moment I wake up. The first thing I do every morning is climb out of bed and brush my teeth. I learned that those with Asperger’s are usually repetitive. When I eat dinner I always eat sides first, meat, then drink. It’s hard to break my routine and it kind of bothers me when I miss something from it.
JM: Are you currently employed?
DC: No. I was. I’m looking for a new job.
JM: When you were working, did having Asperger’s make certain work tasks difficult?
DC: Yes. For example, some loud environments cause me to go into shock. I also don’t life to be constricted, I need to be able to move around.
JM: Is there anything you’d like employers to understand?
DC: That I need them to listen and understand that I may need accommodations.
JM: Is there anything else you’d like others to know?
DC: People with Asperger’s are very into our interests, if we’re not interested it makes the task at hand tough.
DC: A lot of people think just because we have this disorder that people need to talk or treat us differently. Sure, we’ll probably need extra adjustments and understanding. Living with this condition makes some things complicated and others easier. It helps in some ways. Given this chance to speak on it allows me to let others know it’s ok.
JM: What are three of your strengths?
DC: I’m dedicated to my interests, I’m understanding, and I’m strong.
JM: What are you currently working on?
DC: HVAC classes, my music, and financial stability
JM: What are your long term career goals?
- working on my music
- becoming a landlord and small business owner
- opening up a youth center for kids with disorders
This interview not only educated me on how Haven thinks and feels but also gave him the space to talk openly and honestly.
Here are some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.
ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
ASD is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).
Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence of between 1% and 2%.
About 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.
“Asperger’s Syndrome.” Autism Society, http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/aspergers-syndrome/.
“Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Feb. 2018, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html.