The publication date for the third novel in my young adult Revenger series went by before I remembered it. The date was April 24. The book is Under Cover.
I’d begun that series because I wanted to show a character with Asperger’s syndrome whose disorder is misunderstood and gets him into a pile of trouble. Those who follow this blog will know where that idea came from
Once I started it, I realized it wasn’t enough story to sustain a whole novel. To remedy that, I added a suspense plot, which became the backbone of the book. The Asperger’s was intertwined and the two threads merged at the end.
That first book in the series was Twenty Minutes Late. Since it was written for young adults, all the main characters are in their late teens and reappear, including my Asperger guy, in each of the subsequent books. For more on those books, and others, check my website at carolinecrane.com/
Back in December, People Magazine ran an article about the singer Susan Boyle who for years had suffered from depression and anxiety. As a child she was told that the problem was brain damage. Finally at age 52 she found a specialist and was diagnosed with Asperger’s. It relieved her immensely to have a clear idea of what was wrong. The story quotes her as saying, “I think people will treat me better because they will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.” (People, Dec. 23, 2013)
May Susan have better luck with that than many others do. Ryo Kiyan, too, hoped a formal diagnosis would help his detractors understand him, but it didn’t. It seems impossible for most people to grasp that Asperger brains don’t work the same as ours. Many things don’t mean quite the same to Aspies as they do to others. It still mystifies Miss M that Ryo continued to harass her when he was repeatedly warned away from her. He thought he was doing something entirely different from what Miss M and the Sullivan County higher-ups thought he was doing. Since he didn’t understand the purpose behind those warnings, they were about as futile as expecting a blind person to see just because everyone else can.
That’s not entirely analogous. Aspies can be helped to understand other points of view if it’s explained to them in ways they can relate to. Many younger Aspies are more fortunate than Ryo in that they grew up knowing they had Asperger’s and often had people to help them deal with it.
In January, Huff Post ran an account by an Aspie of what his life was like. The title was, “My Poverty, Like My Asperger’s, Is Not a Myth” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/whitney-bradley/working-poor-disability_b_4512700.html) The author, Whitney Bradley, describes a wretched life of not fitting in, not knowing how to conduct himself, not being able to find more than entry-level jobs or even a decent living. All that, with an above-average brain.
The article resonated with me because it was close to Ryo’s story. Despite a near-genius IQ, it took Ryo several decades to find his niche. When at last he did, it all blew up because of his Asperger’s.
The comments following that article were divided. Those from Aspies agreed with the author and reported similar experiences. The few from non-Aspies couldn’t see why it was so difficult to “get over it.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the impression I had.) Any current comments will probably differ from the ones I printed, because they change from time to time.
And for you, Miss M, another article I came across might help to explain Ryo’s persistence in spite of those warnings. It tells about a young man working in a grocery store. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/outpouring-support-grocery-store-employee-aspergers-berated-slowness/story?id=20865367) Although a regular employee of the store, he was pinch-hitting that day as a cashier, and still feeling his way. One woman grew impatient and burst out, berating him for his slowness and then screamed about him to the manager.
The young man was devastated. To him it said less about the woman than about himself. By evening, when he described it to his family, he was still as depressed as he had been when it first happened 10 hours earlier. His sister explained later, “Part of Asperger’s is the inability to move on.” He was stuck there in the past, needing to wrap up the incident and reach a conclusion that made sense. Aspies can be uncomfortable with unfinished business and dangling ends.
The above story had a happy ending. The young man’s sister, knowing how he enjoyed Facebook, wrote an account of his ordeal and asked those who knew him to post any good words they could think of. The result was amazing. He was someone whom most people liked and they flooded Facebook as well as the supermarket itself.
Years after Ryo Kiyan’s ordeal, his wildest dream came true. Unfortunately, for him it was too late. A professor at his graduate school, looking to fill a place in their geography department, thought of Ryo and tried to reach him. Instead he learned of Ryo’s death and wrote me a very nice message, expressing his appreciation of my son. It was a nice counterpoint to the often negative comments I get from people who still don’t understand about Asperger’s. Or in some cases it seems as if they don’t want to.