Asperger syndrome in the office: How I deal with sensory integration dysfunction

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A lot of people ask me how I manage to keep a job when I have Asperger syndrome. So I’m doing a series this week on the topic, because it's true that most people with Asperger's are not doing well at work. The work place rewards social skills, and people with Asperger's have a social skill disorder.

I will never have great social skills, but I make them better by ensuring that I'm in my best social environment for work. For most people with Asperger's, inadequate social skills are exacerbated by sensory integration disorder, which is a tendency to be overwhelmed by outside stimuli. This frequently overwhelmed feeling makes one unable to concentrate on social skills.

Here are the ways I compensate for sensory integration disorder so that I can focus on having social skills that will make people want to work with me.

1. Establish routines to limit input.
Food is a problem for me. I hate variety. I hate that I don't know what is coming. My effort to control food got so extreme that I landed in a mental ward with an eating disorder. Today, I try to never go out for a meal. If I have to, I order salmon. Everywhere. And just looking for the salmon I get overwhelmed reading the menu. Too many details about food.

Given a choice, I eat a Power Bar for every meal and snack, (two= a meal, one= a snack,) and I hate if the store is out of both peanut butter and vanilla. I don't like variety, even in Power Bars.

2. Find people who believe in you, and then reveal deficits.
I often tell people I'm booked for lunch or dinner, and suggest coffee. That way people only expect me to get a skim latte. The foam always varies, which is annoying, but I like that I always control the sugar.

Like most problems related to Asperger's, when people know me, I am more forthcoming about the problem. This is the only way I can get help from people. For example, one of my favorite board members takes me out for breakfast each week. At first it was to control the company's cash flow. Now it is to control for my eccentricities. He understands that I add a lot of value to the company, and he understands that I don't eat breakfast when we go out for breakfast.

3. Assume that your most severe deficits relate to Asperger's; you'll understand them better.
I have math dyslexia. I don't think people knew it existed when I was a kid. People said if I'd just do the homework then I'd be able to follow in class. But I couldn't do the homework. Even with a tutor. By the end of high school I was in honors everything but remedial math, and still failing.

I also do not know left from right. Please, do not tell me your tricks. I know them all. For example, your left hand makes an L with your thumb and forefinger. The issue is that I don't understand the concept of left and right: How can my left not change when I turn? How do you know my right? How can I tell which is right on the truck to my left? It all feels like a math problem to me.

4. Find people who are willing to help.
The first company I founded was, ironically, a community for math teachers. And I got killed on the financials because I didn't ask for enough help. So with my second company, I hired a controller right away, and I spent two hours a day with her so that I'd always have a good handle on the numbers.

When I founded Brazen Careerist, I was very careful about who I partnered with because I know the gaps in my skills. Ryan Healy has a degree in finance and an ability to run numbers in his head that looks like magic to me. The first thing we did after we got our seed funding was to establish that Ryan is in charge of all the money.

Ryan Paugh has a core kindness and patience that makes me feel comfortable asking him for help in areas other people would not put up with. So, for example, I cannot read a map and I can't follow GPS directions, so Ryan is on the phone with me all the time helping me drive to where I'm going. (“Turn to the driver's side. The side your body is on. That side. Turn now.”) He has dealt with me crying because I turned the wrong way, even with those directions, and he has dealt with me being lost six blocks from where I grew up. Really.

5. Watch the words people use in order to see where you are distasteful.
I was always great at sports. In grade school, I was the only girl the boys let play kickball. In middle school, I was a regional figure skating champion. After college, I played professional volleyball.

But if I'm not focusing on the sport at hand, I lose track of my body. I bump into so many things that I almost always have bruises on my thighs, shins, and shoulders. This happens so routinely to me that it wasn't until the past few years that I realized that not everyone bumps into each other, and people think I'm being inconsiderate.

I also find that I physically cut people off. Like, I jump in front of them in a way that startles them, or I walk so close to them they stop to let me pass. I can't see how offensive I am until they are already saying “Hey! Excuse me!” but I know they mean “you are so rude.”

6. Pay more attention at work, where the judgement is most likely.
I try very hard at work to not invade peoples’ personal space. This means consciously slowing down to watch where everyone's body is before I move my own. Sometimes, if there are a lot of people moving at once, I just wait until there are fewer people moving before I move.

No one notices this, I don't think. And when I'm very careful, I only end up bumping into people I work with once or twice a week. I don't think they know I'm doing it. I mean, they know I'm a little jerky in how I move, but they don't realize that I keep bumping into people.

I also try to notice if I'm standing too close to someone. And then I take some steps back. That means that people don't know me for invading their personal space, which I know I am prone to do if I do not pay attention.

The thing is that this takes tons of mental energy. So I do not pay attention to this at all outside of work because it's too exhausting.

7. Stick to one-on-one meetings, and use email a lot.
I don't like crowds. They are too loud for me, and if the acoustics are bad, and it's loud, I could actually end up in the bathroom crying from anxiety.

I can't read nonverbal cues of more than two people at once. I can't tell: Are they loud or quiet? Are they intimate? Are they anxious? Do they want to talk with me?

So if there are a lot of people, I either don't shut up (because then I don't have to do back and forth conversation) or I don't say anything (so no one knows I'm missing cues).

I rarely go to parties. The only time I do is for work, and I usually have someone there who is translating for me. (Here is a good example of that, at SXSW.)

I am not a good collaborator in group meetings because I have to work too hard at reading people to also come up with ideas. So in groups I am either the person leading the meeting, and it's informative rather than collaborative. I collaborate via email (finally, a good use of the “reply to all” button).

I spend most of my time one-on-one. Most people like me one-on-one because I am my most normal self. People who work with me accept that I am not my best self in big meetings and rarely invite me to them unless I'm leading them.

I know this is a lot of information for someone who is trying to deal with Asperger's. The two most important things to take away from this are:

1. Understand common deficits of people with Asperger's. You probably have them.

2. Surround yourself with people who will coach you through situations.

98 replies
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  1. Leah
    Leah says:

    I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s after years and years of struggling to make it through college (I am now a 28-year-old female in my senior year and still struggling) and the one thing I’ve learned is that Asperger’s is an incredibly individual syndrome. No one person’s stories/symptoms are the same as another’s, and in fact, some can be radically different. However, there is always at least one or two things that we can find in common with each other. For instance, I don’t have problems with my left and right, and my food obsession is quite different, in that I don’t have a problem with change, and I actually like to try new foods, but when I find a food that I particularly enjoy, such as hummus and pita, I will eat it to an exclusion of everything else until I make myself sick off of it, and then I can never eat it again. (I solemnly shed a tear for hummus and pita). I was, however, particularly struck by the clumsiness in your story. I also was an athlete (swimmer) in school, and played several other sports for pleasure, but get me off the field or out of the pool and I’m like an octopus out of water with legs and arms flailing. The worst for me is walking through doorways. I constantly am missing doorways and slamming my shoulders, arms, hands, and elbows into the sides of the door. Fortunately, I have a loving family and fiance, and I have come to view a lot of my symptoms as things that make me interesting, and at the least, entertaining. Thank you for writing, I am eager to hear more!

  2. Simon Hay
    Simon Hay says:

    I’m a healer and a medium. I’m trained by spirit, and I have conversations with spirit and consciousness all the time, but the information is filtered through my conscious/unconscious (?) field. While reading this I thought why, what has caused aspergers? The response I heard was, “the information energy pathway is misfiring, there’s a disturbance and a discontinuity in the field.” I’m thinking how, and what has caused this to happen? “The disturbance is also in the earth’s field. Technology and industry creates a vibration that influences all life.” I’ve thought about the energy radiating from cell phones causing illness, and I hear, “this is close.” Can it be reversed, corrected? “Yes.” The conversation will flow, but the answers I hear are given to me in a way that I can understand them. Someone else would hear a variation of wording, but the theme and message will be the same.

    I’m sharing, and I hope it makes sense to someone. Cheers, Simon.

  3. Steven Michaelis
    Steven Michaelis says:

    As an additional resource you may be interested to check out the Free Sound Therapy Home Programme available from Sensory Activation Solutions. Their Auditory Activation Method builds on the pioneering work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis (Tomatis method) and Dr. Guy Bérard (Auditory Integration Training) and has been specifically developed with the aim to improve sensory processing, interhemispheric integration and cognitive functioning. It has helped many children and adults with a wide range of learning and developmental difficulties, ranging from dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to sensory processing disorders and autism. It is not a cure or medical intervention, but a structured training programme that can help alleviate some of the debilitating effects that these conditions can have on speech and physical ability, daily behaviour, emotional well-being and educational or work performance.

    There is no catch, it’s absolutely free and most importantly often effective. Check it out at:

  4. willie
    willie says:

    hi fellow asper-person here

    yeah alot of this is familiar to me, except the math part, i am really good at math (except for addition,subtraction,multiplication,and division) but all the social problems are familliar.

    possible hint/ technique:
    when walking in a crowded area, i tend to NEVER think about the people around me except as a box that has a 1/3 a foot more in every direction than the actual person. if you have aspergers that is similar to mine, you probably can focus on one thing for an extended period of time without being easily distracted. you also probably can focus on many things at once, however sacrificing your ability to stay focused with each item. here is the hint, when walking down a crowded corridor, focus almost completely on the destination, however, use your periphrial vision to notice the other people. using this i almost never EVER get complaints like “exCUSE me!”

    so, i hope this helps, it works for me,(but i guess being 6’4″ helps to.

  5. Josh C
    Josh C says:

    Wow, it’s hard to comment on a post with 73 comments already. Drop in the bucket? Echo in the chamber?

    I do not have Asperger’s, we’ll start with that. But, today, I had a long conversation with a very dynamic woman who does (not the wonderful author here). I had talked with her once before and was put off by how jarring it was to speak with her. She seemed to blurt everything out, appeared a bit narcissistic, and was very hard to track. Still, it was clear she was doing many, many different things, some of which actually interested me.

    During this conversation, she seemed a bit more focused but early in the conversation let me know she had a “high-functioning learning disorder called Asperger’s” and this post came rushing right back to me. Immediately I was very in-tune to the attributes Penelope described and found myself listening more to how she was communicating than to what she was saying.

    I just wanted to come back and say “thank you” for providing a bit of context for my conversation. Whether I read this post or not would not affect how I treated this person but it was a better interaction knowing what to expect and how to approach things.


  6. An Aspie/ADD Woman
    An Aspie/ADD Woman says:

    I wish there was some way for someone like me who probably has Asperger’s (I’ve been diagnosed with ADD) to go into my brain and tweak it so that I could accept that I have Asperger’s. I’ve been reading about AS for nearly 9 years now and still can’t accept that I have it. I can’t seem to find someone who will diagnose a woman with atypical AS, and I can’t accept I have it until I’m diagnosed. Why? I don’t know. I just donn’t feel that I really meet all the criteria, but then I read something like Penelope’s post here and I know that I do. But then I read something about a certain type of ADD and that sounds like me too, as does social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder. I probably have all four, but for some reason AS is hard for me to accept.

  7. Christie
    Christie says:

    There are lots of things I used to only order,Rueben Sandwiches with onion rings and coffee, but in the last year I’ve branched out. I’ve had lamb, Indian food, salmon (funny you mentioned that), and other things like crab meat, authentic Chinese food. The thing with Chinese though, I get stuck on ordering 6 egg rolls, and forget there are so many other wonderful dishes to be had. I love Kung Pao chicken… get to the table and order 6 egg rolls, instead. There are so many things I get stuck on.

  8. Craig
    Craig says:

    It’s good to know I’m not the only person bumping into people and struggling to make conversation! Thanks so much for writing this post.

    It is amazing how much variation there is from one aspie to the next. For example, my struggles revolve mostly around making smalltalk, dealing with loud noises, and avoiding clutter. (Coworkers are always commenting on how orderly my desk is!)

    My aspie son, on the other hand, has a hard time with changes in his environment; redecorating is a major issue. Also, he never wears striped clothing.

    They key is to focus on strengths; solving technical problems, acting mysterious and aloof, and being consistent are all areas where aspies have an advantage.

  9. J
    J says:

    Not sure why people think there’s an Aspergers conspiracy afoot … the most remarkable feature of my son’s high-functioning aspergers is a remarkable developmental, social and intellectual unevenness. No matter that our son generally passes as a quirky, but typical, 18-year-old … he will always be unmasked as something not-quite-so-typical, sometimes dramatically so, if one of those deficit areas is challenged. It can be so incongruous, and it has often been difficult for us to accept that he can be so gifted and accomplished in some areas; so “normal” in others; then abruptly so very odd or lacking in others. And we understand more and more as he gets older how much we didn’t realize was different about him (or difficult), sometimes because he learned the “patterns” of his peers or a normative interaction … mirrored the rules of transactions, interactions, etc. And you never know what it will be. For example, I only recently learned that he doesn’t understand “feeling embarrassed.” Likewise, I don’t know that he can anticipate what might result in embarrassment in others. He often exhibits “opposites,” as well … sensory integration issues may be triggered by something seemingly benign, while he’s fine with noise, chaos, pain, etc. We only realized recently that he has never, ever knew that he was going to throw up/that he was sick. You could ask if he felt OK, felt sick, felt unwell, stomach hurts, pulled wisdom teeth hurt … and he would say no. Yet, he may abruptly throw up without any forewarning that he could interpret. What we describe as nausea or some other condition, he doesn’t recognize and is trying to identify the sensations as they occur for him. Or he might have his wisdom teeth pulled without anesthesia b/c he has such an overwhelming reaction to the taste of laughing gas or numbing gel … yet he won’t complain of pain. He would go on forever and be unable to let go of an experience that subjected him to the gas or numbing gel. He may seem very much a typical young man unless there’s a circumstance that triggers an obsessional area, then he suddenly seems very immature and not age-appropriate. He doesn’t understand smiling, and hates doing so, but he has mastered how to smile and how some key emotions look and play out, so he looks like he fits in but has no idea of any of the social cues or what has just gone on if you talk with him afterward. I think it would be very difficult for those who don’t live with or love someone on the spectrum to understand the disparities you describe, but I’m glad that there is more understanding opening about the breadth of personalities, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses among people with these disorders. Our son will be starting two jobs, his first, this week, and they are in very different settings, along with his community college courses and an ongoing internship. This is a lot of stress and many social systems/rules to keep track of, and I’m hoping things don’t implode … b/c that’s another hallmark I have observed over the years … he has little idea that things are stacking up for a colossal disaster, until big things begin to go bad in a big way. Crossing my fingers for him; grateful to have raised/to be parenting an child on the spectrum … because we don’t take anything for granted and because necessity has meant we know our son in many aspects than most families of neurotypical children might need to. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking and scary sometimes, but it’s a privilege.

  10. littlepitcher
    littlepitcher says:

    Your comments on reading body language hit home. I have a small birth defect and a Family From Hell, and was pretty much raised in a barrel, in contrived social isolation. Learning social skills from the Internet–sales psychology sites, YouTube, etc-is not that hard. Do remember this, though: people who control their weight down to the last quarter-pound, lacquer their hair into submission, and file their conversational techniques by age, ethnos, and social status, are more than likely feeding fake body language to onlookers.

    Your honesty is wonderful. Cultivate it, and don’t let the trolls intimidate you with their jealousy.

    Note on the left-right problem: Ask for two rings for Christmas. Lapis for the left hand, ruby for the right.

  11. BA
    BA says:

    I work for a Director who I believe has Asperger’s and am looking for information on how to deal with him, since he’s quite different from other people. Your explanation of how work is different from your perspective was very helpful in understanding our differences. I am now following your RSS feed and would love to see a post on how employees can better deal with/manage bosses who have Asperger’s, since their ability to function very highly in one or more areas and to deliver quality work on time makes them attractive candidates for promotion into management, despite deficiencies in social/listening skills and understanding/comprehension of issues, as well as, lower empathy quotent.

    Thanks so much for your insight!

  12. anonymous
    anonymous says:

    Wow about the energy bars. I have Aspergers and for months I ate only Cliff energy bars (prefering just one flavor) for several months for two meals a day nearly every day. I am very similar with food.

  13. Karen
    Karen says:

    I’m a first time reader of your blog. I liked the little video and I found your postings very interesting over all – especially the part about having Aspergers.
    I’ve always been a very private person and I keep my challenges to myself so it’s eye-opening to me that you are so up-front and have made something that could have held you back into a positive.
    I’ve always been a good writer and a story teller (weird funny things just happen to me). My friends and family tell me to blog and use Facebook to network since I lost my job a while back. I’ve been dragging my feet as it seemed so “not me” – I thought I was too old but I see that was just an excuse to feel sorry for myself.
    Thanks for inspiring me to try something new.

  14. doug
    doug says:

    Are you sure your lack of directions is Asperger’s related? Your situation sounds identical to a program I heard on Radio Lab where a Canadian Doctor,Dr. Guiseppe Iaria, found a very rare condition,called developmental topographical disorder, where people with the affliction are constantly challenged by geographical directions and the challenges of finding places without getting lost.

    The highlight of the radio story for me was the doctor arranging for two people with the condition to meet and how great it felt for the two people to get together and meet someone like them, but how hard it was for that to coordinate a meeting place that both could find.

  15. Jayne Drew
    Jayne Drew says:

    Thanks for the comments/tips – I have a 10 year old son with Aspergers/Sensory issues who also loves to blog (www/ and really am thankful for your insight. Thanks!!!

  16. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Great blog, these are all good tips. I have Asperger’s too and a lot of what you say applies to me too. I also have trouble bumping into people if a space is too crowded. People seem to think the dead opposite of what I am thinking. For example, I see someone and I mentally calculate to move to the right to avoid them. But just as I do that, they move to the right too! So I try to move to the left, and they do, too. This probably sounds weird but it happens a surprising amount of time. I do not know why. Maybe people think I am not paying attention to what’s around me, since I don’t usually LOOK like I am, so they think they need to compensate for me, while I am compensating for them, and then we run into each other. Needless to say, I don’t like crowded areas.

    I have a lot of sensory issues besides this and I like how you have managed to structure your life to succeed while still managing to accomodate them. I have a lot of problems with clothes and how they feel on me. Luckily , I work from home so don’t need to worry about business suits! Some of the tips in this article helped me figure out how to manage my clothes related sensory issues, the article is at .  Best of luck to you in your future ventures!

  17. Cozy Calm
    Cozy Calm says:

    I just wanted to take the time and thank you for all the great info that you provide in this blog and about how to handle aspergers in public! Even though its an old post it still have great content!

    I have autism and Sensory Processing Disorder and love to read others and how they conquer their daily battles!

    Also I have a contest going on right now if you wish for you and your followers to join in:

    Have a great week ahead and keep up the great work!

  18. ring die
    ring die says:

    Quite an excellent point! The concept of genuine vocation and graduate
    school possibly being the only path to that calling has been very much

  19. trunkguest
    trunkguest says:

    You don’t have a trendy “syndrome.” You can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality. Maybe that’s why you’re a compelling fiction writer. It’s funny that so many readers actually believe that what you write is true.

  20. Thehatguy
    Thehatguy says:

    I can see that your blog is very successful. I too have asperger’s, or autism, whatever you want to call it. though my issues are dissimilar from your own in many ways, I was wondering if you could look at my blog and tell me what is needed for people to comment on it like they have yours. You can find it at

  21. skyrim cheats
    skyrim cheats says:

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  22. Adrian
    Adrian says:

    I know I am kind of late to this party, but this is great post. I love how you are so up front about your asbergers..I seriously think you are awesome! I don’t have asbergers, but I have ADHD, and I was surprised how much I could relate to this article. I think a lot of this advice can be applied to people with all kinds of learning/social disabilities. A few big things that really hit home for me:
    * attributing my worst flaws to my disorder – I didn’t know I had ADHD until my junior year of college when I went from straight A’s to academic probation in one semester. But once I was diagnosed, it completely changed my life. Before I felt like I was stupid/crazy/lazy/all of the above, but once I realized I just think differently from most people, I found it sooo much easier to focus on my strengths instead of feeling ashamed of my weaknesses.

    * telling people you trust & supplementing your weaknesses – I’m just beginning my ‘grown-up’ career now, so I haven’t had much opportunity (yet!) to optimize my workplace to fit my unique ADHD style. But I can’t wait for the day I have a boss who appreciates the value I can add rather than focusing on my flaws, and people working under/beside me who can supplement my weaknesses (like remembering deadlines and appointments, keeping up with paperwork/emails, etc.). I am so grateful to have realized this early in my career instead of wasting time trying to fit into an environment that just doesn’t suit me (i.e. law school…definitely dodged a bullet there!)

    Also, don’t think you said this outright (but us ADHDers are skimmers, so maybe you did), but the other thing that really helped me is to stop thinking of my ADHD as a disorder. I think of it more as a personality difference that makes it harder for me to fit inside modern society’s limited notion of how people should think and behave. Sure, this totally sucks when it comes to doing boring repetitive tasks, dealing with bureaucracy (i.e. the DMV), managing my time, keeping track of my keys, etc. But, evolutionarily speaking, I wouldn’t be here if ADHD brains weren’t socially advantageous. There’s this book by Thom Hartmann called ‘The Edison Gene: ADHD and the gift of the hunter child’ that really solidified this idea in my mind. His whole hunters vs. farmers theory ( makes total sense to me, and it seems pretty obvious that it would apply to things like asbergers as well. Sure we don’t fit in perfectly into society’s ‘box’, but without us there would be no innovators and the world would be super boring.

    I also would be interested to hear your thoughts on how it is dealing with asbergers as a woman, since, like ADHD it is very much considered a ‘man’s disorder’. I’m just now discovering your blog you might’ve addressed this already, but if you’ve never done a post on women with asbergers and other ‘predominately male’ challenges, I think you should!

    Also, just thought I’d mention that I have math dyslexia too! It’s not as severe as what you’ve described, but I’ve always had trouble with right/left, telling time, doing simple math in my head, reading maps, sense of direction, and even understanding simple card games like blackjack and poker. It’s crazy how little awareness there is about this issue! I guess when a kid is good at spelling, reading and writing no one is ever going to flag her as ‘dyslexic’ when most people’s understanding of dyslexia disorders are focused only on verbal difficulties.

    One last thing: I know you said you’ve heard all the tips, but I taught myself a trick to remember right from left in when I was like 7 years old, which I still use almost every day. At the same time with both hands I grip my thumb with my index finger like I am trying to hold my thumb like a pen and write with it. Since I know I am right handed, the one that feels weird and unnatural is definitely my left. Unless you are ambidextrous or something I feel like this one’s foolproof!

  23. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Really impressed with your honesty here. The post attracted my attention b/c my son has sensory integration – but the less typical kind (he seeks out constant stimulation). Excited to read more of your blogs. Looks like great stuff.

  24. MikeS
    MikeS says:

    Penelope is a blessing.

    I have for years been highly successful, but every so often the wheels would fall off with peers, bosses, and subordinates. Nothing that’s “fireable” and I’ve never lost a job over it, but it’s held me back from my full potential. Sometimes people would wonder why someone with a 160 IQ would sometimes say the dumbest things. Or why I might ramble on in a writing.

    I’d been reading the column for some time now, and suspecting Aspergers was part of my make up for the last 2 years, got brave enough to finally see a real actual clinical psychologist.

    Yes, I still meltdown, I still am highly agitated by change, scared to be around people, and in fear of group work. But at least I know why, and know how to better deal with it. It has a label and a name.

    I have all of the usual problems – really bad Sensory Integration problems (imagine overloading in grocery store….or a shopping mall). Getting lost in that same mall or grocery store (yes, actually lost).

    The directional problems in this article…I can tell you where I am in 3 dimensional space when travelling on the planet, but can’t turn right or left on command.

    It’s good to see someone else out there who probably might understand what life is like through my eyes.

    There is hope for me yet.

  25. Shaeesta
    Shaeesta says:

    This post was very gripping and is quite reflective of all the problems I encounter in my daily life…and by the time I read about your Right and left confusion, problems following directions, poor navigation skills I was laughing out loud. Cant tell you how glad I am to know there is someone else like me. I failed my driving test because I turned in the direction opposite to the instruction given to me. And yes.. I get lost all the time.. not just when I drive but even when I go for a walk.

    The most challenging thing for me on any given day is to appropriately convey myself and I am glad to learn that there is a term to define my social anxiety which comes from internalizing the pressure to perform (sensory integration disorder). Sometimes I have not been able to answer simple questions because I have been so overwhelmed. I am extremely logical, I am a physician and my mind shuts down when I see numbers! Thanks for sharing information about yourself. It is very comforting to me.And yes, I scored a 32 on the wired test

  26. E Dupree
    E Dupree says:

    Dear Penelope,
    I am soo late to this post, thank you for writing about this topic. You spoke very eloquently about your sensory idiosyncrasies. I am a pediatric occupational therapist that specializes in sensory processing disorder (formally known as sensory integration disorder). Your behaviors reminds me of the kids that I work with. I am a little curious about how you were able to play on team sports but have difficulty navigating your everyday environments?

    When having to explain to people what sensory processing disorder is, I always start by letting them know that everyone has some form of it. (Studies revealed that 1 in 20 people have some form of it.) The problem lies when the inefficient processing prevent them from doing everyday activities. For me, I have problems when my body is moving and having to visually stabilize on something. For instance, I cannot read or write a long text/email while driving or spin in circles. It throws my vestibular system whirling and it can take me hours to recover sometimes. I remember once when I got a Treo phone and I was excited to text. I sent a long text and my system was thrown of for rest of the day, it was awful & had feelings of being nauseated. Even better, I can’t stand the scent of bubble gum or when someone is chewing and popping their gum near me. I can’t focus because I’m expending all my energy to block out the popping gum sound.

    Thank you for this post. I had an Oprah “Aha” moment – you and all the other comments reminded me that children with sensory processing disorder and Asperger’s syndrome turn into adults. That may sound silly, but as an occupational therapist, sensory processing disorder intervention is focused on children. After reading your post and all the comments, I will try and find ways to help my kids and their families cope, to make everyday life not so difficult in adulthood.
    Thanks again!

  27. E Dupree
    E Dupree says:

    I forgot to ask you, did you ever receive any intervention for your sensory processing disorder? What age were you when you received the diagnosis?
    Keep up the good work!!

  28. AJ
    AJ says:

    How is it possible to have an Asperger’s diagnosis if you were a regional figure skating champion? What level did you compete at?

    “Delayed coordination and motor skills” are usually associated with Asperger’s and those with the disorder would normally lack the coordination to play sports and many don’t ever learn to drive. Since you are identifying with the disorder, were there challenges to learning and remembering your skating routine?

    The reason I’m asking is that I was diagnosed with ADD, which I completely agree with, but later on diagnosed with Asperger’s, which I think was a misdiagnosis. During my early adult years, I also figure skated and had no problems passing the basic skills tests. But, beyond that, I could never take the USFSA tests nor compete because I couldn’t remember the order of the steps/moves in the routine. So I would try to improvise, but that didn’t go well with my coach. At the time, it was only about a 1.30 program, but could never remember the routine past the first 15-20 seconds. So basically, all I could do was practice the jumps, spins, stroking, and basic steps. I finally got tired of the over-use related injuries and quit skating.

    Anyways, great information. I realize this is a very old blog post; but since I just came across this post, I hope you don’t mind my reply. And I hope things are going well for you!

  29. Jeff Yablon
    Jeff Yablon says:

    Hoo Boy

    I can tell right from left. I actually care very deeply about people’s feelings and I don’t (usually) feel as though I’m missing those verbal or non-verbal cues. By then again, who knows, right? Because …

    I speak in ways that bother–really bother–those around me, and I have no idea why they are bothered. As an example: my partner of six years just brought some sort of candied nut–pecan, I think–over to me (note that today is Thanksgiving and a pie is being prepared). I don’t care for pecans or walnuts, nor nuts in food, generally. I very much like peanuts, cashews, almonds, and other nuts, as-is.

    While the candying stuff was tasty enough, and I said so, when confronted with “yummy, right?”, I answered. And no, NOT right. Not to me.

    Now here’s the thing, and it’s killing me.

    I honestly don’t know whether under those circumstances me being honest is a bad thing. I feel as though pretending I liked it would invite being served it later and I don’t want any. But telling the truth got me in trouble. And also got me told “I think maybe you have Aspergers”, which is reasonable enough if smart people say it and think they are trying to help with something but feels hurtful and non-productive, all the same.

    Anyone have ANY thoughts? This imbalance in my intentions and the results has been going on for me for as long as I can remember and I have no idea what to do about it.

  30. David
    David says:

    I don’t have Asperger’s. I talk with people normally, I think so, anyway. I’ve been called a loner, but that’s most men anyway who think a lot. I don’t mind people touching me, although I’m unsure if I like it or not. I do. I am a normal guy. I don’t know why everyone wants to be labeled. Is it because we don’t want to be alone? Or is it because we want to feel special. If everyone is something doesn’t that make it not special anymore. Why can’t people just be normal, and accept it? I’m going to be now. Gotta go to school in the morning.

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