Skip to main content

Aspie: child vs adult


I've been thinking a lot about my childhood self and how things have changed since then - how I have changed. It made me wonder how I could describe the difference between having aspergers as a child and what it's like to be an aspie adult.

I think I can sum it up in one word - responsibility.

As a child, however your aspie nature presents itself, you have little or no responsibilities. I would say that the big one for most aspie children is the need to go to school. The strain of school, the damage it can do and the way that stress can exaggerate the behaviours of aspergers, is often the reason why a fair number of parents decide to home educate their autistic spectrum children. (I'll go into home education more in a later post, as it is a very good way to look at aspergers and the effects of normal school).

So, to an aspie child, school is enormously important. It comprises a large part of their daily lives, and even if they enjoy it, school is something which has to be done, so it becomes a big responsibility.

As an adult aspie, it can be a whole nightmare of responsibility, depending on the lifestyle you follow.

As I've said before, I have a lot of different responsibilities, but so do other aspie adults. I'm talking about things that, if avoided, can make your life fall apart.

Keeping up the bills, running a car, raising children, looking after other people, holding down a job. Every aspie adult could give you a slightly different list of responsibilities, but if they have a mainstream lifestyle, they are likely to be looking after others, or being responsible for them in some way.

So, as an adult, responsibility is really foremost in the mind. It is the central hub around which your whole life revolves. You can never really forget it, even if things are going well. If you're lucky and have a job you can cope with or you enjoy, the responsibility element of work fades away a little. If you find being a parent a wonderful, life-fulfilling role, the responsibility of that can shrink compared to the benefits.

It never goes away, though. It's always there and you need to keep one eye on it at all times.

Unlike when you were a child, there is no one to pick up the pieces. Even if you have a partner to help you as an adult, or your parents still pitch in, you are still in the middle of life and expected to be a grown person who does things and can cope with things. You may have a moan or a fret and your nearest and dearest probably know more of your stresses than others, but they do still expect you to get up the next day and do it all again.

As a child you can have a meltdown and the worst that can happen is your parents will have a few more grey hairs or be judged, again, by the neighbours. As an adult, if you go for the full meltdown, you're likely to be carted off by the police or ambulance crew. Inside, the same emotions which brought you to tears as a child, they still mill about, washing over you, trying to take over and make you give in to the all-out pandemonium of losing control.

Mostly, as adults, we don't lose control in this way. We can hold it together long enough to at least make it home and hide in the bathroom. Sometimes you need to control this feeling in stages, so you do what you can where you can, perhaps by going into the car and sitting quietly or finding a less busy corner of the department store and pretending to look at things while you take some deep breaths.

The difference as an adult is not just that you know it will cause so much embarrassment and bother to be seen, on the floor, gnashing the carpet and kicking your legs; you are also aware that you can control it a little and don't need to behave this way to cope. You know if you can just make it to point A, then point B is over there, point C is outside in the car park, point D will be within sight at the traffic lights and point E is the blessed sound of you opening the house door. (This is a coping mechanism I'll cover in another post as it works so well for me, most of the time).

So, as an adult, we can persuade ourselves to calm down a little, or, more likely, to hang on for now, you can lose it later when you're alone. The difference here is that by doing this, you don't lose it later. You get past point E, the door closes and life is still there but the meltdown feeling isn't. At best, you're back to where you started - feeling sad or stressed and with your emotions under control but not helping you at all.

One good thing about having a meltdown is that even when you factor in the exhaustion which follows, you got those feelings all stirred up and thrown out of your system at once. The adult response means you don't usually get arrested, but you do have to carry on with the same feelings. It's a bit like the difference between a pan boiling over. The meltdown gets rid of the problem (the steam) all at once but isn't beneficial afterwards; the calmer adult is like lifting the lid to let out just enough steam so you save the peas and they carry on cooking. Better for the peas (the responsibilities), but much less good for getting rid of all that steam you built up.

The pan of peas looks like a bad example at first glance. Isn't it better to use that steam to cook the peas more quickly? Don't we want it to stay in there, not be all over he cooker with little blackened husks cooked to the bottom of the pan? Yes and no. The answer to that lies in how you view responsibilities.


When it comes to living life in a successful way, you need to cope with everything as well as you can. When you're living with aspergers, the responsibilities are always secondary to you, and the way you cope with things. The peas in the pan are important, but to an aspie the steam is always there, cooking or not and must be released or else we go very mad indeed.

This is partly a problem of perspective as well as mental and emotional health. From the outside, other people will see that responsibilities come first and the aspie needs to adapt and get on with it. From the inside, the aspie knows all responsibilities equal stress, so even the small ones, that they can cope with, become bigger than they are and intuitively linked to the bigger ones anyway.

The key, as an adult, without someone always there to pick up the pieces, give you support and tuck you in at night, is to recognise what needs doing when. This is the same approach as points A-E above. Use it for responsibilities too. A simple example would be, do not avoid paying your rent! If you run out of money, do not pay the Sky bill first. Know which needs the most attention from you.

If you're having  a bad few days and want to ignore everything, ask for help. Other people can do a lot of things for you and sometimes you need them. Do not pretend it will wait or go away because sometimes it won't.

If you have no one to ask, be kind to yourself. Some things can't wait, but you need to be able to do them without making any big mistakes. If you have a few important things which need your attention, think a little about them and decide which is the most urgent. Stop, go away, come back. Do the most urgent part of the most urgent thing. Stop, go away, come back. When you're ready, repeat the process.

Responsibilities are never going to go away and, really and truly, if you had no stresses at all in life, you'd be SO bored. Honestly, I'm telling the truth here, you know I wouldn't lie to you! I know that things can be hard and stressful and you often wish you were like a child again, with someone else doing all the nasty stuff for you. I can't take away all the stress and I can't do the nasty stuff for you. But if you break it up into pieces, it will get done and by trying different ways of coping, you'll learn new tricks and new methods of doing it better the next time.

So, yes, the main difference between being a child with aspergers or an adult is the simple matter of responsibilities, coupled with the very complicated matter of still being an aspie once you're all grown up. That's the secret, folks. We may walk and talk and can cook you dinner, but on the inside we're still the awkward kid who laughed when nothing was funny in the middle of the school play.

Be patient and remember to ask us how we're getting on. And maybe when the rent is due.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Popular posts from this blog

Spotting an aspie adult

Have you ever wondered how to spot an aspie adult, at a distance, without having to get too close? It would be so convenient, wouldn't it? To be able to detect the aspieness before you are drawn in, before there is any danger of becoming part of their mad world and waking up one morning, trying to work out where it all went wrong and what happened to all your socks.

Bearing in mind there are always exceptions that prove the rule, here is what you should look for.

In the supermarket I often wonder if I have spotted a fellow aspie. Walking along the aisles, it's easier to people watch than shop, usually because I've forgotten what I need. The supermarket is a good open space where you can spot aspies as they grapple with the complex practicalities of staying alive by food shopping.

The walk: Yes, from a distance or as they pass by, the walk is a dead giveaway. It seems to veer towards extremes, either a fast paced booster effect from A to B, or a meandering wander with no vi…

A Guide to your Aspie

So, you have your new aspie and are wondering what to do with him/her. Depending on size and gender, some of these instructions may need to be followed with caution but we are confident that you will be able to get the best out of your aspie for many trouble-free years to come!

(Disclaimer: we are not responsible for any physical, emotional or financial harm that may come to you when following these instructions. Once unboxed, your aspie is not eligible for our guaranteed swappage and refurbishment policy. Please have a good look at the aspie through the window provided before unboxing).

1. Unbox carefully and without making physical contact with the aspie. Pull down the box using the flaps provided and allow them to step free by themselves.

2. Allow your aspie free rein, to explore their surroundings. For ease of capture, we recommend not unboxing in an area that is too large or too small. Open fields would not be suitable, unless you are a long distance runner. Small rooms are to b…

Your life, on screen...required viewing for aspies and friends

I come to you today a wiser woman. Aren't we always saying, how good it would be to see ourselves as the world sees us? Well, thanks to a new Japanese anime show, I did just that. For the first time in my life, I saw what I look like from the outside.

Readers, this is not a paid review or anything officially linked to the Watamote, the anime. This is purely my response to something which, hum, how can I put it? Well, if I tell you that I sat through the whole show, with an expression of horror and recognition on my face, would that tell you how it was?

IT Teen had told me to watch it. He bought the manga first, the Japanese version. He waved it in my face and said, 'This is about yoooo!' I remember scowling at the book cover, to find a edgily-drawn girl scowling back at me. Yes, already it was accurate.

IT told me that it's a 'slice of life' story, all about this socially awkward girl called Tomoko. I thought, well, yes, I am socially awkward but that doesn…