This clip is for educational purposes only. The featured musical track, “All of My Days” by Alexi Murdoch, does not belong to the creator.
“I always knew there was something there but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. All I knew was that I was different in some way and that this was just me and no one else”
Sam Gee, 25 and working towards a career in education, now knows what that ‘something’ is. He has a social disorder that is commonly known as Asperger’s Syndrome.
Sam describes his experience of life with Asperger’s as “like having an enhancement of certain capabilities, but at the same time struggling with other seemingly simple activities”. These struggles have in many ways defined Sam’s life and have often masked the vibrant person who exists behind the condition. Even today he reflects on his continual difficulty forming relationships and how his social anxieties often transform his public persona. Yet this highly influential condition went unnoticed for much of his childhood. His diagnosis at age 15 was for him a relief after years of confusion and isolation.
Asperger’s Syndrome, now formally categorised as a low-severity autism spectrum disorder, is quintessentially characterised by an inability to effectively relate to and interact with others. Mitchell Byrne, Associate Professor at the University of Wollongong’s School of Psychology, is involved with research into how people with Asperger’s participate in society and how such a condition is regularly unidentified and misunderstood. Professor Byrne explains that people who are born with this condition often go undiagnosed because their cognitive abilities as children are usually very proficient, and raise no alarm to parents. He states that, with their condition being hidden, “there’s a high prevalence of bullying and discrimination towards those with social disorders”, as they do not look different, yet often interact with others abnormally. Sam’s road to diagnosis exemplifies this, and he states that informing people of his condition now “makes relationships a lot easier” as their initial actions towards him are often based on misunderstanding.
“It’s easier to accept social deviance in behaviour if someone looks different – people find it difficult to make sense of that behaviour if the person seems otherwise normal. They understand it as being an issue of character, rather than disability”
Despite hardships that have continued long after uncovering his condition, Sam remains positive about the insights he’s gained from his experience with Asperger’s and how he might use those in his future career as a teacher’s aide. “I feel like a have a special link with students that struggle at school, and communicating with them and helping them is something I find really rewarding”.
While Sam is aware that there is no cure for Asperger’s, he believes that, thanks to his family and in particular his mother, he has a wonderfully engaging and independent future to look forward to.