HARLINGEN — Brian says and does strange things, which no one understands.
People smirk and fire sarcastic comments at him, leaving wounds that never heal and memories that never fade.
He looks so disconnected they think he doesn’t know what they’re saying.
But he knows. He knows very well.
Brian is fictitious, based on typical autistic characteristics and life experiences.
But his story is all too real for thousands of people suffering from higher functioning autism. During “Brian’s” formative years, most people knew little or nothing about autism. Those with the more symptoms were easily identified. However, they knew little about people like Brian.
Even those with Brian‘s symptoms were clueless about his situation. He wouldn’t discover until years later he had Asperger Syndrome, which became part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2013. The name Asperger is no longer used, but the symptoms describe his struggles perfectly — socially awkward, unable to read people’s body language or facial expressions, and isolation.
ASD is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The broad range of symptoms associated with autism can include an inability to speak, repetition of words or actions, and avoiding eye contact. People with autism may also have learning difficulties. At the same time, they may have an intense, almost obsessive, interest in one or two subjects to the extent they may become experts. Those who are higher functioning may speak and write well, but they have poor social skills.
Brian would eventually be considered higher functioning ASD.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part 3 of a series on autism the Valley Morning Star is running during April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.