Last night, me and d went to a meetup of the Albany Asperger’s Syndrome meetup group. Six people showed up at Au Coquelet Cafe in Berkeley and I am pretty sure it was a good experience for everyone. This meeting and group were different than anything I have experienced so far.

The conversation went pretty smoothly and covered some interesting topics. One person is about to undergo a bunch of testing in the hopes of getting an official diagnosis so that she can better explain to her family that she has Asperger’s. She feels that she needs the official backup in order to be taken seriously and believed.

Asperger’s is a strange combination of things that can be very hard to explain to people. It is autism, but not the stereotypical Kanner’s autism that comes to mind when most people hear the word. Many people w/Asperger’s or other types of ‘high functioning’ autism have learned to adapt to the ways of society and can often pass as ‘neurotypical’. I can do it pretty well for limited amounts of time, but if caught at a difficult moment, I am easily mistaken for retarded and appear much more ‘classically autistic’.

This ability to adapt and blend in creates a strange situation where it is not always obvious to other people that something is different about a person on the autistic spectrum. If there comes a time when this person needs to get help or explain their autism to family, employers, social services, etc., they are met with disbelief and denial. “You can’t be autistic! You’re so normal. You’re so smart. No way!” This makes it hard for people to get the support and services that they may really come to need or want someday.

Other topics discussed were sensitivity to noise, challenges that each person was having due to meeting in a busy cafe, books about Asperger’s, and how people found out about it. I really liked the people that showed up. It was helpful that I already knew D and R (I met them both through this site). As usual, I didn’t talk very much, but when I did have something to say, I felt relatively comfortable doing it. I did not find it as easy to participate as I did at the macworld web developers meeting, but considering the much more personal nature of the subject matter, it was easier than expected.

There seemed to be a common agreement that the group meet again, preferably at a quieter location next time; possibly the organizer’s home. I would like to meet with these people again. I am continuously amazed at the similarity of so many random ‘symptoms’ that so many people share. One guy was saying how being different has helped him deal with people’s reactions to his differentness during his life. Since he wasn’t all caught up in caring so much what other people thought of him, it helped him have an easier time dealing with not being like other people. One person said that she was so caught up in her own world of interests that she wouldn’t have even noticed if people were treating her badly. A few of us were not so lucky in that way and were badly bullied and/or had other negative experiences because of being different.

One interesting experience I had is that one of the people at the group stuttered and sometimes took longer to say something than would otherwise be the case. I often have a delay in hearing and really appreciated the extra time I got to hear and process what he was saying. Very random, but a nice surprise.

I hope this group catches on. I really love that it is local. It makes a big difference that it is so much easier to get to than the ones in Daly City and San Francisco. Thanks to the organizer and all the folks that showed up. I hope we will meet again. After the meeting, D asked me if I got anything out of it. Besides from the things mentioned above, I got something else. I got hope. Hope that maybe it is possible to have some kind of ‘normal’ social interaction given the right setting and group of people. It occurs to me that this is the main reason why I keep trying these things out.

Today is the last day of my 30’s. Very strange! I keep thinking that I should feel sad; like I should mourn them in a way. I don’t feel sad. I am ready to move on. It is time. Good thing, since tomorrow I will be 40 🙂