Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Living with Aspergers

I live with a lot of things in my life—leading a church that struggles at times with deficits; joint pain from too many years on the tennis court; a driven personality that serves me well, and sometimes not so well; an occasional craving for Mexican food in Old Town, San Diego; the annual disappointment of following the Chargers; and a whole lot more.

But here’s something else, something I have not written about until now. Something that impacts my life almost everyday, that at times nearly pushes me to the edge—Aspergers Syndrome (AS).  It impacts me, because I have a son who is an “Aspie”.  The name comes from a pediatrician in Vienna, Hans Asperger, who in the 1940’s discovered that certain children have a unique set of character traits.  He began to study them, and he noticed they had some of the following characteristics in common:

 -they tend to have a low EQ, meaning they lack certain social skills

-they prefer to be alone

-they are very intelligent (“little professors” he called them)

-they see things in black and white, meaning they take things very literally

-they do not easily process information

-they miss subtleties, do not easily intuit

-they are very sensitive to sounds, textures

-they have an odd sense of humor—quirky fits here

-they do not easily read faces, tend to avoid eye contact

-they are not so sensitive to feelings—they do not easily empathize

-they can melt down if given too many tasks at once

There’s no conclusive data as to what leads to Aspergers. I suppose it is inherited, but I cannot point to others in my family.  It finds itself somewhere on the autistic spectrum.  All I know is that has been a unique journey, one Heather and I were not prepared for.  We have had to learn as we go, as Nate has.  Sadly, through his early education, most of his teachers had no idea what to do with a bright kid who was still processing Venus when they had moved on to Mars. 

Up until recently, not much was written about AS.  I have yet to discover a resource person who has been a significant help to my son, or me and my wife for that matter (it is not to say that those persons do not exist).  We have chased down books, gone to a neurological clinic with its own unique, sometimes bizarre exercises.  Most of what I have received is sympathy.  But I am not looking for this.  For the reality is, Aspergers is not a disability or an illness.  It is not necessarily a negative.  I happen to believe that if my son navigates through life successfully, he can use his uniqueness to do something amazing.  They say that people like Einstein and Bill Gates and the girl with the dragon tattoo are Aspies.  If so, he has joined a unique club.

Thankfully, there is beginning to be a greater awareness.  From the movie Adam (as well as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), to the current series “Parenthood”, Aspies are becoming part of the mix of characters. My pastoral work is beginning to include parents and spouses who are learning to live with this neurological condition. I’m not sure where all of it is going, but I am certain God, who superintends over all, has an interesting set of chapters ahead. It is a reminder, as well, that God has made us all very different, and a very big part of the pastoral task is to slow down before making assumptions, avoiding any tendency to marginalize those who are different, writing off those who just might be essential to the work of the kingdom.



  • Barbara L
    10:46 AM, 18 January 2012

    I agree that it can be difficult to accept the fact a loved one has aspergers. For some great techniques and advice on better understanding aspergers, I suggest taking a look at this continuing education website.http://onlineceucredit.com/aspergers-ep

  • Viv
    7:04 AM, 29 January 2012

    Thank you for your sharing, i work with children with special needs include aspergers, ADHD,ADD,CP.Thank God to use me this area of helping the child and parents. In our country we dont have good wellfare support system.

  • Ismi
    1:29 PM, 19 June 2012

    A child or adult with autism will have plomrebs interacting with people (may avoid eye-contact, may not imitate others, may not use gestures, may prefer to be alone, may not understand social cues). A child or adult with autism will have plomrebs communicating (may not speak, language may be delayed, may be unable to initiate or maintain a conversation, language may be unusual or odd, may repeat what others say, may be unable to use their imagination in play). A child or adult with autism may show restricted, repetitive, or ritualistic behaviors, interests, and activities (may be preoccupied with a narrow range of interest, may insist on sameness, may line toys up in the same way time after time, may flap hands, may spin self or objects, may rock, may be upset if the routine changes in any way, may focus on only a small part of a toy or object).Asperger syndrome (AS) is a pervasive developmental disorder at the highest end of the autism spectrum. People with AS develop language normally, but often have difficulty with social interactions, fine and gross motor coordination, and eye contact. They may be extremely passionate about just one or two topics, with little patience for small talk. They also may struggle to handle normal daily activities, such as organizing time, managing conflict, or even facing the sensory overload presented by malls and grocery stores.Adults with AS may appear painfully shy, or they may be extremely outgoing sometimes to the point of being in your face. That’s because people with AS often misinterpret social interaction.

  • Gabriela
    1:53 PM, 19 June 2012

    On what grounds do you make this aumosptisn? The only point of difference I can think of that would make men less acceptable than women would be men’s slightly greater inclination (so I’ve read) to respond to overload with anger.I’m sure it’s just as socially uncomfortable being a man with Asperger’s as it is being a woman with Asperger’s, and I would expect to find men equally stigmatized. For women, the social network is crucial. If you are unable to follow the rules socially you won’t be accepted as an eccentric or an individual women seem to need group members to toe the line precisely or else they are rejected, which can be done quite cruelly. I suggest women are judged even more harshly than men on their social ability.Also, having a tendency to think concretely is not a trait associated with women, who are expected to be intuitive. If women with this trait are not able to enter a career where the trait is useful (and these areas are male dominated), they’re unlikely to be able to follow an alternate career.Simon Baron Cohen has described the Asperger’s brain as being extremely male. Women with extremely male brains are not really acceptable in society, and if they are not able to make a place for themselves based on their positive Aspie traits using other aspects of their personality, they are ever bit as isolated and rejected as men with the syndrome. I think as they age they just live alone and keep cats. Not a great life if you consider that they probably have various degrees of superior intelligence.

  • Uya
    1:09 AM, 20 June 2012

    that children who were now being diesnogad with aspergers and similar were taking funding away from children with severe needs and it shouldn;t be allowed. If the child was capable of main stream school and everday life there was no problem other than them being a loner or not conforming to the norm, and/or the parents being a problem and there being nothing wrong with the child. She basically said they did not deserve any resources or help. I was fuming. My son is very mildly aspergers but it has an affect on his life, not just his but ours as a family. It is thanks to the support of the school and doctors that he is able to function so normally, without that supportI think he would be in a very diffferent position. I think your post is very wll written and you are right, the community as a whole needs to pull together not go against each other.You are tagged by the way over on my blog x

  • Dani
    6:55 AM, 5 September 2012

    Mom needs to limit the video games, or take them away for a period of time so her son can crnaentocte on socialization skills. He’ll throw a fit, just make sure you have a consequence set up ahead of time and that he is away of that consequence as well. He needs to use polite words, hands to himself and appropriate body language (no spitting). If he doesn’t he needs to be isolated for a set period of time. It seems like mom is frustrated and filmed him instead.

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