Fitting In and Speaking Out:
Me and Asperger's Syndrome
Hello. I am Martin, of Ms. L's 5th grade class. Those of you who have been
around me a lot have noticed that sometimes I act like I'm from another
I may flap my hands, or not look at you when I talk, or not understand your
hints or body language. Things you think are nothing may really upset me, and
things you can ignore may distract me from the job at hand. I have trouble
following a long string of instructions, but I can get so involved in a book
that I don't realize I'm in a room full of active, noisy people. I seem
uncoordinated or clumsy, yet I can talk forever about computers and video games.
During the past 6 years, some of you may have asked me why I do these things.
I usually answered, "Don't ask", or "Ask my Mom". I didn't
want to tell you the truth because I was afraid you'd misunderstand. But now I'm
ready to explain, and I think you're ready to listen.
I have an abnormality in my brain called Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form
of autism. No, I'm not crazy or retarded: My brain functions on a high level,
just differently than yours. My senses work, but the information they sent to my
brain can get misfiled, or come in on the wrong pathways. (Can you imagine
"hearing" bright sunlight?). Sometimes, all the info from all my
senses hits my brain all at once like a million radio stations playing at the
same time, and I don't know how to filter out the junk and pay attention to
This gives me advantages and disadvantages. On the good side, I can be
unbelievably smart at some things, like remembering different computer codes, or
remembering dates and facts and trivia, or having different formulas for getting
the right answers to math problems. I can read technical books written for
adults, and "talk shop" with people at Dad's computer lab at work,
sometimes even helping them solve programming problems.
On the bad side, I am prone to asthma, allergies, and thyroid problems. My
muscles aren't strong or coordinated, I have trouble working in groups, and
bullies use me as an easy target. I can't keep my desk and folders organized, I
really hate being outdoors, and certain clothes just don't feel right and bug me
to death. And sometimes, I just get overloaded and need to get away for a few
minutes to find my center again.
I'm not asking you to feel sorry for me. Because if you pity me, you are also
pitying all the great people like me, for example: Thomas Edison, Alexander
Graham Bell, and Shatoshi Tijjaru (creator of Pokemon) who all have autistic
We're not looking for a cure for Asperger's; just your understanding, and the
understanding that comes from research. After all, if autism was cured, society
would lose access to many of its great geniuses and inventors. We need you to
accept us and be friends with us, while we learn to survive and be successful in
I know there are lots of kids in our school with different levels of autism
who are very lonely, and afraid of being made fun of. And I know you'll meet
more autistics in middle school and beyond.
I'm asking you, in the future, to be more tolerant of autistic kids. Autism
is a disability, like bad eyesight or deafness. And who knows? The person you
are friends with in school may end up discovering an anti-gravity energy source,
or develop the first physical-object transporter, like on Star Trek, or solve
the world's hunger problem. Or, more likely, help you with trig or physics in
Please take time at home to read the folder I'm giving out today. You'll be
surprised who's on the list of famous people with Asperger's Syndrome! See
if you can find Mark Twain and Jim Henson's names, and think about anyone else
you can add to the list. (This list is incomplete, and being added to every
Finally, to the students and teachers here at Meadowland who took the time to
care and be my friend, I end by saying "Thank you".