Thursday, February 09, 2006
Sensory overload leads to bad buzz
You know those commercials where everything moves really fast and details are blurred, like life is on overdrive? That's how the world looks to Katrin Andberg most days.

Katrin, you see, has "Asperger's Syndrome," a neurological disorder not unlike autism. People with Asperger's are very uncomfortable in social situations and can't look others in the eye. Not once during our interview, for example, did Katrin and I make eye contact. It was a little disconcerting at first, but I got used to it.

Katrin, 22 years old, lives every day on sensory overload. She even hears the buzzing in fluorescent lights and sees them flicker every 30 seconds. (I didn't know they flickered.)

Despite her condition, Katrin is quite functional, and smart too, as I discovered when I interviewed her at her home in Foxboro, Massachusetts, for a piece that airs tonight.

Katrin graduated 6th in her high school class, runs her own business, and gets around town as long as James, her dog, is with her every step of the way. She says James calms her.

People wonder why Katrin has a service dog, because she doesn't look like she needs the help. But they can't see what's going on in her brain.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 11:02 AM ET
  80 Comments
i know a young boy who has asperger's. He has hardship with students as well as teachers, who don't understand his disability. I'm glad you are showing the stigma they have to face with havign a disability that is hard to see.
Posted By Anonymous Bree arlington, washington : 11:49 AM ET
I have heard of this but don't really know much about it. I'm glad you are covering it tonight. Your entire team brings such enlightening stories to the world.
Posted By Anonymous Kristy Waco, TX : 12:11 PM ET
I am looking foward to the story. I can empathize with the fluorescent light thing. I hate em, feels like they are sucking all the life out of the room for me. My boss loves to come into my office and turn them on, I hiss at him like a vampire, he gets a real kick out of it.
Posted By Anonymous Liz, Baltimore, Maryland : 12:12 PM ET
Randi, I like your blogs cause they are insightful. Katrin's story sounds very unique and inspiring. Just imagine what she has gone through, yet she runs her own business. Indeed, her story is worth a good coverage. Keep come up with riveting stories, not just 'hot current news'!
Posted By Anonymous V.A. Churchill, Houston, TX : 12:20 PM ET
I am looking forward to this segment. The physiology of the brain is so facinating. It's awesome to know that many people can triumph over their "disorders" giving hope to those that suffer along with them.
Posted By Anonymous Rita Rodriguez, Plainview, TX : 12:23 PM ET
This "diagnosis," as opposed to Autism, is not a disorder in my opinion. If you look at the functionality in the people who have been diagnosed with AS I would conclude it has more to do with heightened evolution than anything else. This is 100% genetic and I don't believe it is attributed to environmental conditioning at all. We have not even scratched the surface on human neurological abilities. The social discomfort side of all of this, in my opinion, has more to do with a self imposed conclusion that they are "not like everyone else" which has made them shy away. I would even go as far as to say that the lack of social interaction is more ego driven, but not in a superficial way, than not wanting to be around others. I say that because uncanny abilities, especially when you are cognisant of them, can be pretty freightening knowing the over whelming stigma attached to being labelled as "different."
I would like someone to ask Katrin if she actually "held back" in High School and perhaps reasoned to herself that she didn't want to pull ahead of the pack to be in the spotlight.
Posted By Anonymous Frank Randolph Scott, Port Perry, ON : 12:46 PM ET
This is an inspiration and encouragement to all who have any kind of handicap and disability, as well as those of us who are caregivers. Thank you for giving us this story.

Ethel, Pineville, Louisiana
Posted By Anonymous Ethel, Pineville, Louisiana : 12:50 PM ET
Wow, that is so bizzare. It's incredible that she's able to lead a relatively normal life, I know I couldn't handle it. This story does make me feel more fortunate though!
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Chagrin Falls, OH : 1:01 PM ET
Though I am certain that I do not have this condition, as I do not feel as if I experience sensory overload of any kind and am reasonable comfortable in social situations, I have always had a fear...or at least a reluctance, to make direct eye contact with people. To me, it seems as if I am invading their personal space in some way. I must add that I am visually impaired/legally blind, yet have enough sight to look at least somewhat directly into others' eyes. Even if I weren't legally blind, however, I still believe that this anxiety would still exist. I often wonder how common this is and what may be causing this anxiety.
Posted By Anonymous Misty, Bloomington IN : 1:05 PM ET
I wouldn't describe Katrin as having a "handicap." Besides being politically incorrect, "handicap" can be described as being more environmental than physical (i.e. you're in a wheelchair and the building you need to enter does not have a ramp). Asperger's Syndrome is a disability.

I work with a number of children with AS; they are so wonderful, intelligent, and gifted. It is the most rewarding job in the world.
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Chicago, IL : 1:10 PM ET
Thank you Randi,
I really like your work and the way you approach your stories. I wonder how many of us have experienced these type of symptoms, if only for a minute. It would be interesting to find ot how many of these disorders are genetic or if society has some influence...
Posted By Anonymous Paola, Boston : 1:17 PM ET
I am very glad that Asperger's syndrome is getting some attention. It is important to note that Asperger's is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum (i.e. intact cognitive abilities but deficits in social functioning). It is often misdiagnosed as attention deficit disorder.

I am looking forward to this story and hope it does not get bumped.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Wakefield, RI : 1:25 PM ET
Now that you mention it...I think I might have that. I wonder if this affects people at different levels of intensity...?
Posted By Anonymous Ru, Richmond, Va : 1:35 PM ET
This sounds like it is going to be an interesting story. I can't imagine what she must go through every single day, having to deal with Asperger's. I honestly get paranoid when I hear a fly buzz in my ear, let alone hearing every sound and seeing every sight all at once, that has to be frightning.
By the way, love this whole blogging thing, and keep up the good work!
Posted By Anonymous Johanna, Distrito Federal, Brazil : 1:40 PM ET
I've never heard of this and I am looking forward to the segment tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Brigitte, Casselberry FL : 1:43 PM ET
Aspperger's isnt a handicap or disability that should be seen as an inspiration because someone is able to function with this label attached to them. That's kind of insulting to be looked at that way just for being who you are because it isnt a roadblock, its just... different. They are highly functioning people who just dont fit into the social norm. So what if I prefer my rich inner world to useless watercooler gossip. When something interests me, I'll speak about it or act on it in an intelligent way, you can call me a socially inept awkward strange little girl because of it, that's fine... but if you want to slap the Asperger's label on me as something to be corrected --- to take classes to learn how to talk about who did what to who on Dynasty or to waste my time on things that dont interest me so that I appear well rounded in a social norm kind of way ...Grrrr.... I wont let it happen. I like me even if you dont think it's normal. I think many of the brightest and most creative people in history probably fit the Asperger's profile, Bill Gates certainly does. I might throw a fit over the buzzing and flickering lights but I can also probably intellectually destroy people who fit into the social norm if it's a topic that interests me that we disagree on - but it's not in my nature to be that cruel, I'd rather spend 3 hours shuffling a deck of cards hanging out in my head instead - just dont pity or feel like you should be inspired by someone with that label - they are full humans with a little different wiring.
Posted By Anonymous Missy, Jacksonville FL : 2:06 PM ET
Who ever assumes they "know" what is going on inside another person's head needs their brain examined. Given the Entwistle case, the "brainwashing" of terror-inducing recruits and the physiological meanderings and quirks inside my own noggin, I think that Katrin's strength and courage to not only adjust but thrive in this world is fantastic; a fine example of how we should not use excuses to get out of living life. I will be watching tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Burlington, KY : 2:15 PM ET
I have a close friend with a six-year-old son who has AS. He's delightful, charming and highly intelligent -- but faces challenges in everyday life that are hard for others to understand. Ironically, his classmates "get it" better than their parents do. I'm looking forward to this segment and hope that information on this syndrome continues to flow.
Posted By Anonymous Louisa, Bentonville, AR : 2:22 PM ET
I think we all need a dog to calm us.
Posted By Anonymous Bennie, Dallas, Texas : 2:32 PM ET
For Ms. Katrin the presence of a dog calms her, helps her with her "Asperger's Syndrome", the overload of society and our environment upon her. Perhaps the simple needs of humankind's best friend, getting fed daily, a good walk and a pat on the head, ought to be therapy for all of us.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Irwin, serving in Iraq : 2:43 PM ET
I recently became aquainted with a man with Aspergers Syndrome. Upon our introduction, I was not aware of it nor did I know what it was. I took him as "shy." He did not look me in the eye and seemed uncomfortable by my extroverted personality. I persisted in continuing a conversation and by then end of the nite, we had become fast friends. He insisted I sit next to him at dinner and then again at a show we attended with his Mother an other friends. At the end of the nite, we exchanged a hug and kiss on the cheek and now when we see each other at various functions, he immediatly embraces me. I feel honored that he accepts me into his world since I know how difficult it must be. He is a wonderful soul and I am happy to know him. I wish it (Asperger's) was talked about more mainstream so people could gain an understanding.
Posted By Anonymous M. Jones. Easton, PA : 2:45 PM ET
well maybe many have just a touch then and explains alot. many things to unlock about the brain. far more than is known now. maybe its not such a bad thing. over active instead of less active. Americans could stand to be more mentally active and physical too.
Posted By Anonymous Garth Colwell , Portales New Mexico : 2:49 PM ET
I myself do not like to look people in the eye at times. I can't explain it, but I feel chills go down my spine sometimes when I look people in the eye, and other times it doesn't bother me at all. It doesn't matter who the person is, friend or stranger I get the same feeling.

Props to this article, I should shed some much needed light on the subject.
Posted By Anonymous Ryan, Moncton NB : 2:49 PM ET
so i hear the buzz and see the flicker too. i thought everybody did
Posted By Anonymous mark, salem illinois : 2:51 PM ET
The learning model of those with Asperger's syndrome and similar high-functioning labels need more attention. The mainstreaming model used in Arizona's elementary system (and likely that of most states) is flawed, leading to students being marginalized and those that could succeed with specialized attention, such as those that don't make IEP status, are faultering. Students need to be treated as individuals with strengths and weaknesses that need engaging. The national trend has been to eliminate special ed, gifted programs, dedicated art, music, and PE classes as lawsuits and NCLB press for mainstreaming and I think the results speak for themselves sadly.
Posted By Anonymous Ryan, Tucson, AZ : 2:55 PM ET
I feel that this disease needs to be brought to the attention of the world. I know a young child who was publicly humiliated in front of his classmates by his teacher because of behavior related to his condition. Your story is so wonderful and I will be sure to tell people to watch.
Posted By Anonymous Jeb Gobble, Longmeadow, MA : 2:56 PM ET
AS has been implicated as a genetic-linked syndrome, typically Father-Son.
In fact,the father of a child DX'd with this may be also found to have this in hindsight. In this and other disorders,as diagnostic skills improve, we refine diagnostic categories. A great AS program can be found on NPR's website under Fresh Air.
Posted By Anonymous Dr. B, Chicago,IL : 3:01 PM ET
My best friend has AS. He's quite possibly one of the most intelligent human beings that I have ever met. It's not necessarily a handicap so much as a state of mind that is a bit different than most. His perception of being different is not inaccurate. He is different. That's what I appreciate about him.

What I found interesting about your post is the mention of dogs. He repeatedly tells me that his dogs keep him grounded. He rarely goes anywhere without them other than work. Another friend has a son who was recently diagnosed with AS and yet another friend teaches AS students. Often it merely seems like overloaded intellect when described. The social ramifications seem to vary, but hinge more on being 'different' or somehow 'separate' from the rest of the species.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle, Atlanta, GA : 3:07 PM ET
Not all with asperger's are gifted, talented, etc. My 23 year old son has it. I pray every night I live one minute longer than he does. He will never live on his own. He will never 'get it' -- he doesn't understand the world around him. He's also very innocent, naive, loving and sensitive.

To the guy who posted earlier and said he doesn't believe in asperger's.... It's real and I believe it's an inherited [genetic] disorder.
Posted By Anonymous Debi, Chesapeake, VA. : 3:09 PM ET
I find it ammusing when people hear about a medical condtion and then imagine they suffer similarly. Assperger syndrome isnt something that many people have and its not at all simple to deal with. You cant just retreat into your head and be antisocial. The problem is sever, you may think you get sensory overload but you DO filter out tons and tons of information that people with the syndrome can't. Every change in what you are seeing or hearing pulls for your attention. Do you see your tv or computer screen constantly flicker? Do you notice the person walking down a carpeted hallway while you are listening to music? I greatly admire anyone with this disorder who is able to go out among the rest of society.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle, Hattiesburg MS : 3:14 PM ET
I'm the mother of an 8-year-old child with Asperger's Syndrome. He's tested out at 11th grade 7th month comprehension overall - intellectually. Socially his 4-year-old nephew is more mature. If you want to understand this disorder, read Dr. Temple Grandin's book "Thinking in Pictures" - it should be mandatory reading for every parent to one of these children.

The sensory overload is VERY real. There are certain fabrics he just can't wear. He can only wear one brand/style of shoe. He has serious issues with food textures. T ake him to a crowded mall at Christmas or on the weekends and I can promise he'll rage because he can't cope with the onslaught to his senses - in smell, sight, hearing.

He often tell me "Mom, no sound" and that means no sound. No radio in the car, no tv at home, his older brother leaves the house and hangs out with his friends elsewhere. I can often find him in his closet where it's quiet and he can regroup.

A high-functioning Asperger's mind is amazing. They don't hold back on anything, and will actually tell you more than you ever want to know on a subject that they want to discuss. There are times I have to tell him "no words!"

It can be a limiting life. He's already asked me why kids call him a "retard or freak" at school. He will always be different from his siblings and nephews and from the "normal" kids in class.

What he's taught me is that it's okay to be different. That his quieter world is an okay place to go to and visit him. That stopping 27 times along an 11-mile stretch of highway to view the various wildflowers in season is a really okay thing to do if I get to do it with him!

He may always be home with me, he may someday be able to live alone. I don't know the future for him yet, I just know that I thank God each day he wakes my son up to share another day with me. That his hugs are well-earned, his attention and sweetness are what drive me each day to continue on and get through the rough spots and rages.

This disorder is at epidemic levels as reported by the CDC. The research isn't like that of other disorders. The brain is an area where we least likely want to spend the research dollars because you can't see the ravages of the disorder/disease as you can in so many others. It's not life threatening, you don't die from it and society then just assumes it can't be THAT bad to cope with.

Coping is what adults with the disorder learn to do. But they have to make it through their childhood, and that is often a really tough place to go through not only for the child but the parent.

When he misbehaves/rages in public, people look at you like "can't you control your child" when in reality you can't. You don't always understand what triggers a child, it could be something you or I can't see - like the flickering of a light.

Next child you see that looses it in public, think twice before you judge, it could be a child in the AS spectrum or a child with sensory-integration issues.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Houston, TX : 3:21 PM ET
This is in response to Frank Randolph Scott who does not seem to think that AS is a disorder. I invite you Frank to come to my home and live with my
4 1/2 year old son who has been "diagnosed" (as you so nicely put it) with Autsim, for 24/7. You couldn't handle it!!! (He will most likely, when older, be identified with AS, based on his characteristics.) You have NO idea what it's like to have and raise a child with this condition and you have NO right to criticize it! If you have children that are "normal"..COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS! This disorder, be it Autism or AS, which, by the way, are all on the Autism Spectrum is a debilitating disability and until you have lived with it, as a caregiver or the individual you have no right to degrade it! Shame on you. Why don't you research the topic and get your facts straight.
Posted By Anonymous R. Chester, Pittsburgh, PA : 3:22 PM ET
It is great that attention is given to those people who have service dogs that may not look like they have a disability. My father is an epilieptic with a service dog and he gets looks and comments all the time about why he has a service dog, like you said, you can't see inside their brains!
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Richland WA : 3:23 PM ET
I cannot tell you how happy I am that you are doing this story! I am a special education teacher and an ABA therapist (Applied Behavior Analysis). I work with children with autism in NYC. Some of my students have extreme special education needs, while others are so high functioning that only their parents, teachers and close friends know they are stuggling with autism.

I have always related especially well to individuals with autism, and I finally realized why. At age 32, I found out that I have Hyperlexia, another form of very high-functioning autism. I always knew there was something different about my mind, but I never knew there was a name for it.

I have hypersensitive hearing like Katrin, and also I have somewhat of an obsession with words and numbers. I get fixated on details that others don't even notice, such as a flashing colon on a digital clock, or a symbol on a street sign. I find patterns in numbers, words and symbols that others don't notice, but most people can't tell that I am doing this.

I am especially happy that you focused on a girl, because I feel that girls with high-functioning autism tend to be under-diagnosed because they (we) tend to keep our obesessions/fixations to ourselves. I hope 360 will also consider doing a story Hyperlexia one of these days. It is basically considered the neurological opposite of Dyslexia.

Keep up the great work. Can't wait to watch tonight. I am off to an ABA session now!
Posted By Anonymous Christina, NYC, NY : 3:25 PM ET
Thank you for this story, I can't wait to see it. My daughter is 2 and everyone thinks she is suffering from this disorder. I am encouraged to hear that Katrin is making a sucess of herself despite her diagnosis. This gives me hope for my little daughter that she has a chance for a "normal" life. There is not a lot of literature or study about this disorder so anything I find is helpful! Thanks again,

Darcie
Posted By Anonymous Darcie, Harlingen TX : 3:26 PM ET
I believe that MANY people are on sensory overload, due to emphasis on technology (everything is quick) and being "connected" at every moment. IMO,
it is NOT relaxing to be hooked up to a cell phone while (Lord forbid) driving, or even walking! Humans are definitely losing touch with what LIFE
is about - and that reflects on every thing we see around us.
Posted By Anonymous Roxane, Sherman Oaks, CA : 3:29 PM ET
bravo for covering this. my 9 year old son has recently been diagnosed so a few questions from others, I can answer after much research from "just a mom trying to help her kid"...
yes, can affect people at different levels of intensity and to Mr. Scott in ON, I'd like to impart this knowledge from first hand experience. The "self imposed shying away from others" he describes is neither "ego-driven" nor a way to get attention. My son does not know, or care what other children/adults think (most with AS do not) so this is an obsurd statement. I'd like to know if Katrin is on medication because that is the ONLY thing that saved us from terrible potential outcomes. My son's AS has a HUGE anxiety component to the point that his 3rd grade teacher (and team of special ed, psychologists, and others) have made a janitor's closet into his my son's own special space so when class gets too overwhelming, he can go there and melt down or just become calm again. Key to this is absolutely, knowledge and understanding...this isn't a "choice" people make to live like this...no one would. How many 9 year olds do you know who would tell their mom, "i just want to disappear and I feel nothing inside at all" and cry themselves to sleep every night because just functioning every day becomes too hard?
Posted By Anonymous Cherie, W Des Moines, IA : 3:29 PM ET
I have worked with children and families coping with AS for some time. It is a mistake to consider AS as a diagnosis that affects only social functioning. Because AS falls in the spectrum of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder each child is often effected differently. Other life domains such as school or work can be affected. Some children with this diagnosis have difficulty generalizing information from one setting to another. This can have a profound affect on educational success. Please do not diminish the effects of AS as merely a problem of "social functioning".
Posted By Anonymous Paul D. Pasternak, MS, Buffalo, NY : 3:30 PM ET
A good friend of mine actually suspects that her 18 month old daughter has this. I'm going to alert her to your story tonight...and I look forward to the segment myself.

I am interested to hear how and when Katrin's symptoms first appeared and how she was ultimately diagnosed with AS.
Posted By Anonymous Claudine, Saint James, NY : 3:31 PM ET
I have a nephew with Asperger Syndrome. He had been diagnosed with everything from ADHD to downs. He is a very intelligent young man with a strong gift towards math and computers. He cannot handle social sitatuions at all. I myself am hearing impaired, not a "visible" disability either. People thing it is funny to mouth words, and fake sign language. Too bad they can't walk a mile in the shoues of someone with an invisible disability.
Posted By Anonymous Mary D Grand Haven, MI : 3:31 PM ET
Thank you Karen. That was extremely beautiful/insightful. Your words apply not only to AS, but across a spectrum of valuable lessons and (mis)judgements . Thanks again.
Posted By Anonymous Ross, Boston, MA : 3:31 PM ET
Yep - fluorescent lights flicker, they actually pulsate and if you look carefully they can create a bit of a strobe light affect if something it moving fast you may notice it. Maybe she notices it everything 30 seconds but it is much more frequent than that. I noticed that too as a kid and can still tell if something is lit by fluorescent versus incandescent bulbs. Fortunately I don't have Asperger's Syndrome, but I do prefer to read under incandescent lighting.
Posted By Anonymous Dan, Indianapolis, IN : 3:32 PM ET
To: Missy / Jacksonville,
Missy, I have in my Boy Scout troop a young man with AS. When he joined a couple of years ago, I'd never heard of it so I cruised to Barnes and Noble, picked up a book and read it.
But "pity" never occured to me. Alex is just a young boy and no more or less "off the wall" than the other boys (with whom he gets along well). I have epilepsy, he has AS, a girl I've known since first grade has MS: what's the big deal? We all may have some limitations but the word 'pity' is simply not applicable. To me, the true measure of a person is what's in their heart. Alex is a little gold mine.
Posted By Anonymous john k moore, westminster, CO : 3:32 PM ET
Oh, so that's what that is. I've been hearing lights and watching my screen refresh all day long... People think I'm a loser for paying too much attention to the sparkles in the sidewalk, but I know I'm just special. Are we all sure that people "diagnosed" with this syndrome aren't just socially inept? Whatever, I guess I'll have to find someone who'll let me watch CNN on their TV.
Posted By Anonymous Jen, Amherst, MA : 3:33 PM ET
My son has AS. It has been an uphill battle with the school system to have him taught at grade level while understanding that he is not going to be able to do everything that a 'normal' student can. People with AS are very literal and often end up being either taken advantage of or bullied due to their lack of understanding non-literal references. I'm sorry that Frank thinks that AS is not a disorder, but he is very wrong when he implies that it is somehow a choice. My son comes home from school often asking why he can't be normal. Not an easy thing for a teenage boy.
Like Katrin, he has two dogs (Italian Greyhounds) that really calm him down and make being in groups easier for him. Also like Katrin, we have several lights, air filters, and appliances whose sounds hurt his ears. This is not an easy life, and is definitely not a choice.
I look forward to viewing your program tonight. Thank you for addressing this problem.
Posted By Anonymous Audra, Norfolk, VA : 3:34 PM ET
I feel that I need to post again, to the lady who prayed that she live one minute longer than her son. I thought that I was the only one who did this. I guess this is the most unselfish thing that I have ever asked for. My son may also have this along with a mental disability, which prevents him from living alone. I worry about what will happen to him, if I should go first. Hopefully, more awareness of these and other disorders, and what their close family members go through, will be addressed, in the future.
Posted By Anonymous Ethel, Pineville, Louisiana : 3:47 PM ET
There are those who believe that this large increase in autism and similar conditions is due to better diagnosis. Some believe it is related to environmental pollutants. And others believe that what we are witnessing is evolution, and that these are Crystal children, which we are attempting to fit into a mold which they were not born to inhabit. There is no question that something is happening, but maybe it's something wonderful. Could this be the beginning of a world consciousness, people operating on a different level?
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Midland Michigan : 3:51 PM ET
Service dogs are the saving grace for many people with different medical needs. We could help a lot more people and save a lot of unwanted dogs if we put more effort and energy in training these dogs for those persons than destroying them.
Posted By Anonymous Joanna Comerford Toledo Ohio : 3:52 PM ET
Randi's final sentences had a lot more impact on me than was probably intended. We all have things going on in our lives that other people will never understand. I strive to look at people (like Katrin for example) and rather than wonder why, aknowledge the fact that she has a service dog as an end in itself.
Posted By Anonymous Patrick Seattle, WA : 4:03 PM ET
A couple weeks ago on Boston Legal, Alan Shore's ( James Spader) friend, got convicted of a crime and they used the defense of Asperger. Turns out it was true. How wonderful it is that we can now diagnose such things.
Posted By Anonymous Lindsey B. Grand Forks, North Dakota : 4:04 PM ET
Is there any indication that AS is linked to early childhood vaccinations?
Posted By Anonymous Kristen, State College, PA : 4:06 PM ET
I like the fact that ya like to do a piece about this where a person who has a disability still lives a good life. It provides confidence that others with disabilities can do the same thing.
Posted By Anonymous Michael, Philadelphia, PA : 4:07 PM ET
Such is the state of mental illness in the U.S. today. A good example is my daughter, who has severe social anxiety (a family history of this), and has also been diagnosed bi-polar. Although tested in the 98-99 percentile on the Iowa Basic (3 times), getting any kind of cooperation from teachers and administration to assist with her concerns has been a nightmare. If she was strapped into a wheelchair or such, they'd fall over themselves getting her any & everything she needed. BUT, since they don't live with her or can't SEE her illness, well, it's just her 'acting' this way or that. We've been through approximately 14 different medications, she's attempted suicide twice, she been institutionalized 4 times (the final time for 5 months, which helped to stabilize her condition and find the right 'mix' of meds) and now we have a modicum of support in the school district in assisting her with her schoolwork, classes, etc... Our situation is not uncommon, as we've learned and as you've shown in this blog piece.
Posted By Anonymous Terance Anderson, Fayetteville, GA : 4:08 PM ET
Very intresting stories. I will be watching the story tonight to learn more. I give the parents of these kids lots of credit along with the kids themselves.
Posted By Anonymous Judy, Delavan WI : 4:08 PM ET
I am also a mother of a son with Asperger's. He is now 17, and I cannot imagine my life without his unique perspective. I struggled with his education, because children with Asperger's resist any change, sometimes even resisting new ideas, yet when he was interested in a subject, there was no end to the information he would gather about it. But, for all the struggles, he is the absolute light of my life. I learned more from him than I ever did in school, and I was a very good student.

I never knew what was the cause of his differences until he was in sixth grade, even though I had taken him to pediatric neurologists and doctor's. It wasn't until I studied and researched that I finally found out what was happening, and was able to have him properly diagnosed. I had only been told before that he had an "artist's personality", that his view of the world was different from everyone else. So, I am certainly thrilled that this segment will air and help others who face what I have faced. I have found that the changes I have had to make to accomodate his unique perspective (like NEVER telling him to do more than one thing at a time, he won't remember anything after the first instruction, although he is more than willing to help me do any task) are so small compared to the joy and fun I have received from having him in my life. One of his teachers once told me a couple of years ago that children with Asperger's are the gold threads in the tapestry of life. How immensely true that is!!
Posted By Anonymous April, Kennesaw, GA : 4:08 PM ET
Our 9 year old grandson has been diagnosed with this.
As we live away from him, does anyone know how we can help him and his parents.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon,Canora,SK : 4:22 PM ET
Katrin is one of the most delightful and intelligent young person I know. She has an incredible way with dogs. She use to care for my dog Jack. Both Jack and I are glad Katrin touched our lives.

You are very lucky to have the chance to interview this young lady.
Posted By Anonymous Pamela, Braintree MA : 4:25 PM ET
My son was just diagnosed last week. He is 12 and is failing math. We had his ears and eyes tested several times and even had him tested for special ed. The school said he did not have a learning disability but suffered from an IQ of 78. I finally found a pediatrician that had seen AS before and referred us to the right people to get a correct diagnosis. The Dr's were incredulous that the Special Ed folks had missed it. Even a smart person has trouble living life in a world that is a blur. The world they perceive is a very different world than the world the rest of us live in.
Posted By Anonymous Wes, Austin TX : 4:26 PM ET
very timely subject...we are only learning the tip of the iceberg on this diagnosis.
Posted By Anonymous katie sandpoint, idaho : 4:27 PM ET
I'm glad to see that you are covering this story. My younger brother also has AS. When he was younger, he was labeled as a high-functioning autistic child, and was lumped into a group of people who could not function at all. After people realized that he wasn't really autistic, they (for the most part) let him have a chance to succeed. He is now doing very well in his senior year of high school, and will be attending college in the fall. To the mother who thinks her son will never function, give your child a chance to prove you wrong. People with AS can function quite well in society. They can be seen as normal people if people get over the slight social difference.
Posted By Anonymous Amanda, Terre Haute, IN : 4:27 PM ET
My son has Aspergers. There is much hope anad help for these people. Check out the OASIS website. My son is 12, has several friends and does well in school. he is very funny. he needs to be taught different emotions and has many different eccentricities, but if explained, are very easy to tolerate. don't give up on these kids.
Posted By Anonymous Joy Lake Mary, Florida : 4:29 PM ET
Ditto on the flickering and buzzing - its enough to drive you crazy!
Posted By Anonymous namyew, port orange, FL : 4:33 PM ET
My 9 yr old son was diagnosed with Aspergers 1 1/2 yrs ago.
We knew something was not "quite right" with him or his behavior. After many visits and testing, we have found some medication used for treating ADHD has helped tremendously!!
I have heard it isn't the case in all situaions, but worth looking into.

I am looking forward to tonights program.
Posted By Anonymous Chuck, Sabin, MN : 4:41 PM ET
My son has Aspergers. He can hear pick out 10 instruments while he listens to an orchestra as opposed to a typically developing person who can pick out 3. Our pediatrician recommends that we start him taking piano lessons since he has such a musical ear. My son has learned to cover his ears and say that thing are too loud when noise bothers him. He also has a 4th grade reading level which is pretty remarkable since he is in kindergarten and taught himself how to read 2 years ago.
Posted By Anonymous Mikki Barnes, Raleigh NC : 4:49 PM ET
I look forward to your show on this disorder as I know it will give me hope for my child who may very well recieve an Asperger's diagnosis. I also look forward to the learning it will provide others, such as Mr. Scott who placed a post on this matter at 12:46 PM. To say that "The social discomfort side of all of this, in my opinion, has more to do with a self imposed conclusion that they are "not like everyone else" which has made them shy away. I would even go as far as to say that the lack of social interaction is more ego driven, but not in a superficial way, than not wanting to be around others." says nothing but that he has never experienced anything close to one of the Autism Spectrum disorders. If he could only feel my 6 year old child's total longing to be "normal", his constant feeling of being an outcast, he would retract those words and spend the rest of his days searching for that magical "thing" that will make all OK.
Posted By Anonymous Eva Leggett, Washington NC : 4:51 PM ET
My eight year old son has AS. He is funny and smart, but truly lives in a different world. We joke about Planet Asperger at our house. It is hard work being his Mom, but I am honored to have such a great child.
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Valdosta, GA : 4:52 PM ET
Thank you for making people more aware of AS. My son is 9 and has AS. It is a very difficult, very real disorder that has profoundly changed every aspect of my life.

What HE deals with every day is unimagineable for most people. Sensory overload -imagine someone turning the volume up and down to the point of discomfort or pain. Now apply that to all 5 senses. Too loud, too bright, too smelly, too strong tasting, and even the slightest touch feeling like a punch in the arm. Then add social blindness. All the social rules most of us learn easily without being told (like how close to stand, not to touch people's faces, proper eye contact, how loud to talk, not to tell a stranger his breath stinks, etc..)Every nuance must be taught repetitively. My son memorizes these rules b/c they are not instinctive.

There are varying degrees of AS, but it is never easy. Fortunately, my son is very intelligent in several areas, and has the heart of an angel. He is starting to make some friends. With hard work, and the education, compassion and understanding of others, he will find his niche in this world, and excel.
Posted By Anonymous Susan, Philadelphia, PA : 4:55 PM ET
I'm looking forward to this segment of the show and am glad to see Aspergers syndrome receiving media attention. My son, age 43, a gentle soul and talented composer has had Aspergers all his life. Sadly it has been only in the last year he has come to understand the disorder himself, but has dealt with his handicap admirably nevertheless. Thank you for your coverage.
B.Powell, Cartersville, GA
Posted By Anonymous B. Powell, Cartersville, GA : 4:58 PM ET
I was wondering if this can be treated with medications? If so, what is available?
Posted By Anonymous Mirtha, Tulsa OK : 5:02 PM ET
Hearing the buzz and seeing the flicker of a flourescent light might just mean that the light fixture needs a new ballast. I think what the correspondent means is that Asperger's Syndrome causes an individual to have even uncomfortable heightened sensory perceptions.
Posted By Anonymous Aldene, Mill Creek, WA : 5:12 PM ET
I have a son who will be 10 in a couple weeks. He has AS. His mother and I are divorced and I don't get to spend as much time with him as I'd like so a lot of the things he has to deal with I have to learn as time goes by. My ex is wonderful about educating me about AS and which parts of the disorder are prevelant in my boy. He is very intelligent and he loves people. I don't see the social issues but I'm told they're there. He has trouble with physical things but he tries to play soccer and basketball anyway and when he does soemthing good the reaction in him brings tears to my eyes. He's my little hero. I look forward to watching this segment tonight and I thank you all for your posts. We all need to learn more about this.
Posted By Anonymous john g/ chicago, ill : 5:14 PM ET
I have a son who will be 10 in a couple weeks. He has AS. His mother and I are divorced and I don't get to spend as much time with him as I'd like so a lot of the things he has to deal with I have to learn as time goes by. My ex is wonderful about educating me about AS and which parts of the disorder are prevelant in my boy. He is very intelligent and he loves people. I don't see the social issues but I'm told they're there. He has trouble with physical things but he tries to play soccer and basketball anyway and when he does soemthing good the reaction in him brings tears to my eyes. He's my little hero. I look forward to watching this segment tonight and I thank you all for your posts. We all need to learn more about this.
Posted By Anonymous john g/ chicago, ill : 5:16 PM ET
My sister, who has MS, has had to move to another apartment and will have to get rid of her little dog. She is disabled, lives by herself, and needs the companionship/protection offered by this animal friend. Why can they not broaden the "service dog" catagory to encompass people like her? Now she has to have the dog put down or (hopefully) find it a home! Awful! Older and disabled folks draw a lot of comfort and help from these animals, but so few qualify under the present laws.
Posted By Anonymous Laura, Knoxville, TN : 5:17 PM ET
I'm really looking forward to watching this show tonight, and felt compelled to post.

As many above, I too have a child with Aspergers. Diagnosis went from ADHD to ADHD/OCD to ADHD/OCD/Sensory Integration Disfunction and finally we were referred by occupational therapist to a different psychologist who recognized our son's behaviors as aspergers. It took 2 years from the beginning to get an accurate diagnosis. This doesn't change anything for him...his behaviors didn't magically change with getting a proper diagnosis, but it did open up some doors that previously were closed.

There are many areas of society that do not understand my "aspie" child...school for example continues to try to make him fit a mold that he will never conform to. They force him to go to gym class, even though they know the lights, sounds, chaos of other children, and unstructured environment will certainly send him into melt down mode. They continually push him into a mainstreamed environment when he needs to be taught self-contained due to the constant distractions (sight, smell, sounds, etc.) and extra attention he requires to complete his work. He is incredibly smart (scary smart sometimes) and would much rather talk with adults than other children. He finds fascination where others would simply see a blade of grass.

There isn't anything I would change about my son...his aspergers makes him one of the sweetest, most compassionate children I have ever known. He still tells me he loves me in front of his friends (very few friends, as he also is a "freak" by most children's cruel standards), wants to "snuggle" each night at bedtime, tells me about the wonderful city that is constantly hustling and bustling inside his head (he is the mayor), explains to me what different words are in "moon language" (his own made up language which he remembers each word he makes up and recalls it the next time it is needed), and is the first person to go up to another person who is obviously different in some way and begin a conversation.

He has great hopes for life and the future and I know that one day he will do great things. But for today, he and I focus on maintaining a his routine and managing ...laughing, crying, dealing with his rage and anger over not being able to do a very simple task, cutting out tags from clothes, dealing with the "sock dimples" that bother his toes...

I look at being the mother of my aspergers child as a priveledge, as he helps me see things from a different perspective...not better and not worse....just different.
Posted By Anonymous Terri, Virginia Beach, VA : 5:22 PM ET
I have AS and it has been both a blessing and living hell. Most of the AS people I know have some kind of enhanced power. Mine happens to be with patterns. I see patterns in things that most don't see. Problem is in the States AS is lumped in with other developmental problems. So it becomes a burden these people have to carry with them all their lives. I was fortunate that I got into computers where I could function quite well without a lot of interaction with other people. I didn't find out I had AS until late in life. I've been diagnosed with all kinds of other problems but until recently not AS. No telling how many drugs etc they have tried on me. None of them did any good. Once I knew I has AS and was able to study the syndrome my life became much more 'normal' A lot of very intelligent people have AS or other forms of autism I've found. I don't consider it a disease rather a different mindset than most people have. I'm glad to see that AS is coming out into the open. If more people were diagnosed correctly early in life and counseled about the syndrome they would lead far more productive lives. And instead of a stigma following them all their lives they would realize that AS comes with gifts as well as misery.
Posted By Anonymous Dan Pollock Granite Shoals Tx : 5:25 PM ET
I have a 4 yr old Autistic son and I am so GLAD this is being broadcasted I wish there was more out there. There are alot of adults in the world that see these children as brats and just need a good spanking but its not true. The ADULTS are just too ignorant in regards to this disorder. Alot of the Autistic children i have came into contact with are truely BLESSED intellectually just tormented sensory wise.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah Dorris East Prairie MO : 5:25 PM ET
An organization I volunteer with often places dogs for "normal looking" people affected with seizure or nervous system disorders. Clients are inevitably approached by people who say, "you're not blind!"
I once visited a Blockbuster with a dog in training. He was wearing his vest that clearly stated he was a service dog, and I was told by three different employees that "pets" were not allowed and that I had to leave. When I tried to explain that service dogs, by law, are allowed in public facilities, the store manager said, "Well, if you were in a wheelchair or blind, that would be different."
We need more news stories, like this one, that bring these people's situation to light.
Posted By Anonymous Brady, Lincoln, Nebraska : 5:26 PM ET
Sharon - I wrote earlier...get ALL the books written by Dr. Temple Grandin. She was diagnosed Autistic as a child, and is now one of the world's foremost authorities on animal husbandry. "Thinking in Pictures" is her story and how she explains the disorder and it's effects on her. She explains that a hairdryer sounds like the roar of an airplane engine to her - if you think about that how horrible it must be to hear a simple hair dryer. That crinolyn (sp?) fabric used to feel like coarse sand paper rubbing against her skin. she puts to words what our children/grandchildren feel and makes it real for us. I became a much better parent to my child because of her books. There is also "Songs of the Gorilla Nation" by Dawn Prince-Hughes who explains her road to diagnosis and acceptance of Aspergers. There are lots of books on diagnosis but not many on living with the disorder. These will help you and your family.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Houston, TX : 5:28 PM ET
First of all, I like to say I just LOVE your show and I am so happy that you are covering something as important and real as AS disorder. As a recovering OCD patient, I perfectly understand brain disorders. I hope that this young lady that you are featuring tonight on AC 360 gets better soon. And know that there is ALWAYS a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Unlike some stupid and uninformed celebraties tend to believe and try to force their opinions on the public, some medications are blessing in disguise. I know that in my case, they have saved my life and my sanity.
So Anderson, please continue reporting on important things, things that really matter.
Thank you your #1 fan in Richmond,
Alice
Posted By Anonymous Alice, Richmond, VA. : 5:30 PM ET
I have a very good friend whose adopted son was diagnosed with a combination of Asperger's and ADHD. One of the things she told me was that in his mind, "normal" people are always lying to him. This is because of the literal mindedness that someone else mentioned. If my friend says to her son, "if we have time later, maybe we will get some ice cream," she better make sure they get that ice cream because in her son's head, she has made the promise. And no, this isn't "self-serving" behavior on his part. He literally takes her comment as being a plan set in stone. Not only that, but he never forgets the incident and will bring it back up years later--citing dates and details that most of us would have long forgotten. Pooh-poohing very real difficulties in others is cruel and uncaring. The biggest argument I ever had with one of my closest friends was over my personal struggle with PMS. My friend thought that I should just be able to recognize that my behavior wasn't rational and start behaving rationally. I could never get him to understand that while the rational side of me could see what was happening, that part didn't have control of my brain at that moment. The irrational, PMSing part of me did. Thankfully for me, medication for two weeks each month keeps me on an even keel and rational. It is my hope for those with disorders like Aspergers and other forms of Autism that a way is found to help them cope with their symptoms as well as I am able to cope with mine--whether it is drugs, therapy or the presence of a dog (my favorite solution).
Posted By Anonymous Nancy, Taylor, TX : 5:30 PM ET
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