Ways Books, Reading and Writing Helped Me As an Aspie
Sometimes children diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome aren’t always able to express or understand emotions like everyone else. As an Aspie, I can tell you, we sometimes can find it hard to express how we feel at certain moments, or even know what it is that we feel.
Asperger’s syndrome makes these processes more complex as if the person and his/her feelings are two different beings, handcuffed to each other and each of which speaks in a different language, always trying to learn what the other is saying or intending to say.
Many people have recommended that television and movies, even music, could help in the process of understanding what an Aspie is feeling, but being an advocate of reading and its benefits, I agree with Billington, J. et al. (2010, p. 81) when it is stated:
Reading helped (…) in terms of: their social well-being, by increasing personal confidence, reducing social isolation, fostering a sense of community and encouraging communication skills; their mental well-being, by improving powers of concentration, fostering an interest in new learning or new ways of understanding, and extending their capacity for thought, verbalized and internalized; their emotional and psychological well-being, by increasing self awareness, enhancing the ability to articulate profound issues of being, and making possible a shift in internal paradigms (or the telling of “a new story”) in relation to self and identity.
Since I was a boy, I couldn’t understand how to establish a conversation, how to understand what others were telling me, and even took seriously obvious jokes and sarcastic comments. This happens to Aspies all the time. Where is the line between explicit and implicit when you understand all so literally?
For me, books of all kinds helped me to get a better understanding of how to express myself; writing was and keeps being a tool through which I get to know myself better as if I were interviewer and interviewee at the same time.
When reading, people forget about the outside world to get immersed in a new one, a fiction that may have some similarities, yet is completely different. They have no control over what happens, but simply on how they feel about it, what they expect to happen. That’s the important part of reading for Aspies.
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When reading, someone with Asperger’s doesn’t have to worry about any kind of interaction, so they can simply relax, take a break from reality and discover how a character behaves, thinks and expresses. The silence and calm that reading offers always relaxes me and helps me cope with reality; reading itself taught me what emotions were and how to express and understand them.
The same happens when I write. I’ve never been a talkative person, but a thoughtful person, always imagining and thinking about the impossible, fantasy scenarios, and with an endless list of what-ifs. Writing is an escape just as reading, with the difference that doing it gives me full control of what’s happening in this world I just created, and I can come back to edit and change what I said as many times as I want, which cannot be done with spoken words.
I don’t feel confident speaking about certain topics, and I have embarrassed myself in doing it sometimes, but I feel safe and happy when writing, which also helps me to process and understand my surroundings, even my feelings towards something or someone. About this, Acar and Dirik (2019, p. 75) explained that:
Writing at least 15 minutes for 3-4 consecutive days (…) lead to positive changes on both physical and psychological health. Writing can be used as a self-help intervention in preventive health practices due to its cost-effectiveness, ease of application and shortness. (…) In addition, WED helps individuals to restructure memories by changing their way of thinking about stressful or traumatic experiences until they reach more consistent schemas about themselves, others and the world.
Writing and reading have been two powerful tools for me since I started with them. I cannot separate one from the other, and I don’t see the need in doing so. Instead of watching a TV show or a movie, I’d rather be discovering a book. It’s not that I don’t like audiovisual stories, just that, as contradictory as it sounds, written stories are a more complete experience.
Acar, D. and Dirik, G. (2019). A Current Paradigm: Written Emotional Disclosure. Psikiyatride Güncel Yaklaşımlar – Current Approaches in Psychiatry, (1, Vol. 11), pp.65-79.
Billington, J., Dowrick, C., Hamer, A., Robinson, J., & Williams, C. (2010). An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being. Liverpool: The Reader Organization, Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Centre.
This article was featured in Issue 90 – Practical Ways to Build Skills for a Lifetime