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Duncan - Interview 51

Age at interview: 17
Age at diagnosis: 13
Brief Outline: Duncan, 17, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when he was thirteen years old after originally being diagnosed with dyspraxia. He is currently in sixth form doing his A levels and hopes to go to university.
Background: Duncan, 17, lives with his family. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

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Duncan, 17 was diagnosed with dyspraxia when he was eight years old. He describes being very quiet at primary school and was paranoid about speaking up in class in case he asked a silly or inappropriate question. He felt different to other children because he wasn’t interested in the same activities like riding BMX bikes or skateboarding. He enjoyed playing computer games or War Hammer; more structured activities with clear objectives. Duncan’s parents thought that there were still some unanswered questions and five years later he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Once he had the second diagnosis, appropriate support was provided at school, including a note taker, speech and language therapy and someone to talk through issues surrounding social situations and schoolwork. Duncan settled much better in a private secondary school which had smaller classes.
 
Duncan describes feeling happy to get the diagnosis because it explained how he was different and enabled him and his family to put strategies in place to make life easier. While he didn’t give up trying to fit in, he describes not trying as hard and gradually it became easier to be more outgoing and interact with people. He found what he describes as social suicide situations easier to manage and has learnt to make conversations which have become spontaneous over time.
 
Duncan does not like change and has sensory issues like a sensitivity to noise and interest in shiny things. He finds that these issues can be distracting. He has got a great sense of humour and tries to focus on positive things. Duncan is currently in the sixth form and hopes to go to university.

 

Duncan felt pleased to get the diagnosis because 'it put a lot of things into place and answered...

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So going back to when you got this diagnosis then, the second one the Asperger's, did you know anything about Asperger's syndrome at that point?
Not really, not. I mean I had heard of, I heard of autism, and I had heard of the more serious of cases you know, but I hadn’t you know, heard of the more wild ones, such as Asperger's. I don’t want to be really cheesy and say, oh it answered a lot of questions, but it really did...
What sort of questions?
I mean it was sort like why am I different? I was more curious as to how I was different rather than why I was different, I guess. I don’t know. But it sort of made me happy and pleased and all the sort of other emotions going through me to get a diagnosis like this. You know, it was sort of right okay, we know what it is now, so we can sort of put things into place to, I guess, help, and we can explain to people, you know, so if they can, what is the word, they can put things right to, you know, make the experience, the experiences between the two of us, easier and more steady and you know make sure everything went right, I guess.
 

Duncan often didn't realise when people were talking to him.

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Conversations aren’t always organic. They are sort of still a little bit structured, but not as structured as they used to be. Yes. I mean when I was younger people used to have to say my name first before they got my attention and I would sort of get the gist that they were talking to me. So if they were talking in my general direction I would sort of half pay attention. Just be, well I guess I was sort of semi consciously making myself aware just in case someone was talking to me and I don’t realise it, you know, sort of, on a constant state of alert, you know, just in case someone isn’t saying…”Duncan, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And if, so I get really confused if someone says something and then says my name, and I haven’t paid attention, and they have stopped, you know, saying something, it is a bit like, whoa I missed that, sort of … And then they have to repeat what they are saying and then I get frustrated and it is just like….
 

Duncan describes 'social suicide situations' where he says something that makes him feel stupid.

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Could you describe a social suicide situation?
Sort of awkward moments, like you say something stupid, and then realise you have said something stupid, and say something even more stupid, and or say something or do something awkward and then sort of combination of doing something awkward and saying something awkward and trying to make it funny and then making it even more awkward, making yourself look like a complete and utter idiot and then going all sort of red in the face and then hiding for days. 
 
And it’s, I don’t know. I look back at some of the situations, and well most of the situations I sort of put myself into, you know, and I think, “Why did I say that? What was I thinking?” It was just sort of like did I really say that? Oh god [little laugh] Sort of, that sort of reaction was usually the reaction that was, that I received back, after saying or doing something really stupid. And sort of, then of course I had, you know, weird sense of humour, me having a weird sense of humour, I often make the situation worse, quicker then I make it better. So… I don’t know, it just… although looking back at situations like that doesn’t always help, you know, sort of right I am not going to say, this, this and this. You know, ten minutes later, right I have said all the things that I didn’t want to say, okay, awkward moment, good.
 

Duncan preferred to be on his own when he was younger and always preferred structured games like...

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So I don’t know how, and I always preferred to be on my own when I was younger, but it has changed a bit since then, so, I prefer to be with people now, well more than I did, when I was, you know, 11, 12, 13. So and, I don’t know, I am not into BMXing and skate boarding now but I thought I was going through that phase and I very almost did, but [laughs] but I sort of went into it for about a month or so and then sort of was distracted by the computer games and the War Hammer again. And it was just sort of, I don’t know, I guess it was, once, I don’t know, I used to have a very different imagination to everyone else as well, whereas they might think of games to play, I might, don’t know, find a book to read, and you know, keep my nose in that for days on end or, you know, do, I guess do sort of activities that was, you know, one person or maybe if it was, you know more than one person, it was with three or four people tops and maybe have a game of tig or once in a while or something like that.
So when you say you sort of like almost got into the BMX and… was that because you were trying to change the way you do things or was it because you just felt more comfortable now?
It was, I don’t know. It was sort of it was an attempt to try and fit in, but I mean, you know, I guess, I don’t want to say I gave up trying to fit when I got the diagnosis but I certainly didn’t try as hard to fit in. And I didn’t you know, I wasn’t. And I sort of became slowly, it started slowly, I started slowly being more outgoing at first and then it suddenly, I guess gathered pace, and sort of, you know, got the ball rolling I guess.
 
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Duncan enjoys War Hammer and computer games and likes the structure and process.

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I thought I was different because I wasn’t really interested in the sort of stuff that everyone else was interested in. You know quite a lot of my friends were into BMXing and skateboarding, where I was, I was more of a, I was more a computer games, and a War Hammer collector and you know things, things that were structured, like computer games. You go through a mission and you do, you have to complete this, this and this objective before you know, before the end of whatever you have to do. And with Games Workshop you have to make sure you make sure, you have to build it in the correct way to, before you came paint it or do what they do. And I guess the structure, I don’t know. I guess it felt really weird that I liked more structured games to play, whereas you know they were all outside, you know on their bikes and their skate boards while I was sat inside, sort of maybe sometimes on my own, you know, on computer games or watching TV, because you know it was a similar pattern that I got into.
 

Duncan says there are weird sensory things he doesn't like but he really likes shiny things.

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I have some weird sensory things that I don’t like. Like... like a music event, like, you know, the lights on the stage can’t be too bright, because it gives me headaches. I don’t know. If it is too loud, then I don’t know, I don’t really enjoy it or… as much, because I guess I like to be able to understand sort of what’s coming out of the speakers and it if is too loud then I am really concentrating on what is coming out and, you know, concentrating on trying to, I guess, not make it sound so loud and horrible. But I don’t know, it is really weird I guess.
 
I know I like shiny things for some reason. It is really weird. If I have like a shiny coin I try and keep it, or, you know, keep it shiny, or deliberately save it so put it in a bowl or something. It sounds really stupid but it is just one of those things. It is like, I guess it is, I don’t know, it is something to do with my concentration, if I see something shiny it is like … it is like, try and concentrate, you know doing something important like school work or course work, or you know. I am so confused. It is just like, I could be doing anything and you know the dog could come in and I would be just be distracted by the dog for the whole entire time I am supposed to be doing, you know, like an essay or something. If I have got to hand it in the next day and it is like a 2,000 word essay and I have done 200 words because the dog came in and I have been playing for the dog, with the dog for the last six hours. It is just like … I don’t know [laughs].
 

Duncan prefers a night in, wearing a baggy tee shirt and jogging bottoms, to going out.

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I am single. I don’t know, I guess that is because I am not particularly outgoing with girls. Yes, very sort of... rather you know a night in, rather than a night out, sort of … I don’t want to… I guess involvement…. I guess going out involves being sort of all the hassle of thinking what to wear and how I should have my hair or something and it is a bit too much, that is all. I would rather sit at home watching a movie you know, jogging bottoms and a baggy teeshirt, whereas going out means having to, you know, put my hair in styles and …. Put nice clothes on. And just finding nice clothes would be a good start. I mean I don’t really have any. This is the nicest thing I have. It’s you know, it is cleanish I think. It is good it is clean.
 
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Duncan found the transition between schools and changing timetables difficult.

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Change. I don’t particularly like, well especially if it is sudden. I mean if I mean I didn’t like changing schools in the beginning but I sort of gradually got used to it, as the summer holiday went on sort of, I thought I sort of mulled it over in my mind, and then sort of thought, oh I guess this good idea. I don’t know. I find it easier to change gradually rather than rapidly, so you know, sort of changing school schedules between school years sort of, rather than one week being different from the next or one day being different from the next. I find it easier to maybe over a period of six weeks, you know, like a school term, and then, and then may be change it after a term, and then again, more, you know, have the same sort of structure for the whole school year and then change it the next year. I guess changes are sometimes okay.

 

Duncan who went to a mainstream school explains how they supported him.

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What sort of support did they give you at this school that helped?

 

Well I had speech and language therapy lessons or I would go in once a week, well the person would be in school and I would have like a lunch time session with them once a week and I would go in one on one and we would talk about homework and sort of social situations and stuff that had happened during the week and then another thing was I would have someone who would help me with the school work in the lessons, they would help me with homework and writing and sort of making sure that everything was consolidated, I think, is the word, into easier sort of to remember notes, and I had that for the whole time I was there. Maybe it was a different session to the speech and language therapy and it would be in the morning before assembly or it would be like a, it would be a single period maybe once or twice a week. 
 
And then there would be, and then for exams I would have someone to write for me, and someone.. someone to make sure that everything was correct, so the scribe would write for me and check things over with me and let me check my grammar, and I think that during my exams, helped me become more sort of vocal and I guess that is maybe where it came from. I mean I guess it is also partly because they were small classes. I mean the maximum class was about 12 during GCSE and then it dropped down to about four for AS. So I mean it was, you know, you got a lot of time with teachers and everything and …
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