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Peter - Interview 50

Age at interview: 33
Age at diagnosis: 30
Brief Outline: Peter, aged 33, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome three years ago. He is seeing a psychologist regularly which helps him with depression and he is finding life is getting easier over time.
Background: Peter lives on his own and works as a kitchen assistant. Ethnic background/nationality: White Scottish.

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Peter, aged 33, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome three years ago after being taken to court by his employer. His mother had noticed that Peter was different when he was younger because of some unusual behaviours and language delay. Peter was bullied at school and thinks that the children sensed there was something different about him. He has always been concerned about being told off and hated being asked questions at school.
 
During his twenties, Peter got into a lot of debt and worked long hours to try to manage this. He suffered from depression and felt suicidal. Eventually things came to a head and his actions at work resulted in him being taken to court. In order to try and make sense of what had happened, Peter’s mother encouraged him to see a psychologist and he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
 
Peter describes how it took him about a year to come to terms with the diagnosis but now he feels he is different but in a good way. He feels more confident and is supported by his parents and by local services for people with autism. He is seeing a psychologist regularly which has helped him. He used to find it very difficult to communicate with people, particularly if there were more than one or two people in a group but he is finding this has got easier over time.
 
Peter loves slapstick comedy, particularly Ken Dodd and enjoys professional wrestling, watching DVD’s, football and going out with his friends. He meets up with a group of people with autism each month socially and feels it helps to mix with people who understand what he is going through. He has a very good memory and has always been interested in trains and train travel. He has worked as a kitchen assistant for the last three years but would like to get a job with better prospects and a pension plan.

 
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Peter's mum persuaded him to go to a psychologist after he got a criminal record.

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Do you want to start by telling me about when you were diagnosed with Asperger's sydrome.
I had a bit of trouble in my last job and I was promised it wouldn’t go to Court, but somebody in my work went to the newspapers about what happened. So I ended up going to Court and getting a criminal record for it. But my mum persuaded me to go to a psychologist just to see what was going on in my mind and everything else at the time of the incident and he said that I could have autism, so he would refer me to a specialist psychologist who deals in autism and Asperger's and he did a few tests and then he confirmed that I did.
 
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Peter knew nothing about Asperger syndrome when he was diagnosed so his first concern was 'was I...

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And when you started to find out what did you think?
The first thing was, the first thing that came into mind was am I going to die from it or something, because I didn’t know anything about it. I am like autism, what is autism? And Asperger's and that. What is Asperger's? [laughs] Would someone please, just like, for the first couple of weeks I was like all my problems are then mixed into this and I was like just going round in circles and my head was all over the place, especially with this court case and I was like mmm... I didn’t know who to turn to, I didn’t know who to speak to, but then I sat down with the psychologist who had diagnosed me, and he worked through everything piece by piece, explained everything, everything is okay, blah, blah blah. “You are going to be fine. You are slightly different from other people but that is good thing,” he said.
 
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Peter has always been concerned about being blamed for things.

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And I couldn’t put the cooker back. So I went round and I was like that and the chef is like, “Are you okay?” And I went. I did what I did at school, if the teacher said, “Are you stuck?” or anything? I was like, “Oh no. I am fine,” because I was always scared that people would think I was an idiot if everyone else knew the question. And so I was like, “No, no, I am fine.” But I was then staring out of the window for the rest of the window just writing anything down if a teacher came.
 

Because that is another thing, if something breaks or something, say in the house or at work or something. I am scared to tell people, because I feel like they will blame me, even though if it is an accident... Even now, I am still a bit, when something has happened like the cold tap in work came off in my hand. And I put it back on but I never told anyone. And another guy I work with said to the chef, “Oh the cold tap is broken. It came off in my hand.” And she went, “Aye, no problem. I will just get someone in to fix it.” But I was scared that she would say, “This is your fault.” ...So those are my biggest concerns still about…

 
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Peter has found a support organisation helpful in finding employment.

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It is a company in [city] who actually try finding jobs for you, with people with autism and Asperger's and because some people don’t understand questions like I don’t. I find it really difficult to like fill in forms because I don’t understand some things, the questions, and the way the questions are put. They will sit in an interview and if you have got a puzzled look on your face they say to the person, “Listen, could you ask me this question this way.” And they actually come into the job for the first six months I think, or six weeks to make sure you are doing some… I joined that. It is free to join and they give you all the support you need. So, yes, I am happy, and my depression is not as bad as it was. So … maybe the depression is not as bad because I know it is connected a bit to autism and now I know how to handle it.
 
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Peter describes how he can work through his problems one by one now and is able to ask for help...

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I just feel like, you know what. I know within myself, I don’t care what anybody else says. I thought when I was younger I cared a lot what people thought and now I am like, I don’t care what anyone says, I know within myself I am not stupid. I know there is something within my brain is not connecting. Like them. But it doesn’t mean just because I can’t do something they can do, doesn’t make me stupid. It is none of their business anyway. So… And if I do feel embarrassed I just ask to speak to the boss outside and say what I need to say to him. And he is like, “Ah don’t worry about it.” If I do. But I haven’t done that for the last couple of years. So…

 

Did you not think when you were in class that some of the other people didn’t know the answer too?

 

... I didn’t really think about it at the time. You don’t. Not really. But now I think about it, probably. And I think if I… when I did do that, I think the teacher then thought ha ha ha let’s ask him the question. And that would put me in a bit of an awkward, because I heard people sniggering in the background I just uh so I was really paranoid about things like that. And if I was… it was probably the sniggering was about something else and not about me, but I just thought, they are sniggering about me, because I don’t know the answer...
 
I can now kind of work through my problems one by one. Up to then I was all like… but I am coping with it okay now. If the… bosses I work for now is really understanding, if I can’t put the cooker back together don’t worry we will do it. And then he will go round a couple of minutes later and he is like, “Hm, what part goes where?” [laughs] I think if he show me, if they show me how to take the cooker apart I would memorize it, so I would be able to put it back together, but if they just round and dump all the cooker and ask me to put it together again, that is where I have trouble. And I am like hmmmm. But is someone shows me, I can, even if I have to say to them a second time, “Can you show me how you do it again?” After that I am usually quite good.
 
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Peter can leave dirty plates in his house but is obsessive about DVDs and videos being lined up...

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But I am also obsessed with some things like I could leave a few plates in my house for weeks on end and that wouldn’t bother me but if one of my videos was an inch out that would drive me insane. Everything has to be perfect with me with what I want, like my videos and DVDs. And like in work just now where I work in the kitchen if people don’t stack the plates up properly. I have lost it a few times with them, people like say, is that a problem, but they don’t actually know. The bosses know but they don’t actually know what autism actually is and … but I told a few of them, the Scottish ones, the ones who have got… most of them just came in just through other places. And I said, “Well listen, you don’t start doing it.” And then I just told them the next day, “Listen this is what,” I said, “Have you heard of autism?” “No.” “Have you heard of Asperger's syndrome?” “No what is it?” I told them. “From now on, you are just coming in and scraping the plates, and stacking the plates up properly.” So they knew.
 
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Peter recounts an incident when he found his way back to a relative's house in Toronto.

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There was one time in 95 when I was in America, I visited some of my mum’s friends in Canada and I arrived early evening and they said, “We will take you down town Toronto and we’ll drive around.” So after dinner we went down, drove around Toronto. That night he said, “What do you want to do tomorrow?” I said, “I will just have a look around Toronto.” He said we were walking obviously, so they said, “Okay we will meet at the station at 5.15.” I thought fine that gives me the whole day. Quarter to six, they weren’t there. I am like, “Hmm. I wonder what I will do. I will phone them.” So I phoned them and there was no one at home, waited until quarter past six and they was still no one home so I started to walk it, six miles. Walked from the station back to the house and they forgot to pick me up because they were having a few problems themselves.
 
They said, “How did you manage to walk back?” I said, “I memorized it from last night.” “Six miles?” And I went, “yes.” But I admit I remembered exactly where they were, what street they were going up, so if anything did happen I would be able to remember it and that is the way I got home. And my mum and dad were like, “No way, lad, we couldn’t do that. There is no way we could do that.” And even when they got into like, it wasn’t a housing scheme or anything it was like real residential I could have easily have got lost there, but because I remembered where the car went, I remember the street names. And I was off.
 
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Peter finds telling people about Asperger syndrome hard to deal with because he is never sure...

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Trying to explain it to people again. I should get a tape recorder and say, “Listen to this” [laughs] because you don’t know how people are going to react. You don’t know if they are going to push you away or would they be interested to find out more or… that is probably the hardest part for me. Probably also to try and think of the people you want to tell, people you know you can trust so they don’t go around blabbing to everyone because I think… I still feel like… a wee bit of that is getting labelled. Just because I have got autism it doesn’t mean to say you should treat me any differently. I feel some people might just think oh he has got autism, or Asperger's, we had better treat him a bit better. I don’t want that. I just want to be treated the way everyone else gets treated.
 
If they are going to ask questions just ask me and I will see if I can answer them, just don’t kind of back off or don’t bring the subject, don’t bring up the subject, if you are not safe, if you don’t like bringing up the subject, don’t do it. But if you want to know more I will do my best to explain it to you. But I think it is telling people because you don’t know how they are going to react so.
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