Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

family matters

Man has a late-life epiphany: I have Asperger's syndrome

Paul McAuliffe plays an American Indian flute for a Florida panther cub at Bear Creek Feline Center in Panama City. 

Photo courtesy of Paul McAuliffe

Paul McAuliffe plays an American Indian flute for a Florida panther cub at Bear Creek Feline Center in Panama City. 

By DALIA COLON

HealthyState.org

Growing up, Paul McAuliffe says he "felt like a Martian." He was always saying the wrong thing or overreacting, but he didn't know why. Then several years ago for his job as a case manager, the Panama City resident started reading online about the symptoms of autism.

"And I said, my God, that's me," recalls McAuliffe, now 57.

The doctor's official diagnosis was no surprise: Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that impairs social skills. "I joke that one would've liked to have had this diagnosis, say, a half century ago," McAuliffe says. "That would've been helpful."

Still, he focused on the present, devouring in equal measure books about "Aspies" and neurotypicals — people not on the autism spectrum.

"They are the folks we have to interact with in order to live our lives," says McAuliffe, who is on an advisory board for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida State University.

For McAuliffe, a lifelong musician, American Indian flutes help grease the wheels of his interaction with neurotypicals. He travels the Southeast giving a presentation called "Flutes, Autism and a Different Way of Seeing.''

HealthyState.org is a public media project of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at WUSF in Tampa.

Parents can help children cope, an 'Aspie' says

McAuliffe describes what he has learned about his brain as "empowering." In hopes of empowering others even earlier, here are some tips he offers for parents of children on the autism spectrum.

1. Always presume intellect. Researchers are finding that even kids who are nonverbal often have high IQs. Be on the lookout for new-tech ways to communicate with your child.

2. Routine is important. Those on the autism spectrum need to know they have safe, comfortable and dependable routines at home even when learning new things and experiencing new situations.

3. Encourage friendships with other children on the spectrum. There's an intuitive resonance — a bond — between those with autism, and it's a relief to spend time together and compare stories. Of course, friendships with neurotypical kids are crucial, too.

4. Encourage the child to be neurologically "bilingual." As kids gets older, reading Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People can be a real eye-opener.

5. Speaking of eyes, children need to learn to fake eye contact. Encourage them to look at the mouth, the forehead, the bridge of the nose — whatever works.

6. Spectrumites tend to really get into certain subjects; that's why they're inventors and innovators. Encourage children to get into subjects that will help them in the world as they get older.

7. Always make sure children have an escape route for any social/crowd situations, which can be excruciating. Make sure children have a quiet place to go if they get overwhelmed due to sensory overload. McAuliffe emphasizes how empowering it is for a spectrumite to know he has a measure of control.

8. Don't be a know-it-all. To deal with the neurotypical world, children need to learn that even when they know they are right and someone else is wrong, it isn't always good to say so.

9. Most important of all: Help the child cultivate a sense of humor. Be able to see the humor in social gaffes and in human behavior in general.

Man has a late-life epiphany: I have Asperger's syndrome 08/12/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 12, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans

    Blogs

    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?

    Blogs

    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.