Special Report: Photo stories of Asperger’s Syndrome

Below you will find five feature stories produced by Street Roots, Leah Nash and the Regional Arts and Culture Council on understanding Asperger’s Syndrome.

The project was made possible in partnership with Street Roots and the Regional Arts & Culture Council in an effort to chronicle the diversity of this complex diagnosis of autism, illustrating the challenges and beauty of an unconventional life.

When you ask 11-year-old Willie Rates about life with Asperger’s, he seems comfortable with his place in the world, both figuratively and literally.

Part I: Catching the snowflake: A photo story of Asperger’s Syndrome

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Part II: The comfort of acceptance: A photo story of Asperger’s (Part two)

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Part III: Pretending to be normal: A photo story of Asperger’s Syndrome

Thomas Olrich, 35, was diagnosed with Asperger’s four years ago. He says he always knew he was different. “I knew something was up. I was always upset, always scared. Something was not clicking.”

Part IV: The man I am: A photo story of Asperger’s Syndrome 

Diagnosed with autism in fourth grade, Leska says, “I knew I was different but I didn’t know why and I had no idea how different I was. I realized that everything I wanted socially, to talk to other little kids and play with them, never happened. It did not happen.” Leska’s autism symptoms were not at the forefront until an unexpected divorce led to an autism regression and subsequent Asperger’s diagnosis almost 40 years later.

 Part V: New Found Aspigations: A photo story of Asperger’s Syndrome

About this series: Autism is the fastest growing disability in the U.S. with an economic impact of more than $90 billion. The Center for Disease Control reports that now one in 110 children are being classified with autism spectrum disorders, compared to one in 10,000 in the 1970s, and according to the Autism Society of Oregon, our state has one of the highest rates of autistic diagnosis in the country.

First documented in 1944, many with Asperger´s Syndrome can be quite gifted, but are often socially awkward and unable to make friends. Frequently misunderstood, those affected live in a world of missed social cues and difficult exchanges. Called “little professors” by their namesake, Hans Asperger, who noted their talent of acquiring expertise in specific topics. Those with the syndrome usually want to fit in and have interactions; they simply don’t know how.

The objective of this series is to explore the diversity and complexity that exists across this spectrum, for it is often said that people with autism are like snowflakes — no two alike. This work is especially relevant given controversial revisions proposing to do away with the Asperger’s diagnosis altogether in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the diagnostic encyclopedia of American psychiatry.

As history changes, a record must be kept, these stories must be told. Through the support of Street Roots and the Regional Arts & Culture Council, the goal of this series is to encourage viewers to question their perceptions of both Asperger´s and autism and challenge themselves to gain a deeper understanding of the people behind the label.

Please join us as we give a voice to those that often have none.

Leah Nash is a documentary photographer based in Portland. More of her work can be found at www.LeahNash.com.

Read a holiday message from the director.

3 responses to “Special Report: Photo stories of Asperger’s Syndrome

  1. While Autism is a very real ….epidemic??…..one MUST consider though that more than just occasionally people (adults and children alike) are diagnosed with some form of autism.

    Yet later either the diagnoses is refuted and changed to ADD, Bi-polar, Schizophrenia, or any and all these conditions that much of the medical field see as closely related. The signs are slight in some and one mis-diagnoses can label a person forever, and worst, a mis-diagnoses can eventually kill someone.

    Who is out there to ensure that those diagnoses are correct? Who’s out there making sure that real diagnoses aren’t being missed, that there aren’t compounding conditions escaping because a medical professional acts on a whim…or doesn’t take his/her time?

  2. Pingback: LEAH NASH “A different kind of normal: Stories of Asperger’s Syndrome” | Autism Research and Resources of Oregon

  3. Shellythecrazy@yahoo.com

    Good perspective.

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