“Mrs Atkins?” It was our sons’ headmaster on the telephone. For two terms our two boys had been boarding at a choir school twenty miles away, since Alexander, aged ten, had been awarded a generous music scholarship. “I think you’d better come over. Alex has just been found on the school roof.”

“Oh?”

“He climbed up to throw himself off.”

So? I thought. Why are you sounding so shocked? I did try to tell you he was unhappy. Several times.

People with Asperger’s syndrome are commonly thought unable to read others’ emotions. Alex could read his teachers’ well enough: most of them were annoyed with him, most of the time. I suppose the shouting and punishments gave it away.

Whereas they thought he was “perfectly happy”. Even after his mother had been over to the school specifically to tell them that he wasn’t.

So who had the disability?

 

What Alex didn’t know was what to do about the mismatch. Between himself and the rest of the world. Except perhaps (being extremely logical) remove the problem: himself.

Fortunately, having formidable emotional (as well as other kinds) of intelligence, he knew what his suicide would do to his family. And what the attempt would do to his body – and the rest of his life – if the roof wasn’t high enough.

Alex can do all sorts of things most neurotypical people can’t: maths; computing; empathy. And can’t (easily) do some things neurotypical people can: keep track of time; be conventional without wresting his nature out of joint.

One day, I hope to live in a world which can recognise (and respect) both.

I believe the ACE might bring this nearer.

Anne Atkins’ latest novel, An Elegant Solution, features an aspergic hero based on her son, Alexander. A proportion of all royalties are being donated to the ACE.