WHO ARE YOU - LIVING WITH ASPERGER'S
Photographs by Christopher M. Gauthier, Evidence and Artifacts
Charisse Byrd and Tim Page
Living with Asperger's
Tim Page - "Before I was diagnosed [with Asperger’s ] at the age of forty-five, I looked on my life as this narrative of a completely confused distraught kid who suddenly got energy in his early twenties and was able to do a number of things. Before my diagnosis, but after winning my Pulitzer Prize, after doing a lot of different books, I decided I was all well and took a job running an orchestra [the St. Louis Symphony]. It was a disaster. I went back to being seven or eight years old. I’d have to deal with a hundred different musicians and be polite to people at Board meetings when they said we should put Bolero on every program because we would have sellouts every night. It was impossible and I just collapsed. I just did such a wretched job. I said I am just terrible at this and you need to leave me alone. I went back to the Washington Post and I started to realize that the reason I had done well was that I was accommodating myself to my own needs. It was right then that I got the diagnosis. It explained everything; why I was good at certain things and completely oblivious to others. What I try to do now is not limit myself because of my Asperger’s, because I actually think my Asperger’s was responsible for the ‘good things’ I have done in my life as well as a whole lot of embarrassing things."
(excerpt from the USAAA 2011 World Conference, 03 Panel 2 Discussion: Self Advocacy - Experiences, Perspectives, and Challenges).
Tim Page is the author of Parallel Play, an autobiographical account of "Growing up with Undiagnosed Asperger's". He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as an adult. He is a professor at both the Thornton School of Music and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
Page won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1997 for his writings about music in The Washington Post, where he has held the position of chief classical music critic since 1995. Prior to coming to the Post, he served as the chief music critic for Newsday and as a music and cultural writer for The New York Times. During his years in New York, he was the host of an afternoon program on WNYC-FM that broadcast interviews with hundreds of composers and musicians, including Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Dizzy Gillespie, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and Steve Reich. An interview with Glenn Gould, comparing the pianist's two versions of Bach's Goldberg Variations, was released as part of a three-CD set entitled A State of Wonder in 2002 that became a surprise best-seller.
Page has produced concerts at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to New York's once-infamous Mudd Club. From 1999 to 2001, he was the artistic advisor and creative chair for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
His books include The Glenn Gould Reader (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson (Summit, 1988), William Kapell: A Documentary Life History of the American Pianist (IPAM, 1992), Music From The Road: Views and Reviews 1978 - 1992, an anthology of previously published work (Oxford University Press, 1992), The Unknown Sigrid Undset (Steerforth, 2001), and Tim Page on Music (Amadeus Press, 2002).
Tim Page presented at the USAAA 6th Annual World Conference in Seattle, Washington in 2011. You can download the video or audio presentation (DVD also available) from the Self Advocacy - Experiences, Perspectives, and Challenges Panel Discussion. Michael McManmon, EdD, Stephen M. Shore, EdD, and Isabelle Sarikahan joined Tim Page on the panel.
Tim Page is presenting at the USAAA 2012 World Conference in Denver, Colorado, September 6-9. Tim Page is an advisory board member of the US Autism & Asperger Association.
Charisse Byrd - "Being in a relationship with someone who is also on the spectrum has its serious advantages, but challenges are a normal part of everything. I am very analytical of words being spoken to me and sometimes I will take what she (or anyone) says so literally that it changes the initial route of the conversation. Being very sensitive people, if the conversation gets emotional it is sometimes hard to decipher where we got turned around or miscommunicated because we run on very high emotion, (believe it or not!). When that happens, we usually need to take a step back, have some quiet time to gather our thoughts and words because sometimes they just don't come out right if at all. After the inertia of the emotions slow down a bit we are always able to talk about it, analyze it and come to an understanding. I am happy to say that we have a very wonderful relationship and we are aware that miscommunications do and will happen. We continue to work out the troubleshooting of verbal communication between ourselves with each other's unfailing support.
Charisse Byrd was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in February, 2011. She had referred herself in for the assessment after seeing herself almost perfectly described in the first chapter in a book about Asperger’s Syndrome. She has always felt different from others. "I have odd conversational structure and it is hard for me to keep up with the ebb and flow of verbal communication. I was considered a behavioral problem throughout school and home life. I was also very sensitive and prone to meltdowns. Throughout all of their confusion (and mine) about my idiosyncrasies, I still managed to score very high on aptitude tests in my school career."
Charisse is the mother of a three year old son and has a partner/wife, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. They co-own a farm along with Charisse's mother and raise goats, llamas, ducks, geese, and chickens.
Charisse is in college working toward her degree and maintains a spot in the honors society. "I am in the midst of starting my own business that sells all natural, handmade (by me) soap and other products that are skin and nose friendly, geared toward but not limited to the more sensitive people out there."