My Life's like the Culture of Arriving Somewhere Foreign ... All the Time; LIVING WITH ASPERGER'S

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE HODAL

IT''S not known exactly how many suffer from the lifelong form of autism in the UK, but experts estimate there are as many as half a million people with Asperger's. Characterised by having difficulty with social interaction and communication, those with Asperger''s find social cues which we all take for granted, such as body language and tone of voice, very difficult to understand.

It''s like the culture shock of being somewhere foreign all the time, except for the fact that I''m at home. I have to think, how do I say: ' Hello, how are you?'' How do I approach this, or any situation? explained 44-year-old Asperger's sufferer James Christie.

It''s a way of life that James, a charmingly eccentric and eloquent man with a penchant for science fiction, has got used to. But it''s not been easy. Jobs and relationships have suffered because of his condition - with his inability to multi-task or read sexual cues infuriating managers and alienating potential girlfriends.

This week a new film comes out which focuses on the difficulty of Asperger relationships.

Adam, starring Hugh Dancy, is about a young man with Asperger''s who falls in love with his neighbour Beth (Rose Byrne).

James watched the film with his mother and strongly related to the eponymous hero who finds it very difficult to express his love. I thought Dancy nailed Adam in his portrayal, he says.

Growing up with Asperger''s was stressful for his family, he admits. James wasn''t diagnosed until 2002, at the age of 37.

His late diagnosis is a fairly typical problem, says Caroline Hattersley of the National Autistic Society. Asperger''s is what we call a hidden disability, as you can''t tell that someone has it just by looking at them, she explains. …