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How to Detect Signs of Asperger's Syndrome

Updated on February 5, 2017
roxanne459 profile image

I am an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and mother of four. We deal with our share of challenges and celebrate our blessings.

One is excluded
One is excluded | Source

Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of Autism that is defined by the person’s lack of social skills and communication difficulties. There are many people in the world who aren’t comfortable talking to strangers or speaking in front of a crowd—but for people with Asperger’s, the social barrier is much more complex and involved.

People with this condition don’t have any obvious difference in their appearance, so it usually goes undetected until someone has a conversation with them or watches them interact.

My oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in elementary school. An Asperger's diagnosis is made only after administering multiple tests and interviewing those who are closest to the person. In my son's case, we arrived at a diagnosis after years of observing and documenting his social challenges, as well as his spectacular abilities.

What Are The Signs?

There are a few different behaviors or idiosyncrasies that are indicative of a person having Asperger’s Syndrome. Some of those symptoms may include:

  • difficulty with communications
  • trouble with personal interactions
  • anxiety associated with transitions
  • sleeping problems
  • meltdowns
  • sensory sensitivities
  • lack of empathy
  • a consuming specific interest

Always present any suspicions or concerns to your doctor for a formal diagnosis.

Maze with one different piece that can't find its way
Maze with one different piece that can't find its way | Source

Communication Challenges

People with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have an exceptionally large vocabulary and often talk very quickly. The difficulty they experience with communication has more to do with what they say than their ability to say it. The sentences they say aren’t always organized in the right way or completely on topic. However, their words are usually enunciated and pronounced perfectly. In short, the words that they need are in their heads, they just sometimes have a hard time organizing them to get across what they are trying to tell you.

Young children with Asperger’s communication will sometimes consist of simply repeating. Not necessarily repeating back what you have just said to them but, repeating television commercials or conversations they have heard. All children enjoy saying a funny line from a cartoon over and over. This is different.

When a child has Asperger’s the only conversation they will engage in is one that has been learned. Repeating dialog instead of organizing their own words is easier for these kids because they frequently have an incredible long term memory and it satisfies their need for predictability.

Part of the social challenge that people with Asperger’s have is that they aren’t able to control or predict what another person will say or do next. This can cause major anxiety for them because the unknown is very scary. That is why reusing a conversation that has already happened is the perfect solution for these kids, they know exactly what will be said next.

This particular behavior is a perfect example of how people with Asperger’s learn social behaviors much like a typical person learns another language. When someone wants to learn Chinese for example, a teacher or visual aid will instruct them how to respond to certain situations or request what they need. The student repeats the phrase over and over until they have learned so many conversations they are able to break them apart and organize them into their own dialog. This is very similar to how people with Asperger’s learn to navigate the social world around them.

A common visual indication that someone may have Asperger’s Syndrome is that they don’t make eye contact and often don’t notice facial expressions or body language. This is extremely challenging for the person who is interacting with them because it isn’t clear if they are paying attention. They also have a very hard time understanding sarcasm, humor, and passive aggressive behaviors. They take everything that is said very literally.

One different piece trying to navigate through many similar pieces
One different piece trying to navigate through many similar pieces | Source

Social Interactions

People with Asperger’s Syndrome typically spend much of the time in their own world, mentally isolated from others.

You may notice that children with this syndrome have a lack of interest in cooperative play. Activities and games that are independent or that involve side by side play are much more appealing to them. They may want to play in a sandbox next to another child, but they will be building their own masterpiece instead of joining in on a team project.

People with Asperger’s also don’t enjoy pretending or making up rules to a game as you go along. Everything has to be very organized and predictable. Fantasy and fiction doesn’t have a place in their world of facts and order.

Transitions

Change or switching from one situation to another, better known as transitions can cause extreme anxiety for people who have this syndrome.

The degree of anxiety and transition varies due to the fact that no two Asperger cases are the same but some level of difficulty is certain.

These transitions can range from a person getting very agitated when they have to leave their home to go somewhere new, to a complete melt down because a child had their seat moved at school unexpectedly. It is very important for individuals with Asperger's that life is as predictable as possible and that any change in routine is told to them well in advance so they have time to adjust and organize it to their comfort level.

Did You Know?

People Diagnosed with Autism
People with Autism who have Asperger's Syndrome
 
 
1 in 110
1 in 3
 
 

Meltdowns

Meltdowns are something that happens to people with Asperger’s when they are extremely anxious. When children have meltdowns it can be mistaken for a tantrum. There is a huge difference.

A tantrum is a manipulative tool used to get something a child wants. It is forced noise and obnoxious behavior with the goal of embarrassing or irritating an adult into submission.

A meltdown is an overload of emotions and fear that bubbles over into a fight or flight response. When a child with Autism or Asperger’s has a meltdown they are visible panicked and appear to be fighting for their lives. The events that lead to these meltdowns vary from person to person. Common triggers for children are: an unexpected change in schedule, loud noises, and different sensory stimulation. As an individual with Asperger’s gets older, they generally learn what their personal triggers are and avoid these scenarios.

Sensory Sensitivities

People with Autism and Asperger’s often have heightened sensory sensitivities. These sensitivities are different for everyone but some examples are:

  • bright lights
  • loud noises
  • clothing fabric irritations
  • haircuts
  • crowded places

Sensory issues will cause major anxiety and can easily lead to meltdowns. It should be understood that having a sensory sensitivity isn’t a choice for people with Asperger’s so it isn’t something they can just get over or deal with.

Deeply Specific Interests

People with Asperger’s Syndrome generally have an extreme interest in one specific thing. An example would be:

  • classic cars
  • computers programs
  • insects
  • sports statistics
  • WWII

Their interests consume them and monopolize many parts of their lives and almost all of their conversations. They will seek out as much information as possible on this particular subject and think about it almost constantly. This makes it hard to engage in a variety of activities or have conversations about anything else.

Empathy

Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have a very hard time with empathy.

They may react or respond inappropriately when someone tells them something sad or if that person is angry. Many times someone with Asperger’s will do or say something hurtful without realizing how it affects those around them. If the same thing is done to them however, they will get very angry and hurt. When the hypocrisy is pointed out to them, they most likely will not understand the correlation.

While having a conversation with a person with this syndrome it isn’t unusual for them to seem distant and disinterested. They might interrupt many times in an attempt to change the topic and interject with some information about their particular interest. It is a challenge for them to absorb and concentrate on things that they aren’t interested in or don’t have to do with them directly.

Children with Asperger’s may often be seen as bullies and adults are sometimes seen as being jerks but their lack of apathy isn’t intentional and certainly isn’t meant to be cruel in any way.

Like many of the social skills people with Asperger’s lack, this can be taught with lots of patience and persistence.

Sleep Patterns

Many times people with Asperger’s have an extremely hard time sleeping. Either falling asleep or staying asleep seems to be an issue.

It is common for these individuals to lay awake for hours trying to fall sleep, only to awaken after about four hours.

There have been theories about whether or not their brains produce the necessary amount of Melatonin and that could very well be the cause.

I personally discovered taking 1-3 mg of Melatonin 30 minutes before bed time is tremendously helpful. Each person is unique so if you are interested, I encourage you to explore this option for yourself so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your loved ones.

Asperger's Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

Asperger's Syndrome is not something to be feared or shameful of. Many people view it as a tremendous asset!

The preceding has been a guide of symptoms for possible detection of Asperger's but it doesn't outline all of the wonderful benefits.

We all have challenges and we all have gifts.

Individuals with Asperger's may have more pronounced challenges than the typical person but they also have pronounced gifts.

If you believe you or a loved one may have Asperger's Syndrome or fall somewhere withing the Autistic Spectrum, it would be worth it to find out for sure. A whole new world of opportunities could open up.

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    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Great information. I know of someone, now an adult, who very likely has Asperger's. Unfortunately, his parents don't quite 'get it' and most likely don't want to deal with it. I think they just think he's socially awkward or not that smart (despite his ability to recite facts about geography or the civil war). He functions, but will probably always live with them.

      Anyway, this is a great source of info for someone who wants to know more. Thanks! Voted up and useful.

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      There are so many opportunities for people with Asperger's to be independent, productive members of society when they have the support and encouragment to learn the social rules. Many never learn the social rules and still do quite well! I'm a little sad for the man you know, unfortunately it's all too common. Thank you TahoeDoc!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Roxanne - thanks for this excellent hub! I wish I'd had it a few months ago; I was dealing with a young adult who has it, and since I knew little about this syndrome, I didn't recognize it until afterward (and even then, I had no real information to learn from). You've described very clearly the types of behaviors we might see, what compels them, and other information that greatly helps us understand where they're coming from and how we can adapt.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Marcy, thank you so much for your input, It really means a lot to me! Asperger's Syndrome isn't very common so most of us don't get a lot of exposure to people who have it. When we do, it's hard to know how to interact with them. On one hand they are our intellectual superior in many cases, but on the other hand they seem lost socially and in need of direction. It's hard to process for they typical person sometimes.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      roxanne....Your hub is a wealth of into on Asperger's. It is such a mysterious syndrome and very intriguing to learn more about it.

      I read the story of Temple Grandin, who is a high profile victim of Aserger's. Her story is quite inspiring. She has made incredible contributions to the cattle industry. Thank you so much for this educational hub. UP +++

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      I read that too..She is amazing and inspirational! There are many well known people with Asperger's who have invented some incredible things and entertained us on the big (and small) screen! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This is a wonderful hub on the topic of Asperger's. I know this has increased over the years and many schools have programs to help parents and children who need help adjusting to social/school routines. They are very intelligent children and need only our understanding to help them be successful.

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Very well put teaches12345! You are absolutely right and the school systems are adapting and developing programs so quickly to accommodate the need. I don't know where my son and I would be without their knowledge and support.

    • beadreamer247 profile image

      beadreamer247 5 years ago from Zephyrhills, FL

      Great to bring up this topic! Asperger Syndrome has been ignored in the US until 1999, that is why it has not been diagnosed in many adults and very little is known here in the US about it and limited information available. They are a little farther in Europe, not that much farther though. I learned about it, when I noticed my ex-husband acting strange in many ways and one of his sons was diagnosed with ADHD, which is VERY commonly a misdiagnose of Asperger Syndrome and the medication given can have severe affects in negative ways. I could tell that something different was going on and one day I came across an article in a magazine which opened my eyes. It took years for my ex husband to admit I might be right and I also told him that he has Asperger - by now he believes he does. If you are married to someone with Asperger be prepared to feel like you are taking care of another child and have all kind of strange, odd, embarrassing moments. It is tough to have a partner with Asperger and many marriages fall apart due to all the difficulties.

      For young children they now have therapy available that helps them somewhat, but the adults are lost in their worlds.

      It is a genetic disorder and if you look back to the parents and grandparents you might come across someone who showed signs of odd behavior. Likelihood of children of an Asperger parent that they might have Asperger as well increases dramatically. Also often other mental disorders are found in the family. My ex-husband's mother showed odd behaviors and all 3 of his sons were out of norm - none of them were diagnosed officially, because the parents refused to look into it. One like I mentioned misdiagnosed with ADHD, the other one never diagnosed and had clear signs of "something wrong" including bones missing in his ear and odd ear formation (parents never noticed!) and the 3rd son was bi-polar (obvious like night and day!)

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      beadreamer247, I hope your ex-husband found some answers and relief once he accepted the diagnosis. Asperger's Syndrome can be a very difficult thing to have, especially if you don't understand it and you just think your "not normal". Teens and adults with Asperger's have an extremely high depression and bi-polar rate.

      The immediate family is definitely the first place to look when a child is diagnosed with Aspergers. My 11 year old son has it and when we took a closer look at all of the other family members (including myself) we noticed some very definite traits and characteristics. My son's are just magnified by 100%.

      Thank you for your wonderful response! :)

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 4 years ago from California, United States of America

      I used to work with persons with developmental disabilities, and one of my clients had Asperger's . This hub is fascinating to me because it very well describes my client. This Hub would definitely be a good guide for someone working with someone with Asperger's.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 4 years ago from Ireland

      I like this article. I have Aspergers Syndrome and my son has classic autism so I have a good bit of experience on this topic. Your article is well researched and has a lot of good information in it. I must try some melatonin myself as I definitely do have sleeping problems and I haven't read that anywhere before. Yes depression is a big issue for AS people too and it has been an issue of mine but it is perfectly under control now. More awareness is definitely needed as personally I don't feel a 'label,' ruins an autistic person's life like some do instead it is just a sign post to point you in the direction of help for your child (or maybe in my case yourself too). I think the outlook for AS kids is very good 'if,' they get a diagnosis and the appropriate support they need as soon as possible. It wasn't available in my day but now I don't see why children shouldn't be given the help that will make all the difference for them in the longer term.

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Thank you NateB11! Many times kids with Aspreger's get unfairly judged as being undisciplined and rude. They really do try to fit into societies mold of what is acceptable. They have so many special gifts and it just takes some patient people to help encourage and develop them. I applaud you and your work!

    • teddi20 profile image

      teddi20 4 years ago

      My nephew who will be 15 in August has always struggled with being different. He has difficlty in school and with other children. His parents have refused to look into what it could be and what they could do to help him. A doctor suggested that it could be Aspergers Syndrome and reading your hub many things fit him.

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Asperger's is one of the most under diagnosed forms of Autism. There are lots of kids who struggle with this without being able to give it a name and learn how to cope with the symptoms. Unfortunately they ususally just end up feeling isolated and depressed. I hope your nephew and his parents look into his stuggles and if they do find out that he has Asperger's... I hope they celebrate it! It really is a tremendous gift. I just makes school and highly social settings really difficult. Good Luck!

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      Random passerby 4 years ago

      Would just like to add that I disagree regarding AS and inability to understand humour. Also, with respect to creative play. Thanks.

    • SoundNFury profile image

      Michael Valencia 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Great information and very well written hub. Thanks!

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Thank you SoundNFury!

    • t.keeley profile image

      Tim 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great hub. I'm an adult diagnosed aspie myself, though I knew for years and years something was more than just "different" about me. I can't handle light beyond a 60 watt bulb or it gives me headaches and makes me irritable, certain noises not only irk me, but send me into a meltdown. I also can remember this summer when I went to the VA Beach Aquarium with my two close friends (I only have about 6 or 7 anyway) and I got pinned into a crowd surpassing 200 people, many of them rambunctious children, and I broke down and my schizophrenic friend had to talk me down and walk me outside in the rain to catch my breath so we could go see the sharks (which, mind you, on the single subject obsession topic, I have to disagree in my instance as I have an umbrella of interests that are [still] related to each other, but significantly different for me to comfortably say I'm not just a one hit wonder!).

      Anyway, thank you for this hub. Not necessarily for me as much as for the population outside of ASDs that clearly do not understand us. They talk about us lacking empathy? I would prefer pointing the finger back at most neurotypicals and accuse them of similar problems in regard to those on the spectrum.

      I want to add that because of my asperger's I've been able to help the far more severe ASD cases as a behavioral therapist, so I am getting somewhere and not getting abused by churches, schools, jobs, or family as much anymore. Life has a certain peace to it, and that's something it's taken me 27 years to find. Cheers!

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Thank you so much for your input! Situations like yours are inspirational to me and my son. He has Asperger's, is 12yo and struggling with navigating his was through school, peer interactions and his own limitations with regards to his triggers. He also has an umbrella of interests all surrounding sports, numbers and communication. (which is ironic considering he was non-verbal until he was almost 5yo) I will continue to help him in any way that I can and be his advocate in every situation and struggle he is faced with! He and I both find comfort in the fact that one day when school is done and he has carved his own niche in this world, he will have the peace that you describe. Thank you again!

    • t.keeley profile image

      Tim 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      An aspie non verbal til 5? He's likely much more severe than I was/am. Not at all a death wish though, my current student's stepsister is 16 and was a non verbal til 4 or 5 as well, and even then didn't carry conversation til at least 13 years old. The issue with ASDs is the spectrum blended with how each person's personality blend with the disorder. No two are alike, and that's severely different from disorders we can absolutely point to the cause like Downs, where there's a guaranteed common denominator regardless of the person with the extra chromosome.

      Autism, on the other hand, gets maligned as a means to have an "excuse to be useless and lazy" or in some churches I grew up in, it was along the lines of demonic possession (not even kidding, I've been subjected to this at least twice in my 27 years).

      Here's how I look at it, I live in my own world and only see things my way, and that has worked treemendously amongst my closest friends because I'm the go-to guy. I'm the guy who can calculate math without a calculator and can give you the unbiased opinion without fear of offending you. That is my role in life at the moment, and even if there's days where I feel very very alone, I can comfort myself knowing I do give back to the world as much as I can, I actually feel it's my obligation to do so and that's why I cannot carry a job I don't feel intrinsically helps the betterment of the world around us. I've lost jobs because of Asperger's but I won't complain anymore because it forced me to evolve and change and adapt as well as search for what it is I do best, and for me that's science, music, and writing.

      The biggest problem I experience is not a lack of empathy per se, because I think we aspies definitely empathize, you know? It's a matter of having the OTHER side empathize with US in order to make that connection and allow us to view things from OTHERS' point of view instead of just our own. I hope that makes sense, but I've found I cannot connect with anyone until they make a real effort to connect with me first, and that's not selfishness, it is what it is. I'm lost until someone points me in a direction, and those whom I call friend are the ones that have done that for me, and I'm grateful.

    • profile image

      Munne 3 years ago

      Just a note with regard to the earlier comment on Temple Grandin. I think most of us dislike being referred to as "victims" of Asperger's. It's similar to calling someone a victim of being ethnically Jewish. That would be demeaning and offensive. It's the way we are, not a disease or affliction that targets people. Yes, it can make some things very hard, but it also has good parts. The simple fact of being an Aspie (or Jew) doesn't make one a victim.

    • profile image

      Kenneth 3 years ago

      I am looking for advice to control my asperger meltdowns. It doesn't happen every day maybe once a month to 3 months I just all the sudden feel irritable. Usually after the meltdown I feel depressed.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      This is a very helpful and informative piece about Asperger's syndrome. I recently watched an old film, "My Name is Khan," and it was about a man with this syndrome. Your hub helped to clarify to me what Asperger's is all about. It is very clear, easy to understand, and well written. Great hub!

    • Michellelynng profile image

      Michelle Harrelson 2 years ago

      Someone stated that Temple Grandin is a victim of asperger's. Since when it is not something that can be victimized for. I have asperger's syndrome that is just a part of me. While I do have issues I do not suffer there are good things that come with the condition as well as bad. Read more about it before you say anyone is a "victim."

    • profile image

      Hamed 2 years ago

      My ex-wife have AS, I didn't know at first, but I noticed that something wrong with her. I felt embarrassed many times, always problems, she had sleeping and eating problems, she was talking during her sleep. It didn't work to continue with her even if I love her.

    • profile image

      Sarah 21 months ago

      I feel like some of these facts relate to males with Aspergers while completely ignoring the females. I'm a female with Aspergers and I've known many other females aspies. I can assure you, a lot of female aspies have a place for fantasy and pretend in our heads. Our interests can be fantasy, music, literature, celebrities, etc. I know I was very much into fantasy as a child and so were my fellow aspie females. Remember that females with Aspergers are a bit different. Let's not forget females the way everyone else does.

    • Talers profile image

      Alan 20 months ago from San Diego

      I was diagnosed when I was 13 but in retrospect I think the shrink just evaluated me based on textbook criteria, without really getting to know me that well. I could see why I could've been diagnosed; I was a pretty awkward (albeit sheltered) kid back then; I probably never made eye contact and I did exhibit hyper interests. (I still do, but definitely not to the extent of boring people by dominating conversations in this way)

      I think I'm just an analytical, slightly awkward person (MBTI personality is INTP) whose deep introspection sometimes gets mistaken for a lack of interest. I'm definitely capable of building rapport with people in most contexts, and I'd like to believe that I'm civil and polite. I also feel like I have a pretty decent "theory of mind" and feel capable of understanding social/emotional nuances. A more accurate diagnosis for me may be Schizotypal...

      Well, there was my self-centered rant; that was probably a little aspie in nature, but the diagnosis altered my perception of myself and my self esteem, so I can't help but feel a little taken by vindictive rage when the subject is brought up. Don't get me wrong, I definitely sympathize with the plight of those who more legitimately have it, but I'd like to believe that I'm not one of them.

    • roxanne459 profile image
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      Roxanne Lewis 20 months ago from Washington

      Talers,

      I greatly appreciate your insight and your willingness to share your experience, Thank You!

      I'm always leery when kids (and some adults) get labeled with a diagnosis and your experience is exactly why! It can adhere to that person and cause a distortion in who they are, what they are capable of and how they interact in the world and with themselves. In short, it becomes their identity in someways. This is especially true with kids and teens!

      I realize that the "professionals" need to assign everyone to a category in order to get paid, suggest treatment etc but my core believe is, we all have our strengths and we all have our challenges. When we focus on and celebrate our strengths and love ourselves unconditionally... we have a happy, fulfilling life and that's all that matters.

      I applaud you for questioning the diagnosis and I encourage you to question everything anyone else has ever said regarding who you are and what you're capable of. You know you and your view is all that is important. :)

    • Talers profile image

      Alan 20 months ago from San Diego

      roxanne459 Thank you ;_; , it's great when people actively question the legitimacy of authority; power does not equal knowledge!! (Most of the time) We've lived without these kind of labels for most of our history, and how did we manage then? As hard as it is, a more individualistic approach should be taken with people in these fields. Thank you for your validation; this isn't something I talk about frequently :)

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 4 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I went down your list checking off each thing almost. My son has asperers but wasn't diagnosed until 14 or 15. His childhood was fraught with anxiety and frustration. For years I took him to counselors, psychiatrists, a special ed class and not one of them had a clue. Thus, neither them nor I were able to help him the way he needed to be. It's painful to remember our struggles those years. It used to be so difficult for me to give him a safe and happy childhood when I had no clue what the real issues were. He's a textbook case. He is 24 now and though he still has some symptoms, he has overcome most of them. He was bullied a lot as a kid and still is sometimes by co-workers or acquaintances. I love him to pieces.

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