Journalist speaks about Asperger's
Tim Page, former music critic for the Washington Post, spoke at MU.
Mar. 18, 2008
On Monday in Stotler Lounge, Pulitzer Prize-winner Tim Page, former music critic for the Washington Post, gave other individuals suffering from Asperger’s syndrome hope by discussing how he copes with the disease.
Page was diagnosed with the disease in 2000. He said he knew nothing about it when his therapist told him it was he likely had been suffering from the disease since childhood.
“It was one of those diagnoses that was like ‘aha,’ that’s it,” he said.
Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, usually starts in childhood and creates social problems for the child with the disease.
Page said as a young child, he had difficulties focusing on subjects that did not interest him in school. He said he had a strong concentration on subjects such as music, art and film and felt excited when entering a music library, where he could listen to records.
Instead of being excited about social activities like recess, field trips or birthday parties, Page said he took solace in activities that allowed him to pursue his artistic interest without interacting with others.
At the presentation, Page read part of his work “Parallel Play: The Life of a Journalist with Asperger’s Syndrome” to help show problems he faced as a child with Asperger’s.
In the book, Page describes a second grade field trip he took to Boston to visit different sites, such as the site of the Boston Massacre. Page was asked to write a reflection essay of the field trip, and in the work, he focused on different buildings and roads along the way, as opposed to the actual sites visited.
This piece reflected part of Page’s difficulties regarding his inability to focus in school. While he tested high and was often called a genius by family and teachers, he frequently flunked subjects.
“I did terribly in school,” said Page. “I couldn’t make myself pay attention to anything I wasn’t interested in.”
Page said it wasn’t until his early twenties that things started changing for him.
Having led a life of social isolation with relatively few friends and constant problems in school, Page entered music school.
“Finally, I was studying something I understood why I was studying, if that makes any sense,” Page said.
Page said from then on, things continued to get easier. He began to be interested in writing and art. He became a biographer and did radio, and as more time passed, Page continued to have more success focusing on the subjects he was interested in.
“A lot of good things while a lot of the obvious bad things have been because of this,” said Page. “It’s because I can tune out the rest of the world and get those things done.”
People at the event asked questions regarding the disease, some having loved ones with the same problems Page faced.
John Burkhardt, whose brother is suffering from Asperger’s, came to hear what Page had to say.
“I wanted to hear him talk about his story dealing with the disease,” Burkhardt said.
MU freshman Simone Francis, a journalism student who attended the event, said she had never heard about Asperger’s syndrome.
“It’s hard to grasp a problem like that when you don’t know how it feels,” Francis said.