The Asperger’s advantage

Krysta
Krysta Carroll
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Travis Walsh uses aspects of his autism-related disorder to pursue his goals and help others

Travis Walsh has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and hopes to help others understand the condition.

Grand Falls-Windsor — When 21-year-old Travis Walsh was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a year ago, he decided he’d use it to his advantage.

The syndrome, also called Asperger disorder, is a form of autism that affects five of every 10,000 Canadians. People who have it may have mild to severe difficulties with social interaction, communication deficits, and be interested in restricted and repetitive activities.

As Walsh, who’s from Grand Falls-Windsor, puts it: “People with Asperger syndrome, they do not have interests, we have obsessions.”

He says that can be a benefit because it fuels his passion to do the things he likes well.

One of his interests is professional wrestling.

“Everybody told me that I would never be able to break into it and, thankfully, I became a professional wrestling-ring announcer and a commentator with sheer luck of will.”

With Asperger’s, a person’s senses can be intensified.

“Basically, it means for me that my sense of sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell — basically all of my human bodily functions — are all heightened (compared) to that of the everyday person,” Walsh said.

He said if someone without the disorder walked into a room and found it warm, it would feel much hotter to him, and he smells food cooking when no one else does.

“Things like a concert or something like that is very difficult for me to stand because my sense of hearing is extremely heightened and it can be somewhat painful at times,” Walsh said.

“One of the things that is really hard for me, and I do take medication for it, is sometimes I will say something offensive — not on purpose — but if somebody was mad at me for an hour, I would not (necessarily) know what I said until it was too late.”

Walsh said he was tested for the syndrome in 2002 and the test came back negative. He was tested again in 2010 and was diagnosed.

He said it’s something people are born with, but the symptoms can be mild.

"For the people who told me I can’t do this, they were the inspiration for me to go on and say, ‘I can do it.’" Travis Walsh 

“I was 20 years old before I was diagnosed, so I had to face a lot of things growing up that a lot of people would crack under the pressure (of) having to go through when it came to social acceptance — understanding things from my family, my lack of popularity when it came to having friends, and how I would have such amazing interests.”

Those interests include acting, history, the Canadian Legion and professional darts.

“One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed with Asperger syndrome,” Walsh said, “there are two extremes — some people can be very quiet … also, people can be very loud and outspoken and not shy at all, like myself.”

He’s using his outspoken personality to try to reach as many people as possible, speaking publically about Asperger’s through Autism Society Canada with assistance from Kim McDonald, a local representative.

Walsh said since he’s been on the front lines of the disorder, he hopes he’ll be able to help and inspire others who are dealing with it and increase awareness among people who don’t have the disorder of what people with Asperger’s go though on a daily basis.

“I said, ‘I can do this,’” Walsh said. “For the people who told me I can’t do this, they were the inspiration for me to go on and say, ‘I can do it.’ I have a great family, I have a great faith.”

He’s taking bookings for speaking engagements and can be contacted by email at travismwalsh@hotmail.com, or by phone (709) 489-8484.

 “I want to be the guy who says, ‘I can do it, so can you …,’” Walsh said.

“To the kids who just recently got diagnosed who are at a later age like myself, I say go ahead, live your life, don’t be ashamed of what you have. You just have to go out there and do it.”

The Advertiser

Organizations: Canadian Legion, Autism Society Canada

Geographic location: Grand Falls

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Recent comments

  • Jenelle
    January 22, 2012 - 15:51

    Im so proud of you travis..keep up the good work..cant wait to read about more of you great accoplishments!

  • Martha Edwards
    November 13, 2011 - 04:42

    I grew up with Travis and I witnessed first hand the difficulties he has gone through in his life, and it is amazing how little the youth of today know about this disease. What Travis is doing is not only inspiring and brave, but genius. I believe that all the schools and youth programs would benefit greatly if Travis could speak with all the students. I know if our school had someone like Travis to educate us all, not only would the students would benefit, but Travis would have also had a much brighter educational experience himself. So proud of you Travis!

  • Sherry
    March 01, 2011 - 17:05

    Good for you Travis, you're an exceptional person. It's about time people realize that someone with an ASD is still a person with feelings not a person to be the brunt of their jokes. My son is 16 & was diagnosed with Autism when he was 3, he's been bullied from elementary school right into high school. I think this is a tremendous thing that you are doing, you have no idea how many people this will help. Thank you very much for having such courage & passion!!

  • Rebecca
    February 15, 2011 - 21:20

    Thank you for sharing your story! It's wonderful that at such a young age you are able to recognize who you are as a person and accept it and then be able to speak about to help others be more aware of Asperger's. I wish you the best of luck in all of your interests and pursuits!

  • Trevor Thistle
    February 15, 2011 - 19:17

    Good for you Travis. Our 9 year old boy displays all the symptoms of Asperger's and we've had him tested a couple times with inconclusive results. He has the dull looks in his eyes, difficulty with comprehension in certain situations (where he should be comprehending) and all the social mis-ques classic with someone with Asperger's. It's good to see that people are not afraid to speak up about it.

  • Mark
    February 15, 2011 - 14:18

    I commend you for speaking out and helping those who do not understand Aspergers. I have a young relative who has been diagnosed, and this article gives me a new appreciation for this condition, from someone who has lived a life with it.

  • lucy
    February 15, 2011 - 04:19

    I have a young adult daughter diagnosed at 21,,, and I agree about the dull gaze of the eyes...i have noticed that before . in many people...I have a photo of my daughter looking into the camera with the same look as the the member of The VINES pop group...who has been diagnosed ..Craig Nicholls...,... It must be because they do not use their eyes to connect to people....

  • Joel Vannatta
    February 14, 2011 - 12:47

    It's important to get the word out that aspies like us are not "broken," we are just "different." The main physical sign of aspergers' syndrome that I can tell is that many, including myself, tend to have a "dull" look to our eyes, similar to Travis Walsh's in his picture.

  • Wayne Edwards
    February 14, 2011 - 08:23

    Thanks for sharing your story Travis. My son was diagnosed with Asperger's a few years ago while we lived away. When a teacher at his school asked us about it and provided us with some information regarding Asperger's, we immediately recognized it in our boy. He is VERY intelligent but has all the social mis-ques that go with Asperger's which can and do make everyday life extremely challenging. Thankfully people like you will help him realize the potential he has in this life.