It is estimated that 1 to 3 people in 1000 have Asperger’s autism. Veronique Kouchev is one of them. But she didn’t know about it for a long time. In an interview, the young woman tells how it shaped her and how important the diagnosis was for her.
Veronique Kouchev designs computer games, studies communication design, has her own streaming channel, likes to paint and do handicrafts. A real jack of all trades. She has a different view of the world. She notices details that others would not notice. But in a world full of impressions, noise and hectic pace, it is difficult for them to shut down. She’s actually always hooked up. There’s a lot going on in her head. For a long time, the young woman didn’t understand why she sees the world with different eyes, why she has trouble interpreting facial expressions or why she constantly teased at school. She just felt like she was different. There’s something weird about her. Veronique Kouchev didn’t get a name for this feeling until she was 17: Autism Spectrum Disorder. She wrote her story in a book.
You describe how you noticed as a child that you were “different”. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Veronique Kouchev: I didn’t really connect with the other kids. I took other paths to find solutions and thought about other things. I’ve been teased and bullied at school. When the same problems kept appearing after several school changes, I was sure that I had a problem. But I didn’t know what it was. That was very frustrating.
Surely that also led to conflicts?
The biggest conflicts were really in the school days. Fire against fire – that was always my motto. For example, on a school trip, there was always friction and arguments, which ended violently. Now I know it’s useless. Communication is the key for me. I explain to people why I react a certain way or why some things are difficult for me and in most cases people respond with understanding.
Which situations in your everyday life used to be the worst for you?
When I couldn’t communicate or express myself and this feeling of panic came up in me. Which was also bad for me when I was flooded with situations or things – when it was just too much for me.
We talked about your school days and the many problems that existed. You describe yourself that you were “different”. But you never had an explanation for it. You were only 17 when you were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Why was the diagnosis so late?
I would even say today that it was neither too early nor too late. I was lucky enough to be diagnosed when I was 17. As a teenager, I was more entitled to a therapy place than I would have been as an adult. It was also at a time when I was on the verge of adulthood and had the opportunity to arm myself well through the diagnosis and therapy.
Even as a child I went from one psychologist to the next – but I never got a diagnosis. I think the problem was that I always went to the psychologists. Because: We all present ourselves differently outside of our home and do not behave in the same way as in our familiar surroundings. Finally, a family worker who saw and escorted me into my home suspected that I might have an autism spectrum disorder. After discussions and written tests with a psychologist, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s autism. When she told me what an autism spectrum disorder was, I could totally identify with it. And that was just really great. It was kind of the end of the world for my mother that day because she thought that I would never be able to lead an independent life like this. But for me it was wonderful that I had finally found out what was wrong with me.
What has changed since you finally had a name for it?
I had no idea before that I perceive things, facial expressions and situations differently than other people. I just felt like I was different, but I didn’t know why, how or where exactly. The diagnosis suddenly made me aware of many things, I knew what I was having difficulties with or what things I was good at. I was able to deal with myself much better and knew where I could build on. We humans all have urges to seek explanation and understand what is going on. And I finally got this answer with the diagnosis. Many people want to change something in their life but don’t know how to do it. Through the diagnosis, I knew how I could change something in my life. For example, I have trouble understanding facial expressions. So I learned different facial expressions like vocabulary and can thus better classify how my fellow human beings feel or how they tick in everyday life.
You call your Asperger’s autism “different”. What is your very personal definition?
It’s part of me, just like other character traits are part of me. “Anders” cannot exist without me and belongs to me. Just as my arm or leg is a part of me and could not continue to exist without me.
What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
Everyone has problems, but what matters is what you make of them. Whether it’s autism, depression, or something else entirely. Getting in tune with yourself is important. Those who are in harmony with themselves can handle many situations smoothly. For example, if I can’t think of some terms in certain situations, I just joke about it and laugh.
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