"When I left college in 1974, some of the people seemed to be getting on so well and they did rather wonder why, seeing I was a mathematics graduate, I couldn’t seem to grasp the work. And that was obviously disconcerting."
At 62, James has a flat, a social life, hobbies and a part time voluntary job. But it is not the life he envisaged for himself when he left university with a degree in mathematics.
"At school, thankfully the headmaster understood me. I would say he treated me positively as a result. I did see him when my school had a centenary about ten years ago. He said, when I told him, yes, definitely, I was what would now be called Asperger’s."
James was 50 when he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. He had always had difficulty fitting in.
"I wasn’t worldly enough. I graduated in mathematics, which is what Asperger people tend to be good at. But it was the adjustment to the real world…"
If he had been diagnosed as a youngster, James thinks his life might have been different. But he has made the most of his computer skills and adjusted to the realities of the jobs market.
"I’d been given the suggestion of going into actuarial work, which was basically what I went into. I didn’t really know much else, seeing as I knew I couldn’t be a maths teacher. They did notice at the insurance office that I was good on the computer and thankfully there was enough computer work to keep me there for a couple of years."
Amongst other jobs, James spent six years working for the BBC. "It was originally for a three-month temporary contract and the fact I was kept on for six years, I think was a good sign."
James was made redundant as part of a reorganisation strategy.
After much seeking he got a job in a small software company. After five years the company changed direction, and there was no further work in James’s area. His boss also moved on and offered James work at his next company. That position only lasted six months, for various reasons.
"The boss there was understanding, but the funding in his firm was not sufficient for keeping me on and paying me the salary. I had the disadvantage that they couldn’t find a room for me with a quiet environment. If he had been able to keep me on, he would have done. Generally, once I’d got into my niche, I’d say yes, I was happy at work."
Not long afterwards, James spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, as a result of which he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
Since leaving hospital, his life has taken a new direction. He now lives on his own, having had a flat-mate before, and his anxiety levels have reduced.
He has plenty of friends he sees regularly, including one close friend with whom he goes swimming twice a week. He considers himself quite good at friendships.
His holidays tend to be spent with friends; including staying with friends in the Lake District, and visiting a favourite guest house in Germany where he has got to know the people who run it – a family atmosphere.
His particular interest in the railways and buses adds to his enjoyment of travelling.
Building up a routine has been important to James. He is involved with his local historical association, and the Disabled Christian Fellowship. He goes to church regularly and joins in with some of the activities there. This might be a quiz at Men’s Group, or a talk by one of the members. Sometimes they go for a Saturday morning walk.
Notwithstanding his degree and experience, James has been unable to find paid employment. He attended Prospects, a specialist employment service, where he was helped with his CV and brushing up his interview skills. Despite this, James thinks it is unlikely he will get paid employment again as the IT industry changes rapidly and his knowledge is now out of date.
He has been doing voluntary work for a charity since 2004. For two days a week, James keeps the database up to date, rings clients and writes reports.
Working as a volunteer was supposed to be a stepping stone back to paid work, but this hasn’t happened for James. However, he continues volunteering as he enjoys working. "It gives me satisfaction. They are pleasant people. I think generally I am getting more confident."
James has just one brother, and other relatives in various parts of England, with whom he has regular contact. His brother lives in Canada and they see each other about once a year. His brother’s family would like to be able to help James more, but there’s little they can do from that distance. Although they have a good relationship, they don’t discuss very personal matters – James hasn’t told his brother about his diagnosis and they do not discuss the future.
When he retires, James would like to continue living where he does now. He has not made any plans for after retirement, and doesn’t see his life changing much.
He has learned to be content about not marrying or having children. He once had a close friendship with a lady he cared about, but she died as a result of illness and he hasn’t found anyone since.
Although his general health is good, James still feels low sometimes. He knows that he overeats at such times, and he takes medication for cholesterol and high blood pressure. He admits that he is rather fond of eating and drinks a lot of coffee.
If he has problems, James talks to his local church minister. His doctor has suggested he might go back to see the psychiatrist. James thinks this is a good idea. Long-term care planning is not something he has discussed with his doctor: "The trouble is that these days you only get to speak to them for ten minutes."
There are things James would like to do, but his state of mind can sometimes frustrate him. Asked how he would spend a perfect day, he is aware that his response would seem mundane to most people.
"I’d get myself in the right mood, then I’d give my flat a proper makeover. But the problem is - the first is not something I can do - I can’t get myself into the right mood. I could be in the right mood, but I can’t make it happen."