Asperger’s Syndrome is NOT all about dysfunction and disability etc. There are many good points and advantages to being an Aspie. Here’s a refreshingly different perspective from the medical profession, by Dr Tony Attwood…
From my clinical experience I consider that children and adults with Aspergers Syndrome have a different, not defective, way of thinking.
The person usually has a strong desire to seek knowledge, truth and perfection with a different set of priorities than would be expected with other people. There is also a different perception of situations and sensory experiences. The overriding priority may be to solve a problem rather than satisfy the social or emotional needs of others.
The person values being creative rather than co-operative.
The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the “big picture”.
The person is usually renowned for being direct, speaking their mind and being honest and determined and having a strong sense of social justice.
The person may actively seek and enjoy solitude, be a loyal friend and have a distinct sense of humour.
However, the person with Aspergers Syndrome can have difficulty with the management and expression of emotions.
Children and adults with Aspergers syndrome may have levels of anxiety, sadness or anger that indicate a secondary mood disorder. There may also be problems expressing the degree of love and affection expected by others. Fortunately, we now have successful psychological treatment programs to help manage and express emotions.
The following excerpt from a paper by Attwood & Gray called, The Discovery of “Aspie” Criteria, further details the strengths of being an “Aspie”…
If Asperger’s Syndrome was identified by observation of strengths and talents, it would no longer be in the DSM IV, nor would it be referred to as a syndrome. After all, a reference to someone with special strengths or talents does not use terms with negative connotations (it’s artist and poet, not Artistically Arrogant or Poetically Preoccupied), nor does it attach someone’s proper name to the word syndrome (it’s vocalist or soloist, not Sinatra’s Syndrome). Focusing on strengths requires shedding the former diagnostic term, Asperger’s Syndrome, for a new term. The authors feel that Aspie, used in self-reference by Liane Holliday Wiley in her new book, Pretending to be Normal (1999), is a term that seems right at home among it’s talent-based counterparts: soloist, genius, aspie, dancer. With fading DSM potential, the authors submit a description of “aspie” for placement in a much needed but currently non-existent Manual of Discoveries About People (MDP I) (Figure 1).
New ways of thinking often lead to discoveries that consequently discard their outdated predecessors. Similarly, the change from Asperger’s Syndrome to aspie holds interesting implications and opportunities. It could result in typical people rethinking their responses and rescuing a missed opportunity to take advantage of the contribution of aspies to culture and knowledge.
Discovery Criteria for Aspie…
A. A qualitative advantage in social interaction, as manifested by a majority of the following:
1. peer relationships characterized by absolute loyalty and impeccable dependability
2. free of sexist, “age-ist”, or culturalist biases; ability to regard others at “face value”
3. speaking one’s mind irrespective of social context or adherence to personal beliefs
4. ability to pursue personal theory or perspective despite conflicting evidence
5. seeking an audience or friends capable of: enthusiasm for unique interests and topics;
6. consideration of details; spending time discussing a topic that may not be of primary interest
7. listening without continual judgement or assumption
8. interested primarily in significant contributions to conversation; preferring to avoid ‘ritualistic small talk’ or socially trivial statements and superficial conversation.
9. seeking sincere, positive, genuine friends with an unassuming sense of humour
B. Fluent in “Aspergerese”, a social language characterized by at least three of the following:
1. a determination to seek the truth
2. conversation free of hidden meaning or agenda
3. advanced vocabulary and interest in words
4. fascination with word-based humour, such as puns
5. advanced use of pictorial metaphor
C. Cognitive skills characterized by at least four of the following:
1. strong preference for detail over gestalt
2. original, often unique perspective in problem solving
3. exceptional memory and/or recall of details often forgotten or disregarded by others, for example: names, dates, schedules, routines
4. avid perseverance in gathering and cataloguing information on a topic of interest
5. persistence of thought
6. encyclopaedic or ‘CD ROM’ knowledge of one or more topics
7. knowledge of routines and a focused desire to maintain order and accuracy
8. clarity of values/decision making unaltered by political or financial factors
D. Additional possible features:
1. acute sensitivity to specific sensory experiences and stimuli, for example: hearing, touch, vision, and/or smell
2. strength in individual sports and games, particularly those involving endurance or visual accuracy, including rowing, swimming, bowling, chess
3. “social unsung hero” with trusting optimism: frequent victim of social weaknesses of others, while steadfast in the belief of the possibility of genuine friendship
4. increased probability over general population of attending university after high school
5. often take care of others outside the range of typical development