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AS is a “pervasive developmental disability.” That is, people with AS may often appear or act younger than others of the same age. Children with AS often show delays in multiple areas of functioning, such as gross or fine motor coordination, social skills, or executive functioning (organization, prioritizing, and follow-through). The brains of people with AS seem to process information and sensory stimuli differently than the brains of neurotypical (NT) people. This can be a source of difficulty, but it can also be a strength. For example, people with AS are often very good at noticing visual details or remembering facts, skills that are useful in many professions. On the other hand, the same people may be too perfectionistic, become too obsessed with details, or have so much trouble seeing the big picture that they cannot complete a project.
While respecting the abilities and humanity of people with AS, one should not underestimate their struggles and suffering. A society designed for and dominated by the neurotypical majority (i.e., people who do not have AS) can feel uncongenial and even overwhelming for a person with AS. In particular, living in the United States in the modern information age—in a crowded, complex, industrial society—can pose real challenges for people with AS. American children are generally expected to “play well with others” and grow up fast. Adults are expected to work 40-60 hour weeks under fluorescent lights, to attend meetings, work on teams, rapidly absorb oceans of information, and multi-task. Solitary pursuits such as hunting, farming, or tending a light house are less available today.
People with Asperger Syndrome usually experience:
* Difficulty knowing what to say or how to behave in social situations. Many have a tendency to say the “wrong thing.” They may appear awkward or rude, and unintentionally upset others.
* Trouble with “theory of mind,” that is, trouble perceiving the intentions or emotions of other people, due to a tendency to ignore or misinterpret such cues as facial expression, body language, and vocal intonation.
* Slower than average auditory, visual, or intellectual processing, which can contribute to difficulties keeping up in a range of social settings—a class, a soccer game, a party.
* Challenges with “executive functioning,” that is, organizing, initiating, analyzing, prioritizing, and completing tasks.
* A tendency to focus on the details of a given situation and miss the big picture.
* Intense, narrow, time-consuming personal interest(s) — sometimes eccentric in nature — that may result in social isolation, or interfere with the completion of everyday tasks. (On the other hand, some interests can lead to social connection and even careers. For example, there are children and adults with an encyclopedic knowledge of vacuum cleaners.)
* Inflexibility and resistance to change. Change may trigger anxiety, while familiar objects, settings, and routines offer reassurance. One result is difficulty transitioning from one activity to another: from one class to another, from work time to lunch, from talking to listening. Moving to a new school, new town, or new social role can be an enormous challenge.
* Feeling somehow different and disconnected from the rest of the world and not “fitting in”—sometimes called “wrong planet” syndrome.
* Extreme sensitivity—or relative insensitivity—to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or textures. Many people outgrow these sensory issues at least to some extent as they mature.
* Vulnerability to stress, sometimes escalating to psychological or emotional problems including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
* Normal to very high intelligence
* Good verbal skills, including rich vocabularies
* Originality and creativity including a propensity for “thinking outside the box”
* Honesty and ingenuity
* Careful attention to details
* Strong work ethic, with particular attention to accuracy and quality of work
* Special interests that can be tailored toward productive work or hobbies; individuals with AS who have intensive knowledge in one or more specific areas can channel their expertise toward new discoveries and creations in their chosen field
* Keen senses allow some people with AS to see, hear or feel subtle changes in the environment that others do not, resulting in phenomenal powers of observation
Quotes from Aspies:
I am eccentric and well loved, I have a good sense of humor and am a good mimic. But I cannot feel connection with others that lasts over space and time. Many mistake my one-on-one “intensity” for some kind of special friendship “intimacy.” I operate at a depth most people do not. — Camilla
I nearly failed my nursing placement as people thought I was arrogant, argumentative, and egotistical. I was devastated to find I had offended them. — Kylli
I do remember the moment I realized I was no longer attractive. It gave me some relief, actually. — Widders
The taxi driver pulled into my street and asked “Where are you?” I answered from the back seat, “I’m right here.” — Hope
A few common traits of Aspies include
- Lack of interest in sex - Aspies do have sex, but in general are far less pre-occupied with such activities than NTs. It certainly isn't the main object of life. The sex drive is base instinct, something that drives the animals. The fact that Aspies are less sexually driven than the population at large suggests that they have evolved further from these base animal instinct. Socrates described man as being part animal and part Divine. Following this reasoning, the lack of interest in sex demonstrates an evolutionary step away towards the divine.
- Not socially driven - NTs are perfectly happy in social situations. They will sit and talk and drink happily all day. There is a basic chemical/hormonal mechanism at work (Oxytocin, etc.) which in a way is an addiction. This is similar to the social animals, and there is nothing wrong with this - it creates a harmonious society suitable for supporting a large population without conflict. Aspies are chemically/hormonally different. The social interaction does not affect them the same way - thus suggesting they have evolved away from it.
- Honesty - Aspies are known for being frank and honest. Individuals with the opposite trait, those who are shady, sly, dishonest, are often regarded as being of lower standing and less advanced. Honesty and integrity are qualities of evolved persons.
- Advances in art, music, science - history has shown us that some of the greatest advances have been made by individuals who would probably be classified as Aspergers. For example, Einstein, Mozart. This enhanced ability in certain areas suggests an evolutionary step.
- Small talk is difficult
- Can become confused in complex social situations
- Extremely detail oriented and focused on facts
- Ability to focus for extended periods on a specific task
- Difficulty interpreting and understanding what others feel and think