Asperger’s syndrome is considered by many in the US to be the same as high functioning autism. The DSM-5 classifies it this way. The World Health Organisation differs and still thinks the Asperger classification to be useful.
I prefer the term Asperger’s simply because a person afflicted with it can be referred to as an Aspie. It rolls off the tongue much better than an HFAer. Also, because the minute people hear the word “autism” everything else you’ve just said is erased and all that sticks is the picture of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.
The traits include an inability to read social signals. Things like body posture, facial expression, vocal intonation, subtext, sarcasm and innumerable other clues that tell far more than words do are often lost (to varying degrees) on a young Aspie. Much of this is instinctive in people and the rest is learned quickly as a part of normal socialization.
At the same time, our young Aspie may seem like he/she is mean or cruel because they
didn’t learn how to send all those signals effectively. They may appear disinterested or even cold because they are busy thinking while everyone else is actively doing. Or they may send confused and uncoordinated signals without awareness of their social unacceptability. This gets them laughed at, ridiculed or, even feared.
I was in 9th-grade before I realized the importance of grooming procedures like brushing teeth and washing and combing hair. Or developed enough fashion awareness not to mix plaids and stripes. This would have been considered due to my own stupidity, of course.
Other traits include the inability to deal with loud noises or the babble of many voices at once. The chaos of crowds and parties is painful. It is often combined with ADD, anxiety and clinical depression.
Asperger’s is uncommon. One in forty people has Asperger’s. (Probably more are asymptomatic carriers.) About half of all Aspies are never diagnosed. They grow up being told they are nerds and geeks if they are lucky, antisocial or even retarded if they are not.
Aspies also suffer from lousy proprioception, eye-hand coordination, and balance. They could do well in sports like weightlifting, track, or shooting, that don’t require much in terms of agility but social pariahs rarely get the assistance they need.
Without support, it is a harsh life. I know this because that’s what I am, an Aspie man. Women have a slightly different set of symptoms. It doesn’t doom you to a life of rejection but it is a lifetime struggle. If you have average or better IQ, you can adapt and learn to think your way through what doesn’t come naturally. Less fortunate Aspies will need more help.
The root cause is something genetic, not unloving parents, and not infinitesimal doses of thimerosal in vaccinations. But life is much easier if you can hate on corporate pharma than accept that the cause is in your own being. Fraudsters know that and will happily file lawsuits or sell you snake oil to profit from it.
Heh, heh… I didn’t get any assistance. When I was young nobody had ever heard of it. My behavior was written off as being stupid and being a “bad” boy. I had to work on my symptoms on my own. Decades of experience taught me how to compensate, to use what I had (a high IQ) to mimic what I had not (intuitive social skills). I finally figured out what I was at the hands of a therapist when I was 59. It explained many things but, of course, couldn’t fix them. I am still a stranger in a strange land.
Has it ever benefitted me? In some ways. Long ago it helped get me into a rare “non-degreed engineer” slot at Lockheed. Yet, overall it has caused far more doors to be closed to me than opened.
It may (or may not) be why I never saw any purpose or use for wearing clothing, (other than environmental protection) even though I still had to wear it. Consequently I was free to secretly enjoy nudity without the emotional baggage most people carry about nakedness – even if I knew I had to hide it. (Spontaneous removal of clothing is also a known “issue” with people farther down the spectrum than me.) It that a good thing? The jury is still out.
I have been in an unusual number of emergencies, life and death situations. Other people are running around trying this and that and emoting all over the place. I am terrible at emoting – and noisy chaos grates on me. In an emergency, I withdraw, put my thinking hat on, and reach a conclusion. While I am doing that, no doubt anyone who looks at me thinks I am utterly useless. Maybe locked in panic or confusion or just disinterested.
Then I walk over, picked up the ladder that had fallen off the truck and used it to lift the truck off the victim that 4 strong men had been unable to budge. Or coax a woman who thought she was pinned in the passenger seat to slip over to the driver side and out of a wrecked car. Again, while frantic men were trying to tear the passenger side door off and failing.
Then, on the other hand, once I was helping erect a large antenna when I realized it wasn’t properly guyed. I shouted for the crew to stop. They stopped, but when I couldn’t stammer out the reason immediately, they kept on going. The 40 ft, 100 lb. antenna fell and could easily have killed someone. I was blamed for not having clearly stated why I thought they should stop. Aspies need time to answer. We have all the information but forming it into coherent speech sometimes takes time. I still think they were idiots for discounting me but that is another staple of Aspie life. One learns to expect to be discounted.
All true stories. Most of the time it sucks. I am not so lucky as the guys in that Asperger-fest, Big Bang Theory. Sheldon has Asperger’s in spades (as did Amy until they decided to soften her image) and all the guys in it have some of the traits. But it is “cute” Asperger’s without the anger and loneliness and self loathing. Mr. Spock (Star Trek) was my hero growing up. He didn’t have any of the Aspie negatives. Another damn “cute” aspie.
And yeah, there are even people who want the Aspie label as some kind of excuse for bad behavior or because Sheldon/Spock are cool or because they think it makes them look smarter.
You’ve heard of yuri goggles? Aspie goggles are where you start seeing hints of Asperger syndrome all around you. Like all other colored goggles, they give a distorted view of the world around you. One wears goggles so as to not feel so alone. They let you see hints and bits of something around you. But they also show a lot of things that really aren’t what you are looking for that are the same color.
There is a saying that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. I’d call that “nail goggles”.
Red goggles will make red berries jump out at you in a green and grey environment. But not everything red is a red berry. It could as easily be a red colored lichen or a red fungus or a drop of blood. White, yellow and orange things will look just as red. It allows you to greatly overestimate the amount of red out there. OTOH, you’ll miss most of the equally tasty blue berries.
In the case of Aspie and yuri goggles, sometimes we are desperate to see something out there that looks like us. We put on the goggles to start looking. We start seeing hints of what we are looking for and in our excitement don’t check them out closely. It is enough just to think they are there. Any human condition that isolates a person from the mainstream and causes loneliness can produce a set of goggles.
I have several sets of goggles I can wear, including even nudist goggles.
I always try to look again without goggles before making a judgement. Maybe I shouldn’t. I should let myself see things I want to see just because it makes me feel better. Maybe I’d be a happier person. However, taking them off confirms reality and if anything, I am ruthless about eliminating pleasant inaccuracies. Embracing painful truths is something we Aspies are good at.
Knowing with confidence that I am in the same boat as Albert Einstein, Daryl Hanna, Susan Boyle, and Anthony Hopkins is more reassuring because I confirmed it. Unconfirmed speculation offers me no solace.
“Kimi ni Todoke” is an anime about a girl with an almost textbook case of Aspergers. I blogged about it once.
If you have the time and are interested, this is a great article on why anime appeals so strongly to people “on the spectrum”.