People with Aspergers (high functioning autism) are viewed largely in negative terms. This inaccurate stereotyping often leads to inappropriate interventions, which can lead to long-term damage.
Here are some examples of stereotyping. A person with Aspergers:
- Cannot do things that require social interaction, especially with strangers.
- Dislikes establishing eye contact.
- Dislikes using the telephone, preferring email or person-to-person instead.
- In social situations with a lot of noise and conversations, has trouble hearing and easily gets disoriented.
- Is easily depressed.
- Is not very good at small talk, especially intimate bantering.
- Often assumes that any comments or remarks require a response.
- Often does not care what other people think.
- Often fails to read other peoples' standard body language.
- Often feels rejected if an important project or idea gets a mixed or lukewarm response.
- Often makes others very angry because of the way he interacts.
- Often responds angrily to frustrating situations.
- Often says things in conversation that are inappropriate, divergent, or tactless.
- Talks forever, without pause, about favorite topics.
- Usually keeps silent and does not interact if faced with a question or topic that is difficult to answer.
Do some people with Aspergers have some of these characteristics to varying degrees from time to time? Yes.
Do all "Aspies" have all of these characteristics all the time? No.
It has been well documented that those with Aspergers are vulnerable people who will face certain difficulties. These are often highlighted by individuals who see only the negatives rather than the positives such differences could represent. This lack of positive awareness, combined with an inconsistency of knowledge, can lead to inaccurate stereotyping and resultant interventions that are far more harmful than helpful.
The reality is that a person with Aspergers is a unique individual who has a lot of skills and abilities. Yet, Aspies are often deemed incapable of learning; thus, an ability to achieve much in life may be overlooked. All too often, the focus continues to be on forcing Aspies to fit into damaging, inflexible environments, which not only prohibits Aspies from reaching their full potential, but also contributes to long-term mental health problems that could otherwise be avoided.
Having Aspergers can be worrying and upsetting for all those concerned, but there will be areas in which Aspies will excel compared to the general population:
- A sensitivity to sound could lead to working in sound recording or music.
- A sensitivity to the taste and texture of food and drink, people with Aspergers could become great gastronomes and food critics.
- A sensitivity to visual information can be useful in photography, drawing and visualization used by architects and artists.
- Aspies are generally free from sexism or racism.
- Aspies can be very sensitive to the plight of disadvantaged people around the world. They can use their sensitivity and wider differences to help others who are in the same position as themselves, or act as arbiters and mediators in dispute situations.
- Aspies have proved themselves to be great innovators and inventors – not only of products, but also of ideas concerning literacy and story-telling.
- Aspies often speak out frankly and honestly; they are sincere truth-tellers who will tend to follow the rules of the job.
- Many are intelligent and have high IQs. Aspies may, for example, have an excellent memory for facts and figures, or a good memory for past situations.
- Many Aspies possess powers of deduction that, when coupled with an attention to detail, could be useful in criminal investigations.
- People with Aspergers tend to make very loyal friends.
Little research has been conducted into “gifted” individuals, although those who are described as such often show the same qualities seen in Aspies. Individuals with high IQs question the world which surrounds them; they are usually single-minded and can throw themselves into their work for long, intense periods. These are all aspects associated with Aspergers.
In short, the way Aspies think should be regarded as a positive attribute, which the rest of society can learn from. When their differences are embraced, the positives definitely can outweigh the negatives. The goal should not be about “normality,” but encompassing acceptance, love, and communication.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook