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Aspergers: Inaccurate Stereotyping

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

5 comments:

Pepper Basham said...

I have found the negative stereotyping to be so true - especially in more rural areas (in which I live & teach).
If there is knowledge at all on AS, then it's negative.
Thanks so much for this uplifting and informative post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Thank you for being so kind. Below is a little blurb about who we are:

Altitude: Partnering with Families operates year-round programs for boys and girls with social cognitive challenges and their families in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.
We offer webinars, weekend family programs and summer sleep away camps for junior high and high school students.

Webinar: December 8th at 7:30 pm
"How to talk to your child about his or her Autism Spectrum Diagnosis"

Weekend Altitude: For the whole family! Friday, March 18 - Sunday, March 20th
Location: Camp Campbell, Boulder Creek, CA

Camp Altitude: Enroll your campers now! 1st Session: Sunday, July 10 - Saturday, July 23; 2nd Session: Sunday, July 24 - Saturday, Aug., 6th
Location: Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, CA (Near San Francisco Airport)

For more information about our programs and to enroll, visit www.altitudefamilies.com or call (408) 353-0377 and speak with Anna, Program Director.
-----

Thanks again!
Anna Cozzi
Program Director, Altitude

Anonymous said...

Hi My daughter is 11 years old and has been diagnosed with aspergers recently and I am looking to find as much information as possible so I can finally understand my beautiful angel she had been diagnosed previously with ADD. She has a big and wonderful heart and I just want to give her the best start in life so she finally feels like she fits somewhere. Jo Edmondston

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I have an interesting question. Is Asperger labeled as a disability? Are children with asperger's eligible under special education? The parent keeps telling us that none of us that work with her child, are not educated in this area of asperger's so we really dont know what we are doing? Help again. We are doing the best we can as a multidisciplinary team with his meltdowns and now are trying so many different things to have him do his work and the rewards system does not work for us here at school. What more can we do and i am so tempted to buy your book, maybe their are some of our answers in your book.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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