In working with Aspergers (high functioning autism) children and teens – as well as their parents – I can say categorically that it’s not uncommon for individuals with Aspergers to get a “bad rap.” It’s not fair – it’s not right – but it’s reality. Aspies are generally seen as a little strange (or extremely strange). As a result, they often get ostracized, ridiculed, and bullied.
Many Aspies are disrespected in elementary and middle school, ostracized in high school, rejected in the workplace, and rendered as the “odd Aspie out.” Why? Because different equals bad …different equals dorky …different equals derision …and different equals social rejection.
Aspergers is often called the “Geek Syndrome” because Aspies act so different from the social norm and have excessive knowledge and obsession with different things. For example, they may obsess about things like Robin Hood, the Peanuts gang, maps, trains, baseball cards, and Civil War history. This is not seen as normal to many people, and these obsessions help contribute to the ostracism and rejection.
Here are a few more reasons why Aspies do not get the acceptance they deserve:
1. Most Aspergers children and teens are smart, they study hard, and they respect authority – but this isn’t cool. What’s cool is using school-time as an opportunity to socialize, disrespecting authority, and getting into trouble.
2. Most Aspies are gentle and somewhat passive. NOT COOL! However, it is cool to be tough or "hard" and to fight.
3. Most Aspies are talented – but being a clarinet player in the school band is viewed as dorky. To be in sports is cool though (even though you don’t use your brain much).
4. Most Aspies have a child-like innocence (a bad trait to have if you don’t want to get your head knocked off). This is not cool. To be cool, you act older than your age and go around playing tricks on, and making jokes about, other people.
5. Most Aspies can make amazingly loyal friends – but how goofy is that?! The cool thing to do is to have a bunch of peers to hang-out with and to take advantage of as many of them as possible.
You want some more examples of ‘GEEK’ behavior? O.K. Here they are...
- adhere unvaryingly to routines
- are able forgive others
- are accepting of others
- are honest
- are not bullies, con artists, or social manipulators
- are not inclined to steal
- are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves
- don’t discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, age, etc.
- don’t launch unprovoked attacks, verbal or otherwise
- don’t play head games
- don’t take advantage of other’s weaknesses
- enjoy their own company and can spend time alone
- have exceptional memories
- have no interest in harming others
- notice fine details that others miss
- prefer talking about significant things that will enhance their knowledge-base rather than “shooting the bullshit”
- will not go along with the crowd if they know that something is wrong
Too often, the Aspie is told, “Something is wrong with you.” And sooner than later, he/she unconsciously absorbs this negative statement and begins to believe it. 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.
We hear so many negative things about children and teens with Aspergers – and so much about what can NOT be helped. Maybe we need to take another look and see what kind of positive traits are found. I believe there are a lot of traits in the Aspergers personality that the non-Aspergers person can afford to implement into his/her own life.
Like everyone on the face of the earth, we are people, with a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Aspies are different – but they are not defective. The world needs all different kinds of minds – including the Aspergers minds. 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 outweigh the negatives.
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The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook