Our Aspies Are Different

I’m having a lovely vacation in Jämtland. It’s been its own nation and is the second largest province in Sweden, so it’s not too far-fetched to think of it as the Texas of Sweden. Only with only one not particularly large city (compared with the numerous large cities Texas has considering its population). Well, I never said it was a good comparison.

Anyhow, as I was sitting in the car on the way up I got bored and thought about doing a kick-ass blog post about Asperger’s Syndrome. When I finally got to the familiar house of awesome relatives, my second cousin revealed that she, too, had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Well, that seals the deal for me, I’ll try to write this carp.

It’s no coincidence my second cousin is an aspie as well. AS has a very strong genetic component and is overrepresentated within certain families. This means that the odds of an aspie meeting another aspie is quite high relative to the actual number of aspies, especially if a population is particularly homogenous. AS is not caused by mercury poisoning or whatever quack theory you can come up with it.

Many people have strange ideas of what an aspie is. I’d like to address some of these conceptions.

Aspies get good grades

Perhaps it’s because of the Freudian notion of someone who doesn’t fare well in social contacts will compensate with better grades, or an aspie is generally bright and has a natural inclination for certain things, which would mean better grades but this doesn’t seem to add up with reality, at least as upper secondary school goes. As I was talking with the principal at my school once, he decided to lay it all out for me. Those who are the most successful as grades go are those who get together with others – there is a quite strong social component involved. If there are a lot of diverse subjects, an aspie will most likely be good in some but not so good in others. I don’t think the social aspect of school is bad as such since it resonates with how life beyond school actually is. I have quite a few reservations about how the education system works, but that’s a topic for another day.

Aspies are male

In the media aspies are almost exclusively portrayed as male, for the simple reason that there are more male aspies than female ones. A notable exception is Lisbeth Salander, the main character of the Millenium Trilogy. I think the number of female aspies is underestimated, partly because females in general have an easier time as social contacts go. I’m not saying that there’s a 50-50 ratio as gender on the spectrum goes, just that there’s a lot more female aspies out there than most think.

Aspies have no sense of humour

To actually claim this, one would need little or none exposure to aspies. Perhaps there’s this notion because aspies aren’t as inclined to laugh at those really lame or nonsensical jokes which people laugh at because it’s a social thing. Have a gander at this.

Aspies can’t lie

It’s totally true. (What are we, George Washington?)

Aspies have to suffer

I don’t think it necessarily has to be so. While I suppose most neurotypicals wouldn’t be very comfortable with the mentality I have (but then again, would they really be the same people if they did?), I’ve had it all my life. AS is so much more noticeable among young people because they are trying to get to terms with the world, and I too have had to struggle. But gradually I suppose you get to terms with who you are, and a supportive environment works wonders towards that, as well as a diagnosis itself. Some people have an easier time than others. I had the good fortune of being raised by wonderful parents and in a social democratic society, so I naturally have had it easier than other aspies.

Aspies are übermensch

For some reason, some people have got the impression that aspies are inherently superior to neurotypicals. Patently absurd. What has made humanity so great is our ability to cooperate with others. There are absurdly large tribes like China, India, the EU and the US which simply can’t hold together by instinct alone. It’s far more complex than any eusocial way of organization. Aspies aren’t all supergeniuses, either. There are some savants, yes, but they are just the tip of the iceberg and not representative of aspies as a whole – though media could give another impression. Anyway, hanging around at the Wrong Planet forums for a while should neatly dispel any illusions as the alleged superiority goes.

Aspies must be diagnosed

As much as I loathe self-diagnosers who’ve just read the Wikipedia article and agreed with a few select parts, there are reasons why a diagnosis has certain restrictions. America, for example, has a crappy health care (unless Obama gets the ball rolling) which means it will most likely cost a certain amount of money just to meet with a psychologist. In developing countries it can be even worse. It’s incredibly difficult to get diagnosed in Egypt, for example. Only a few psychologists make diagnosises and one has to be very ingratiating towards them to even have the chance to get one, and it costs an exorbitant amount of money. In Scandinavia, by contrast, meeting a psychologist and eventually getting a diagnosis is free. This would explain why there as seemingly so many aspies in Sweden – it has nothing to do with genetics or problems accomodating with the culture. (As culture goes, it would rather suggest the opposite; Swedes are more silent than, say, the French.)

The most important thing to remember is that aspies are people. Despite such a small group, which is seemingly so similar in behaviour, it has an extreme diversity in people as ideas and values go. There is a contrieved image of the stereotypical aspie, but each of us have dreams, opinions, a driving force of our own. Though I suppose so it is with everything in life. Every day I can see something new about people on the spectrum, and I am sure there’s still much to learn.

If you think there are any other misconceptions one should adress, post a comment.

EDIT: Adding some suggestions:

Aspies are violent

Perhaps one of the most infuriating stereotypes is that of the violent aspie. We apparently murder someone at the drop of a hat, we are cold and unemotional, kicks and punches are the only language we understand. Well, somewhat needless to say, it has no basis in reality. It’s another one of those things the media does in their quest of profit.


4 Responses to “Our Aspies Are Different”

  1. Isaac Says:

    It’s not only about being free in terms of money, since getting such a diagnosis might be expensive in time. This is the case of Spain, where health care is for free but with annoying waiting lists. Other factor is the awareness of practitioners about AS, since it was widely known very lately. Both factors makes very hard to get diagnosed in Spain.

  2. procrastinationembodied Says:

    Ah yes, both good points.

  3. roy Says:

    Can an Aspie love or feel love?

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