It's a common misconception that aspies dislike social contact. In fact, I've read somewhere that a major difference between "autism" and "aspergers" is that autistic children desperately want to have friends (and social contact) but can't while children with aspergers have better social skills but no interest in making friends. Of course, I might have this round the wrong way.
Either way, it's totally wrong.
In the first instance, aspergers is part of the autism spectum. They're "clinically identical" conditions, so there is no difference. Secondly, I've met plenty of people on the spectrum and with various labels, many of who lamented the fact that they crave friendship but have difficulty establishing/maintaining one.
Finally, and in my opinion, worst of all, these kinds of statements commit the "sin" of ignoring the individual.
Everyone on the spectrum is different regardless of their diagnosis. Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, feelings and behaviour. We are all individuals and no label will ever change that.
All Stigmas have a basis in Reality
I think that it's only fair to say that all stigmas and stereotypes have some sort of basis in reality, however tenuous. That isn't to say that aspies don't "want" social contact but that sometimes their behavior makes it seem so.
Have a look at this dilbert cartoon which appeared on my calendar recently. This is me. It's very much me. In fact, I was so enthused by this cartoon that it now adorns the wall in my office.
I'm always one of the first people into the office and I'll generally hurry down to my cubicle to start my day in relative solitude. Even when I'm not the first one in, my colleagues know not to expect many words from me until I'm settled - certainly, very few of my morning ramblings are coherent.
Despite appearances, I do enjoy the company of my work colleagues. They're generally nice, interesting and caring people. I just have to settle myself in solitude first before I go out to talk.
15 Minutes of Fame
I tend to get into work at about 6.30am but it's not until about 9am that I go and get a morning coffee. It's then that the most social part of my day begins. That's right, it really does take me about 2.5 hours to get myself together.
For about 15 minutes in the coffee room at work, I wear my "social Gavin" hat. Being in IT, means that I need to have a good feel for not only system performance but also user tolerance. I'll talk about social things but will also touch on systems things. I'll talk about my day and my problems and will ask people about theirs. If there's any system issues which are causing massive grief, then I'll hear about them in this "15 minutes of fame". It gives me a better starting point for the days activities and draws my focus to the needs of the users.
Of course, by the end of 15 minutes, I'm often quite tired and socially worn out, so I go back to my office to work on the myriad of problems I've discovered - and to calm down from social overload. Depending on the degree of difficulty with the problems, I'll often repeat the 15 minutes of fame towards the end of lunchtime.
From what I gather, this is quite different from the way that neurotypical people work.
And the point is...
I guess the main points of this post are;
- Those of us with aspergers need to be mindful of the sorts of inferences which can be projected from our behaviour and take care to not become too reclusive.
- One or two 15 minute intervals of social contact per day, is often all that is required to follow the pulse of an organisation.
- It usually doesn't matter how you work, just so long as you get the job done.