Thursday, October 2, 2008

Article: Positive Traits of Asperger's Syndrome

I've been thinking about doing a post on the positive traits of aspergers syndrome for a while now because sometimes it's all too easy to focus on only the negative aspects. So, I did a quick search to see if there was anything I'd missed in my list and I found this article - it's better than what I would have written, so I've linked it below;

Positive Traits of Asperger's Syndrome
Beneficial Characteristics Associated with “Autism Lite”
© Jennifer Copley
Aug 15, 2008

I'd like to have seen a bit more detail in the areas of intelligence, special interest and focus but otherwise I don't really have a lot of comments to add on the article since I feel that it's very good.


Catana said...

Unfortunately, I can't agree with you. I came across this article some time back and found that it was a mass of brand new stereotypes, based on her misunderstanding of the traits, and probably her having no more knowledge of Asperger's than having read the DSM. If you're interested in my analysis of this garbage, the link to my blog post is:

Asperger's still needs to be approached in a way that shows its more positive aspects, but the suite101 article definitely isn't it.

Dennis Sanders said...

Good post, Gavin. I placed it on my blog as well:

Gavin Bollard said...

You've made a good point and I particularly like your heading "A Stereotype is a Stereotype is a Stereotype".

There is certainly a danger that the article could create a stereotypical "positive" view of Aspergers.

I hope not.

The sorts of things that the article cites are all positives which can present themselves in one way or another in individuals with Aspergers. They are not necessarily all present and their strength varies considerably from but are present in varying degrees from one individual to another.

I can however relate to many of them. I rarely play political games, am mostly honest and am pretty non-judgemental.

I do however know some aspies who are very judgemental. In particular, I know that some aspies with religion as a special interest can be judgemental of people from other religions.

No article, including those found on this site, should ever be taken as a literal truth that applies in all situations.

Thanks for your insightful comments.

Khelben said...

I experienced the article interesting.

Nachtus01 said...

I have Aspergers, and I found this article was incredibly least for me.
If you were to ask most of people I know, this article is the way they would describe me, for the most part. I personally don't fit in the exercise portion of the article. While I am not unfit, I don't care for sports at all, be it individual or team minded.
I have to say that I agree with Catana, although, at the same time, I don't think this is something that is avoidable. Stereotypes are inevitable even amongst most aspies. Even Catana does it in her article, I'll quote the passage, "In some ways, these articles are laughable, as long as you ignore that they will be taken as factual by the casual reader."
In here, your stereotype was created by assuming that, if one is a casual reader, that one will automatically assume that the article is correct.
In reality, not every casual reader will accept the article as gospel, but some will.
I think we concern ourselves a little too much with stereotyping.
Yes it can be a bad thing, especially if too much credance is given to them.
I think instead, it would be better to "train people" to use stereotypes properly.
For example, when I see a group of people sitting in the park, and all of them are wearing leathers pants, and are sporting brightly dye-colored hair, have Mohawks or other, (what I consider strange), haircuts, and spike collars or bracelets, I think, "ok, these are Punk-rockers".
I think about the general consensus about punk rockers, and realize that most people believe that, 1) They are disrespectful, 2) They abuse drugs 3) They are leeches who don't/won't get jobs.
Here is where proper training comes in, while some, if not all of these things apply to the general punk rocker population, not all these things applies to all the punk rocker population.
So now I know I can approach this group knowing that, at least 1 of them, might be disrespectful, and at least one might be on drugs, and at least one might be a lazy leech, OR they ALL [might be those things, or any combination. In the end, it allows me to plan for a coarse of action should one of them be disrespectful, or offer me drugs, or try to beg me for money. I also may choose to have nothing to do with them just to avoid it, which might very well rob me a future friend who is respectful, drug-free and has a job and just dresses differently than I would and has a different taste in music.
In the end, if you want to stop people from stereotyping, you have to stop giving them the information that they will stereotype with.
This means the information about how smart, honest, or reliable we are. It also includes the "flip side of the coin". The stuff about how social inept we can be. Or the intense focus we can have that makes it seem like we are ignoring you. the list goes on an on, no matter whether you are talking about good thing or bad things.
I say, stereotype away. If you use it right, there wont be any issues. Use it wrong, and I'll know whether your a true friend by the way you treat me, not by how you stereotype me.

Jennifer said...

Hi Gavin,

Thanks for posting the article link, and you're right, it could have benefited from more in-depth coverage of intelligence, special interests, and focus, but unfortunately I was constrained by word count limits so I couldn't go as in-depth as I'd have liked.

I'm on the continuum and I've taught AS students, lived with AS roommates, and worked at the library where a high proportion of the "regulars" are Aspies. I wrote the article because there is so much negative information online, and yet the kids I taught and the people I've lived with and worked with have so many positive traits in common that haven't been getting much press, though there is some recognition of the positive side of AS in the new "Aspie criteria."

I worry that people with AS, particularly young people whose sense of self is still quite flexible, are being bombarded with information about a set of negative traits, and that such information could set up self-fulfilling prophesies. For example, an Aspie with a good social life might start questioning his social interactions or how he is perceived by others unnecessarily, or an individual who is not particularly clumsy may become anxious about physical movement and become clumsy as a result. And then there is the more general risk that reading so many bleak overviews may cause some people to become depressed or just give up.

I think Aspergers' is a mixed bag - it can certainly make high school hellish, but I've seen a lot of positives in childhood and adulthood, and plenty of AS people that I know have fulfilling relationships, solid friendships, good career achievements, and athletic ability or fitness interests (I've met a number of AS martial artists and body builders for example), contrary to the dire predictions indicated by much of what's written online.

Not everyone will manifest common positive or negative traits of a given condition, but reading about common positive traits does no harm because if someone adopts a positive trait that they didn't have before after reading about it, it's not likely to adversely affect that person's life. And given the overwhelming negativity of much of the autistic spectrum coverage, I've decided to focus on the positive in the interests of balance.

Daniel E said...

When I was diagnosed with AS, I had to decide how I'd use the diagnosis. I could have chosen to use it as an excuse for my past (and future) behaviour, but instead, I chose to use it as a tool for improvement.

Not every trait of AS applies to me, but what I've done is go through them all and identify those that do apply, how they cause problems for me, and what I can do about it to turn them from negatives into positives.

This is definitely a work-in-progress, but I've found it's helped me a lot.