The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Asperger’s Syndrome widely misunderstood

One of the most important things people should know about Asperger’s Syndrome (A.S.) is that it does not go away. What this means is that, regardless of how much social skills training I do or education I receive, the stigma of people looking at me, seeing me as weird, etc. does not go away either. The tendency is for people to react viscerally to things I do. For instance, if I apply for a job and my vocal tone is flat or I don’t smile, I don’t get the job.

With dating, it is often said that these judgments are made at a subconscious level, but I feel that the issues are too conscious. How does one decide to get close to someone? At some level, it does involve assumptions about how comfortable one feels with another person.

This to some degree touches on issues of “us” and “them.” Unlike some other groups that can blend in or whose traits have become desirable, with A.S., one is for the most part a “marked person.” I have tried very hard to change the nature of that “marking”, but it remains.

It is not that people don’t have problems with labels. Of course, they do. It is broadly a problem that difference scares and difference that involves violation of unspoken social rules scares more. The saddest thing is that rejection, harassment and isolation of an aspie hurts them more than it would hurt other people. This is because the aspie neurological system is more sensitive to everything. It might hurt a normal person (aspies call them “neurotypical”), but they usually have more resources to address this. The difficulty is that aspies have all these problems that stay with

them, but they are less able to address them.

Also, contrary to what popular belief, aspies are guileless. This means that all of the things they intentionally do are good, and what they do that is wrong or offensive is a neurological accident. All too often, aspies, including myself, are judged badly because others react as if aspies

have intentionally done something


However, as in so many things that American society does, the paradigm is wrong. Aspies have a moral compass that blocks them from intentionally hurting others. It has probably been my one solace to prevent myself from hurting others when I get too angry. My psychotherapist used to call this “autistic rage,” which it is, but I like to think of this anger as a “dream


As a matter of social justice, other human beings need to look at how difficult it is to live with A.S. Do they understand how hard it is to learn social rules and cues cognitively? Do they understand how frustrating it is to be, for instance, mistreated for years?

All too often, society likes to say that aspies do not have empathy. Perhaps that is true if one refers to empathy as a social process. I would argue, however, that neurotypical people have a tendency to lack moral empathy. I would rather do things wrong unintentionally than do things wrong out of evil. In human history, far more wrong has been done out of evil.

Everyone misinterprets social cues to some extent. When one considers how many problems are confusions are caused by social miscommunication, I begin to think that direct communication might be better.

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