More and more people are being diagnosed with high-functioning autism aka Asperger’s syndrome. Some might see such a diagnosis as a confirmation that something is wrong. After meeting my fair share of people with Asperger’s I however doubt that they are actually the problem. I think it might be the rest of us that are falling behind.
Let me take some examples.
One trait that seems to me to be characteristic of Asperger’s is that you tend to speak the truth and stand by what you know is right. That is obviously quite problematic if the rest of us are used to manipulating and telling the occasional lie. But who is really the problem in this situation?
Another distinctive feature is that people with Asperger’s often have a special interest that they become somewhat obsessed with. That becomes a problem if one is expected to be a generalist who knows a little about a many things. But is the problem really that too many of us are experts? Or are perhaps too many of us talking too much about things we actually know nothing about?
People with Asperger’s often need to consciously learn behaviors and reactions in social situations.
“Now he raised his eyebrows in that way, which usually means that he is skeptical about what I said. An appropriate response to that is that I … ”
The rest of us do much of that subconsciously. We react to stimuli automatically. It can be a gift not to have to think about such things all the time, but is it really?
The rest of us often react to stimuli that we have not consciously perceived and provide a response that we are unaware of giving. We stored that response a long time ago, and many times it is not up to par. In the worst case scenario we continuously and unconsciously play back unsuitable responses without ever understanding that they are automated in us.
What is really more problematic? Is it to be unaware of one’s reactions, or is it having to deal with social interaction at the conscious level, which opens the possibility to consciously adjust reactions based on what you learn?
We often forget that we live in an ongoing evolutionary process. Since changes take place in a reasonably manageable pace we imagine that things on the whole will remain as they are now. We imagine that what is considered normal today will always be regarded as such. That is obviously wrong. Much of what is considered normal today will be regarded as completely backward tomorrow.
It must be quite tricky to have Asperger’s when everyone else is behaving in the backward manner that the rest of us often do. Then it may be worthwhile to consider who is really the issue. If those with Asperger’s are on the next evolutionary step, the rest of us could be the problematic evolutionary laggards.
Photo: Just let it be by Brigitte goes RAWR!!! on Flickrby