Life on the Spectrum

Archive for October, 2013

Accentuate the Positive

When a new person asks one of us Aspies to describe Asperger’s Syndrome, we usually say something about having difficulties with social skills. We may use words like “socially awkward” or “social disability” or “having problems in social situations.” We may mention sensory issues, like having hypersensitive hearing or not being able to wear certain fabrics or eat certain types of foods because of the texture. If we’re being really elaborate, we might also include motor skills difficulties or clumsiness.

Why don’t we ever talk about the positive things? Many of us are hyperlexic. That means we’re very good with words. We might have huge vocabularies. Many of us are good writers. There’s also a well-earned stereotype of Aspies being computer nerds. There are many Aspies who work in the computer industry. There are also lots of us in the more traditional sciences. Some of us are math geniuses.

Why don’t we ever say, when asked about Asperger’s, “It means I’m good with words. I have a huge vocabulary. I also have some problems with social skills and sensory issues.” Why do we always list the negatives and never the positives?

I’m sure if we focused only on the positives people wouldn’t understand what Asperger’s is. They wouldn’t comprehend the very real challenges that people with Asperger’s face in social situations or the problems that we have in environments that trigger our sensory defensiveness. No one is going to say that being a math genius or a computer nerd or a writer with a huge vocabulary is a disability. And of course, if you’re looking for help, you’re going to have to tell people why you need help.

I’m not saying we should deny that we have challenges. But why should our challenges be all we ever talk about? Why don’t we ever talk about the positives? Yes, I can be very awkward in social situations. I can also sit down and explain complex subjects in terms that are simple for everyday people to understand. Yes, I have such sensitive hearing that sounds that don’t bother other people can send me running from the room with my hands over my ears. I can also write some great stories and blog posts. Yes, I am clumsy enough to trip over thin air. I also happen to be a good speaker.

Let’s focus a bit more on the positives, shall we?