Function Versus Dysfunction and Asperger’s Syndrome
The very fact that Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is largely described and defined as being (among other things) an apparently “inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals” is an enigmatic axiom that deduces in a rather disjointed and distorted way that, essentially, there is only one way to be in this world.
Why is that?
So much of who we are is defined and judged upon what we do or what we don’t do and not who we are at all. There seems to be an ever-growing list of disorders that suggest to me most everyone has “something”.
What does it mean to be functional?
Generally, in Neuro-Typical (NT) speak to be functional is to fulfill a specific occupation or role the way that some majority does and decrees it should be fulfilled which is fine if you are NT.
Being functional seems to also mean to have or perform a function that is judged as worthy, desirable, normal often made more valid (apparently) by how much one is rewarded monetarily for performance of said function.
Function also is defined by judged capacity to do certain expected things in some pre-determined and pre-expected ways. For many, especially those who are NT, it seems to me that function and the doing of said function(s) is (are) all tied into a prima facie raison d’etre. For most with Asperger’s being is raison d’etre enough, notwithstanding the often absent patently unquestionably visible apparent self-explanatory intractable impetus to do as everyone else supposedly does.
Asperger’s Syndrome is defined by professionals as being all about “dysfunction” and “impairments” by those who are Neuro-Typical. I don’t think any one of us with AS feels this way inside as long as we don’t allow this NT subjective evaluation to condemn our sense of self, self-worth, and way of being in the world.
When you consider the following definition of Asperger’s Syndrome as outlined in the DSM-IV ask yourself what is wrong with what is described below if you don’t impose your own way of being, your own expectations of others and your own judgment upon it. My point being that what is being described below is fact (as it varies for those diagnosed with AS) and that it is merely a different way of being in the world until you impose your different ways of being or you ascribe your way of being (for example the NT way of being in the world) as being the right way to be, to function, interact, relate, and act.
299.80 Asperger’s Disorder
Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
- 1. marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
- 2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
- 3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people(e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
- 4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
- 1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted
patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
- 2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals
- 3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
- 4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
Not everyone is wired the same way. Not everyone is supposed to be the same. Not everyone has the same values or goals or objectives. Not everyone is caught up in the race of all it means to be living life.
Some, like many with Asperger’s, know what it means to be much more fully aware and involved in what life is – not the living of life, but the experience of being in life.
Executive Dysfunction – Is It Really The Heart of Aspie Dysfunction?
In the video below I talk about my experience with executive dysfunction and my philosophy about that.
I have come to recognize this and to absolutely value this about my own experience in my life. Experience that is interwoven abundantly into the tapestry that is how I am, who I am, and why I am as I am. This is functional and acceptable to me. I am not Asperger’s Syndrome. I am not just a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. I am who I am meant to be just the way I am Asperger’s and all.
Being in life does not require any judgment or evaluation of how one functions – what is determined to be the “ideal” in terms of functioning is to most with AS an infringing invading and rather foreign and most unnecessary construct of the masses.
Therefore, is an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome failing to function or is he or she functioning fully according to his or her brain hard-wiring and objectives? Should this be judged? Were we all ever really meant to be the same? I think not. Can those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome evaluate the merits of being Neuro-Typical any more accurately than those who are Neuro-Typical can evaluate the merits and worth of having AS? I think not. I know that what I know about being NT is limited and I don’t have the same experience of life or of living life that NT’s do; just as NT’s do not know the experience of having AS. We need to value every individual for being who he/she is as he/she is whether he/she has AS or is NT. We need not judge what we perceive or some have sought to define as each other’s ways of functioning
The fact is that it is judged daily by those, mostly NT who have a different mind-set, different objectives and have many social and relational values and desires that they hold in common. Such is not always the case with those with AS. In my own experience, I definitely only know one way to get anything done, that is the way that I do things according to what is “normal” and actually “functional” for me. My routine, how I do things or the things I don’t do or have interest in doing are only dysfunctional to those who are different from me, those who are NT and don’t have Asperger’s. It could just as easily be argued from an Asperger point of view that all that makes the NT world or planet spin is dysfunctional.
Add into this albeit arbitrary discourse at present that in the fullest extent of what it means to be engaged in life, to “be” a “being” in life is, I believe, grasped more deeply and fully by those with AS than it may be for most who are NT. NT’s are fully engaged in living this life as opposed to being in this life.
This difference, while it might seem irrelevant is actually the very cornerstone upon which function and dysfunction are defined by the masses or mental health professionals.
The very ways in which differences between what is labeled functional versus what is labeled dysfunctional are defined and applied are arbitrary and designed, for some reason that is beyond me, to attempt to ensure a defined and adhered to “sameness” that defies logic anyway.
The difference between functional and dysfunctional in many ways is truly in the eye of the beholder. It is in the mind of he/she who would judge. The fact is that we still, as a world, do not readily accept difference without judging it.
If thing or person A is different from thing or person B, who gets to decide which one is better, more desirable, to be more valued than the other?
I have suffered a lot and been very hard on myself with dire emotional consequences for having Asperger’s and subsequently from the negative feelings I have associated with all that is defined to mean from the outside.
If I hadn’t worked it through I’d still believe I was weird, not normal, inferior, less than, stupid, useless, lacking, and I’d still be tearing myself down and labeling the way that I do function as “not good enough”.
I now know that having Asperger’s, is for me, very much about being free of so much that ties NT’s to the “party line” of what life, let alone living life is “supposed” to look like and be about.
The more I bought into the judgment of others — mainly from my family of origin’s expectations of me growing up that I internalized as devaluing of who I was and that I have carried as internalized shame for so many years — the more I was unable to function in what functioning is and looks like to me and for me.
For those with Asperger’s Syndrome if you just accept that you are “dysfunctional” without challenging this it can lead to a very poor self image, very low self-esteem and endless pain and inner-turmoil that can make relating to those on planet NT even more complicated than it may already be for you.
Those with Asperger’s Syndrome function as they are meant to just as do those who are Neuro-Typical. A simple conclusion that circumvents the need to judge, compare, or label one dysfunctional and the other functional. We can learn to understand each other and to celebrate even our most complicated differences.
© Ms. A.J. Mahari June 27, 2005 – additions February 6, 2009 – all rights reserved.