The Individual and Asperger's Syndrome
Asperger's Syndrome is a developmental disorder that is on the autistic spectrum. It is a form, if you will, of autism.
Every person with Asperger's Syndrome, (AS) is a person, not a syndrome or disorder or group of traits of symptoms. All that we are is not defined or explained by the fact that we have Asperger's Syndrome.
Each one of us is an individual. Often misunderstood, but, individual nonetheless.
The ways in which As manifests in our communication, ways of thinking, ways of relating, daily interactions, or effects our wants, needs, desires, goals, talents, hopes and/or dreams are also highly individual.
Though there are common threads of experience we cannot all be accurately lumped into one stereotypically-described group. There is also the reality that there are stark differences in the manifestation of Asperger's between males and females. So much so, too many females are going undiagnosed because the professionals, testers (evaluators - those who makes these assessments) are blinded to what they are looking for. They (many of them, whether they know or not) look for what they've seen more often than not, in males, and are all-too-quick to try to eliminate the reality and validity of Asperger's in adults and particularily women based upon arbitrary biases as to what they think Asperger's must present like.
A common myth, for example is that if one has Asperger's Syndrome, he/she cannot possess empathy. I know that I have empathy often. I sometimes don't when others think I should but then there are all the other times and situations when I do know it and feel it. There may be some descrepancy at times between my knowing I have and feel empathy and my expressing it. Also noteworthy here is the fact that even when I do express it, often, I don't express it in the same way that most Neuro-Typicals (NT's) might.
I have been asked in the past by a professional if I really thought I had Asperger's because I can think and I can feel. Okay, so, what does that have to do with anything? Where in the criteria for Asperger's Syndrome does it say that we can't or don't think and feel? A few years ago, in a group therapy situation, a professional kept badgering me about whether or not I was feeling empathatic or not. I sort of shut down under all the questions and pressure and other 7 people sitting there staring at me. However, in hindsight now, I realize that what I was feeling inside wasn't known to this professional or the members of that group because I didn't know how to express it.
So, my point here, based upon experiences like these is that it is dangerous and unfair to think or conclude that someone with Asperger's doesn't feel a certain thing because it isn't being expressed in an NT recognizable way, or expressed at all. This is where I think the biased stereotypical way in which professionals (and others) can lump us all together.
By the way, whether you are NT or have AS, you cannot know what is in someone's mind or heart if it's not shared with your or communicated to you. Please be careful about reading the definition of Asperger's and then thinking that each and every one of us with AS is exactly like that. It's just not the case.
It is this type of ignorance, or focus on one biased-area of lack of understanding at a time, that negates all that As is in my life and in the lives of many.
Who I am and how I am is not 100% defined by having Asperger's.
Many of us, particularly those of us diagnosed as adults have become quite adept at putting forth some communication and affect that we have learned (usually the hard way) is what is called for in certain situations in a rote and sometimes mechanical-seeming way.
It is also important to note that, for example, in any relational interaction it is not always the person with Asperger's that is off or wrong or missing the point. Relatives, friends, and significant others have to keep this in mind. Sometimes when communication and things go astray in relating it can be a lack of understanding or inter-personal skill of an NT, it's not always an "asperger" thing when communication gets difficult or two people can't seem to get along.
How each indivdual person diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome is in the world, or relates to the NT world is a function of many things he/she has experienced in life. Asperger's is impacting in many ways that are not all the same for every aspie.
In order to understand us better it is vital that you look at the individual you know with Asperger's and put forth an effort to understand who he/she is, then who she/is in relation to having AS without lumping him/her into this stereotypical category of diagnositc traits.
© Ms. A.J. Mahari 2005