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Asperger’s Syndrome

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Although there is no single feature that all people with Asperger’s Syndrome share, difficulties with social behavior are nearly universal and are one of the most important defining criteria. People with Asperger’s Syndrome lack the natural ability to see the subtexts of social interaction, and may lack the ability to communicate their own emotional state, resulting in well-meaning remarks that may offend, or finding it hard to know what is "acceptable". The unwritten rules of social behavior that mystify so many with AS have been termed the "hidden curriculum".[20] People with AS must learn these social skills intellectually through seemingly contrived, dry, math-like logic rather than intuitively through normal emotional interaction.[21]

this is SO me, it's scary! but why is it a bad thing?

I mean I USED to think it was a bad thing, until I read about Roark and Rearden, who were so much like me socially, and realized that I don't HAVE to be a social person in order to be normal....

I recently came across this definition of it, and I think i have this syndrome. so what? should I worry? am I like that alcoholist who says "so what" if I drink?

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David:

I think he's asking two separate sets of questions, and beginning to let his fears get the better of him.

Marty:

1) How real and valid is this whole idea?

I most certainly sympathise with questioning it outright. I have often thought if the illness is being grieviously overascribed to people as a means to delegitimising the successes that geeks and nerds have had from the 80's onward. It may well be real, just as ADHD is real, but I think perhaps it is similarly nowhere near as prevalent as it is made out to be and is being abused to serve sociopolitical ends. This is just purely my own musings given the increase in mentions of it ever since geeks started getting glowing headlines.

2) Do I have it and if so, what's my prognosis and what can I do about it?

First, it is silly to try to self-diagnose based on some gleanings from webpages. If your thinking and feelings are troubling you enough to interfere with your quality of life, then go see a psychologist. The only problem is that how competent that many mental health experts and practitioners are is open to debate. I can't say much other than see if Dr Hurd or Dr Kenner have anything to say or can help in somewhere (Dr Hurd allows some consultation by email, IIRC), and that (I think) those good doctors have had a few good words to say about followers of the Cognitive Therapy School in general (one name that comes to mind is Dr Aaron Beck, its founder). Also, Dr Locke was a practicing psychologist before he switched to business motivation studies, so he may also have material in his archives or other publications available.

Second, it doesn't seem to be bothering Bill Gates any, being successful and a married father. If you don't have it, fine whatever, get on with your life. If you do, evidently it is nicely manageable and if anything you can use it to your advantage. Of course, this is NOT a substitute for proper medical advice, I am just saying that I highly doubt you have anything to get all worked up about.

Cheers, mate!

JJM

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Oh yes, Asperger's Syndrome. Some clown once tried to suggest that I'd got that. I've had a look into the methodology of how they diagnose this syndrome and I found it very fishy. This is merely my take on the subject.

The first alarm bell is the hint that social skills are something you're either born with or something you learn automatically, which isn't true. I don't think there is such a thing as intuition. In humans, communication and social behaviour is something you learn at an early age and use so often to the point where it becomes almost "automatic" (and therefore mistaken for as being instinctive). I don't know how old you are, but as an anology, compare how awkwardly you handled a car while you were learning to drive compared to how "automatically" you handled it after ten years of driving experience.

The second alarm bell, I believe Dr Hurd sounded in an article a few years ago; modern psychology were trying to create a false dichotomy between being "social" and being "intellectual". No prizes for guessing which one they though was superior, but the point is that the dichotomy is nonsense.

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People with Asperger’s Syndrome lack the natural ability to see the subtexts of social interaction, and may lack the ability to communicate their own emotional state, resulting in well-meaning remarks that may offend, or finding it hard to know what is "acceptable".
There's a difference between literally not being able to understand connotations and implications, and a disinterest in being a slave to the dictatorship of incalculable inferences. In ordinary conversation, if someone asks "Do you know where the nearest gas station is?" and you then give the person instructions to the gas station, you aren't answering the question they asked -- the literal answer is either "Yes" or "No". If you don't interpret the question literally, but instead operate under the "cooperative principle" by providing the answer to the underlying question -- "Where is the nearest gas station?" -- then you are cognitively normal. If you literally cannot understand the fact that a person asking this question is not curious about the level of knowledge and does not just want a yes/no answer, then maybe you should see a doctor (literally, "Go see a doctor"). So, if you understand the intent of the question and feel like answering "Yes" just to get tour interrogator to ask questions more literally, you're just being snarky but not autistic.

BTW, demanding empathy for a person's underlying question and/or feelings is politically incorrect because it's anti-male sexism. It's well documented that (statistically speaking -- somebody make sure the dragon lady doesn't get after me) women tend to talk more indirectly, relying on you to guess what they have in mind and to empathize with their goals.

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Oh, thank goodness! I thought I had that syndrome! they go on to describe it: if you have "narrow" interests, (in other words, if you like buildings, and know every little detail about it, and remember everything ever said about architecture, but are completely ignorent when it comes to psychology, - you might have that syndrome.

or if you don't simply understand what people want from "body language" rather than words

etc. etc. oh, yeah, if you are more attached to things than you are to people... (I'm embarresed to say, that sometimes I am that)

I'm not a "people" person, is that bad? why would this need to be "cured"? are pshychologists not getting enough patience, that they need more sheeple to diagnose?

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I'm not a "people" person, is that bad? why would this need to be "cured"? are psychologists not getting enough patience, that they need more sheeple to diagnose?

I don't think assuming there's a massive psychological conspiracy will be fruitful at this point. If you actually have the syndrome, any licensed psychologist could probably diagnose you and make a professional recommendation about further treatment.

It's "bad" to not be a "people person" when it decreases your ability to pursue your goals and be happy. It's up to you to decide if you'd benefit from an improvement in your social skills--and how to go about doing that, whether it means seeing a psychologist or lightening up a bit and throwing yourself into some uncomfortable situations.

EDIT: I forgot to answer one of your questions. Most psychologists have lots of "patience," because if they didn't they wouldn't retain many clients.

Edited by BrassDragon
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It's well documented that (statistically speaking -- somebody make sure the dragon lady doesn't get after me) women tend to talk more indirectly, relying on you to guess what they have in mind and to empathize with their goals.

It is? Where? Not that I'd be shocked or anything. Speaking obliquely is a social gambit and women tend (tend, note you) to excell at that just from practice because it's not enough to get someone to do what you want them to do . . . they have to be happy to do what you want them to do. So you have to address them in an appealling manner, which generally means not approaching whatever it is head-on.

It may indeed be problematic if you are unaware that there are secondary and tertiary consequences of certain approaches . . . yeah, you got what you wanted but now the person is peeved or disgusted with you.

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It is? Where?
This is Robin Lakoff's schtick, which she started selling in the mid 70's in Language and Woman's Place, and now there's a whole industry of people who care about that stuff (Deborah Tannen, Jennifer Coates, Penny Eckert, Sally McConnel-Ginet, Norma Mendoza-Denton). At the time I thought "Come on, get real", but then I started to notice that many women do have rising (question) intonation, add on "don't you think", or "would it be okay...". I've seen a tight correlation among women I know where the more coaxing, nurturing types have a lot more of the wouldn't-you, question intonation for assertions, affirmation-seeking methods of talking, and the assertive, "this is right, that is wrong" types talk like, well, me. Falling intonation even for questions.
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I recently came across this definition of it, and I think i have this syndrome. so what? should I worry? am I like that alcoholist who says "so what" if I drink?

I have a friend who has asperger's, and he's normal enough. It's sort of a very mild case of autism, really-- once in a while he'll make a really inappropriate, though factual, comment, and though he doesn't know it when it comes out of his mouth, he can sort of catch the drift after the fact that he's somehow gone a little too far. He also has a creeped-out dislike of human contact (shaking hands, people touching or bumping into him). Nothing to worry about, really, but aspergers people do tend to come off as either abrasive or misanthropic.

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I have Asperger's (extensive psychological testing was done at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) and I make do socially. I don't tend to go out and meet new people, but I have a few friends and I'm both comfortable and happy with that. I tend to hyperfocus on things (World of Warcraft among others), but all it takes is a little nudge (dude, you've been at that for a while) to get me headed in more productive directions where that very same focus can give me an edge.

*nutshell* Like most things, Asperger's isn't the end of the world and you'll adapt to it with time, and if you have it you've probably done a great deal of adapting already.

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I've seen a tight correlation among women I know where the more coaxing, nurturing types have a lot more of the wouldn't-you, question intonation for assertions, affirmation-seeking methods of talking, and the assertive, "this is right, that is wrong" types talk like, well, me. Falling intonation even for questions.

With me, it depends on who I'm talking to and why, although not always on a conscious level.

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I have a friend who has asperger's, and he's normal enough. It's sort of a very mild case of autism, really-- once in a while he'll make a really inappropriate, though factual, comment, and though he doesn't know it when it comes out of his mouth, he can sort of catch the drift after the fact that he's somehow gone a little too far.

I have a sibling with Asperger's Syndrome and he also has this problem. In addition, he also sometimes has difficulty identifying the more important aspects of the tasks if you give him a series of instructions or identifying the essential arguments in an essay. These are problems concerning epistemology. Perhaps it would be interesting for Objectivists to discuss what challenges individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may face during concept formation.

Edited by DarkWaters
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Perhaps it would be interesting for Objectivists to discuss what challenges individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may face during concept formation.

I'd be interested in how epistemological problems could lead to emotional difficulty through misidentification of the importance of various experiences.

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First, if no one has it, I'd like to recommend the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I costs $70, but is a wealth of information and includes sections on each disorder for differential diagnosis which really helps to pinpoint what disorder is what.

Second, Hark Readen and Howard Roark are not examples of mental disorders. Nothing in their behaviour points to any aspect of Aspergers that I could find.

Criterion A: ...severe and sustained impairment in social interaction. (at least 2 of the following)

1. marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviours such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures 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 acheivements with other people

4. Lack of social or emotional reciprocity

Criterion B: Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities (at least 1 of the following)

1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal in intensity or focus.

2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.

3. sterotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms

4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

Criterion C: The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important area of functioning.

I find nothing in any of this that relates to Roark or Rearden in any way. Being socially awkward is not a clinical disorder, and I don't recall anything hinting at this in either of the two characters. And it is a simple fact that social interaction is easier and smoother - more spontaneous - with those that we can relate to who share something in common with us (be that values, interests, an outlook on life etc) than it is with those that are not like us, or the opposite to us, or our outright enemy.

Roark and Rearden responded in totally normal ways to those that they valued that they shared something with. A person with Aspergers has difficulty in either situation, and is incapable in severe cases. They fail to match any of the clinical criterion I copied from the book.

I am not a psychologist and I do not know if I have encountered one with this disorder (although some contenders come to mind) but I believe there is more to this disorder than the inability to make chit-chat at the company Christmas party.

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Second, Hark Readen and Howard Roark are not examples of mental disorders. Nothing in their behaviour points to any aspect of Aspergers that I could find.

They might have VERY mild cases, but I doubt it. Both are brutally honest in social situations, past what many would consider polite, and both seem trouble understanding why people act the way they do in some social interactions. Rearden is extremely out of place at a party and I doubt very much that he has any idea why anybody enjoys them. Both also have focal interests, Architecture and Metalurgy. The time that they spend on these interests is beyond the norm, but not unhealthy in any way that I can see.

Roark and Rearden responded in totally normal ways to those that they valued that they shared something with. A person with Aspergers has difficulty in either situation, and is incapable in severe cases.

It is much easier for someone with Aspergers to socialize if they are either in small groups or talking about their focal interest, but they do seem to act much more naturally with each other than would be expected.

It would be more accurate to say thay Rearden and Roark act superficially like someone with a very mild case of Aspergers, but without much of the deficits.

I am not a psychologist and I do not know if I have encountered one with this disorder (although some contenders come to mind) but I believe there is more to this disorder than the inability to make chit-chat at the company Christmas party.

Here's a little info on the genetic portion of Asperger's (it's a mild form of Autism, which the article points out about 2/3s of the way down) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17630334/wid/11915773?GT1=9145 .

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It would be more accurate to say thay Rearden and Roark act superficially like someone with a very mild case of Aspergers, but without much of the deficits.
"Superficially" only. There's a huge difference between someone who choose to do something and someone who cannot help but do it, because of some mental problem.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Whether Asperger is a 'disorder'/'syndrome' or not depends on the context. If almost everyone had Asperger those without Asperger would need a psychologist :lol:

I rather see it as a trait that allows you to decide for yourself how much you want to engage in social interaction. That comes at the cost of having to think which makes interaction more difficult.

A good comparison would be that if one does not have the ability to feel hungry he will have to make up his diet plan with much more thought. He has no (natural) interest in eating but he knows of the negative consequences of not eating enough.

While you would have a harder time to nurture yourself you have the control. Your genetic program on the other hand would tell you to get lots of sugar, fat and salt because that was scarce in the Savannah.

In a social context with today's technology the actual need for social interaction is low. That's the reason why for example in Silicon Valley the cases of Asperger spiked. In such environments it is a trait not to get distracted by other things. Very good article about that: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html

I have a sibling with Asperger's Syndrome and he also has this problem. In addition, he also sometimes has difficulty identifying the more important aspects of the tasks if you give him a series of instructions or identifying the essential arguments in an essay. These are problems concerning epistemology.

Could you elaborate that example, why do you think that these are problems concerning epistemology?

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