- Disabilities & the Disabled
How People With Asperger's Should Be Treated
Asperger's Syndrome is a unique disability in that while the person who has this disorder may look "normal", his social and communication skills are crippled.
Because the 'aspie" suffers from traits such as a difficulty in finding friends and relationships, being obsessed with different topics to the exclusion of anything else, and saying inappropriate things without knowing they are inappropriate, there's a tendency for him to be misunderstood by people and to annoy them due to his idiosyncratic actions, as they choose to be intolerant even though the aspie often cannot help what he or she does.
I know this is so because I am one of the 20 million folks with Asperger's worldwide, suffering from individuals not tolerating me and my unintentional actions for much of my life and not liking me for something I can't help.
I recently got the idea to list how folks with AS - short for Asperger's - should be treated as well as strategies for how to tolerate people with this developmental disability. As aspies can be difficult to interact with because they seem so clueless in their behavior, I understand that what I'm about to suggest may not be easy to implement.
While no one's proposing any special treatment here, following these tips will go a long way toward the AS sufferer feeling better about himself - or herself - as loneliness and depression are common side effects in this population.
So here are five suggestions on how those who are aspies should be treated by those who are not:
1. Like others who are different, whether one is black or Latino, Muslim or Jewish, Gay or Lesbian, or has a disability, DO NOT JUDGE.
As Temple Grandin's mother told her in that HBO biopic about the livestock expert who's a high functioning autistic, "You are different, not less." Just because one is an aspie who struggles with social skills more than neurotypicals - non-disabled folk - doesn't mean they should be condemned by society.
2. One should at least attempt to see an aspie's good qualities and emphasize those in their interactions with them, though it may not be easy to do. The aspie's expertise in whatever subject they're into needs to be encouraged and celebrated rather than seen as strange, as is oftentimes the case.
For example, if a person with AS is obsessed with animals, she should be allowed to work at a pet store or volunteer in a veterinarian's office. If the aspie can't get enough of basketball but whose ability is the opposite of LeBron James, put him on the team as an official scorekeeper - there are tons of avenues for Asperger's folks to take to use their talents in a positive and contributing fashion.
3. If an aspie does or says something that's considered inappropriate, as will periodically happen because the AS brain lacks the filter that prevents that sort of thing, rebuking him in a harsh way is a bad idea as the inappropriate behavior is unintentional 98% of the time - and that's a minimum assessment.
Instead, a gentle and friendly manner in explaining to the aspie why what was done or said was socially wrong to do is much more preferable option.
4. Also, if the inappropriateness that was performed by the person with Asperger's is minor, i.e., wearing something that's out of style or extremely different from other people, it should be ignored. In other words, don't sweat the small stuff, as there are other issues in life that are more important than a young female aspie wearing 80s style feathered hair and leg warmers or a guy with AS saying something that may be the wrong thing to say, but in the larger perspective is harmless.
A good suggestion as to how not to sweat it is to think, "OK, he/she has AS and can't help what they're doing. There's nothing we can do short of a cure, so let's just leave him/her alone."
5. Anytime issues come up with an adult aspie, don't talk to him like you would a stupid child. Talk to him or her in a way that will make them feel like they are equal to you rather than an inferior or a lesser being.
People talking down to me has happened quite a bit over the years, and it has brought feelings of anger, inferiority and depression because in my mind the one who's talking down to me thinks I'm a dumb nothing - and that hurts.
All of these tips are essentially about following the Golden Rule:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Or to put it in non-biblical terms, treat people the way you want to be treated, which I feel is a very simple concept.
That is especially the case when it comes to those with this high functioning form of autism. By applying these suggestions to any aspies that you may know at school or in the workplace, you may just end up finding a new friend whose talents you admire and find valuable.
Who in their right mind wouldn't want that?