Positive Aspects of Aspergers / Autism

Silent Wave

By The Silent Wave

When searching for traits, characteristics, or symptoms of Asperger’s (and the rest of the autism spectrum, to an extent) online, the first–and the majority of–information you’ll probably find focuses on the negative aspects, at least as perceived by the “official sources” and “experts”.  It begins to sound like a broken record… “lack of empathy”… “rigidity”/”cognitive inflexibility”… “clumsiness”… “obsessions”… “developmental disability”… “socially awkward”… “inappropriate [fill in the blank]”… “impairments”… “unemployment…”

Good lord.  If the “rest of the world” sees us that way, refuses to recognize or acknowledge our positive traits, and treats us according to their exclusively-negative stereotype (if they have even formed an impression of us beyond the “Rain Man” stereotype at all), then no wonder that people on the spectrum experience higher rates of depression and self-harm.

It’s time to balance out the equation.

I’ve touched on some of these concepts before, in passing, but it’s time to dedicate a whole post to it.  And who knows, there may be follow-up posts, if I think of more to write on this subject.  Or I may edit this post on occasion.  Time will tell.

Here are several positive characteristics that we Aspie/autistic people have working in our favor:

Good memory

We usually have a pretty sharp and vivid long-term memory.  The average person can remember back to about age 4-6.  Many of us can remember much further back than that.  We also tend to learn visually, so when we see a diagram or a picture, we often absorb it like a sponge.  Even when we learn something that doesn’t interest us as much, or something that we initially struggled with, we may take longer to learn….but if we keep at it, we learn it even more thoroughly and tend to remember it for much, much longer. 

For me, one case in point is Math; I just couldn’t get Algebra or Geometry.  They both bored me; I would’ve much rather written a musical score or a short story during class (and when I was younger, I did–to my own peril).  Finally, I matured enough to understand that there are certain subjects I’m simply going to need to master in order to enter university.  That was a fact of life.  As I learned, I began to understand that although I may not need Algebra or Geometry now, they may come in handy later, and when they did, wouldn’t it be nice to know them well?  To this day, 20-22 years later, I can still set up an algebraic equation and solve for “x”.  And I have needed to do exactly that, too.  I also remember many of the “laws” used in Geometry, as well as applying those laws to “proofs”.  (Half of you are cheering; the other half are shivering in PTSD-like fear.  I’m sorry about that.)

Honesty

We’re genuine, straightforward, and honest.  No hidden agenda here.  No double-meaning, either.  No alter-ego, split-personality, or two-faced attitude.  We don’t play head games or manipulate people.  What you see is what you get.  What we say is what we mean.  We’re not going to BS you with little “white lies” just to make you feel better.  If your haircut sucks, we’re not going to tell you “it looks absolutely marvelous!”  If you’ve got a string of toilet paper hanging out of your jeans, we’re going to tell you.  Basically, you can trust us.

No Drama

We’re drama-free, in general, preferring calm, serenity, and stability instead.  We don’t start crap, stir the pot, or pick fights.  We’re not itching for the “excitement” that some people derive from being locked in conflict and rollercoaster relationships.  We prefer stability.  We’re generally logical and cerebral, which sometimes earns us the “lack of empathy” and “flat affect/stoic” raps.  We don’t give in to trolls online.  We try our best not to get sucked into family drama or catfights among friends.  We’d rather leave the room…or the planet.

Detail Oriented

We pay exquisite attention to detail.  The way our brains work is to recognize patterns and connect dots that ways that other people may not perceive.  We can make some lightning-quick analogies between two seemingly vastly different concepts.  We also don’t do things halfway; if we’re going to do it, we’ll do it, and if we’re not, then we won’t.  If we decide (or realize) that something is worth our time, we’re going to give it our full effort.  “Just good enough” is usually not “good enough” for us.  Yoda from Star Wars might’ve had some Aspie traits: “Do or do not.  There is no ‘try’.”

Independent Thinkers

As alluded to above, we perceive things differently.  Many of us view the world with both hemispheres of our brain engaged, and we process certain types of information through different parts of the brain altogether (or so the theories and some scientific research say).  This means we process information a bit more slowly at times (although that’s up for debate; I think it depends on the type of information).  We can also, in turn, offer this alternative perspective, contributing a unique viewpoint to a discussion or problem-solving session.  We can think up new ideas, by approaching puzzles from an unusual angle.  We tend to be very independent thinkers, not easily swayed by outside forces.  Most of us use an interesting blend of unwavering logic and strong intuition to make decisions (and essentially, to live the rest of our lives as well).  I know that my own gut feelings do not fail me; I’ve learned to trust mine.  I know I can offer that, along with my cerebral outlook, to others.

Intelligence

We’re usually intelligent; some of us are literally hovering at genius level.  Most of us are a hell of a lot more intelligent than we give ourselves credit for.  Our IQs can be quite high, which is often one of the major driving forces behind our perceived “social awkwardness”.  It’s not that we’re snobby.  It’s not that we’re simply “too shy”.  It’s that when a small group of people are so far removed intellectually from the societal average, there isn’t much to talk about, and thus, the two groups can’t relate.  When one group is much tinier than the other, they lose, for lack of numbers; they’re outvoted.

Individualistic

We often have few or no children, which means that unlike so many other average people, we don’t lose our identities (who we are) in our children, attempt to live through our children by forcing them to provide a vehicle for our own desires and regrets, and we’re probably going to be available when you call us up to meet (in a quiet, calm, out-of-the-way place, please) for coffee or dinner or a walk in a park.  Having few or no children often means our house will be quiet and our daily schedules and finances will be simpler.

We’re odd and quirky, providing variety to an otherwise mundane world.  We’re highly individual.

Introverted

We’re rarely–if ever–intrusive.  Our degree of sociability and social preference varies widely, but chances are good that the average Aspergian/autistic person is a lot more introverted than the average non-autistic/allistic person.  Chances are pretty slim to none than we’re going to come barging in unannounced and uninvited and bang on your door.  That might sometimes mean that you have to do a little more work to keep the relationship/friendship alive, but we try to make it worth it.

Lots of interests

Many of us have a hidden talent up our sleeve.  No, we’re not all science lab geeks, astrophysics proteges, human calculators, or what-have-you.  We’re not Rain Man, and we’re not all Temple Grandin (although some of us may wish we could be!).  Our interests and talents run the gamut: music, art, chemistry, philosophy, invention, writing, biology, genetics, engines/mechanics, genealogy, psychology, foreign languages, math, archeology, photographic memory, business administration, systematizing, analyzing, technology or computer science, history, education, comics, fashion, world religion, physics, crafts, woodworking, theater, economics, gardening, comedy, etc.  Sometimes we’ve got more than one.  Sometimes we may not realize it; it might be laying dormant, ready to sprout at any time.  Some of us aren’t aware of one, and that’s OK, too!

Background people

We prefer not to be in the spotlight, in general.  This means that we probably won’t embarrass you much, if at all.  Interacting with us also won’t turn into a constant competition.  And we’re definitely not going to take the spotlight away from you or fight you for it, if you want it.  We’ll certainly let you have it.

Depth

We don’t feel any pressure to conform or fit in.  This takes a load off our shoulders (and adds a load back into our bank accounts), because we’re not having to “keep up with the Jones’s” (whoever the hell they are), and keep tabs on the latest fashions and trends.  Our friends/family can be themselves, too, without added pressure or critique from us.  We look beyond superficial physical beauty and weight, gender and sexual orientation, political affiliation, gender, ethnicity and religion, socioeconomic status, what zip code you live in or what car you drive, and other such labels and surface characteristics.  We want to know what’s inside, beneath the labels.  We want to know what’s at the core.  We’ll either accept something or someone, or we won’t.  When we decide we like or love something or someone, it’s not because they’re attractive or because we both vote the same way; it’s because we like, admire, look up to, or “gel with” the deepest center of that person.

I think it would be beneficial to everyone, both those on and off the spectrum, if we added this information to the “diagnostic” manuals, too.

***

The Silent Wave is an almost-40-something integrative medicine doctor in South Texas, USA. After her late Asperger’s/autism discovery, she created The Silent Wave blog at https://thesilentwaveblog.wordpress.com. Her special interests include music, martial arts, human biochemistry, surreal and abstract art, and of course, neurodiversity. She resides with her partner and two cats, who comprise her principal support system. The above blog was originally published on her website here.

Other blogs you may like:

Wired Differently
An Autistic Love Story
How Autism has made me an Exceptional Childcare Worker

9 Comments

  • Hi – Just stumbled on this article. Was very recently given the Aspie ‘gong’ and am learning about others and their journeys. I can certainly relate to these many if not all of these positive traits. It’s very refreshing to see HFA/Aspergers portrayed in a positive light.
    Kudos and more power to you.

  • ps: I agree with you about adding those positive traits into the DSMV –
    We are not people with something ‘wrong’ that needs to be fixed. I saw a psychiatrist who said that she couldn’t ‘help’ me. I corrected her and said I am not broken ~ so how could you ‘help’ me?

    Cheers
    Andy

  • Nice traits. My experience is that the aspies I know apply their rigid ideas of classification to people; very annoying as those labels do not allow for the fluidity of people.

  • I found this very interesting. I’m in my late 50’s and went through my entire career, not knowing I had Aspergers.

    I was a business analyst and computer programmer (taught Fortran at primary school in 1970).

    I annoyed people because I could analyse a proposal and find its faults before the person had finished talking.
    Conversely I could come up with solutions “Outside the box” that could save weeks of work by large(expensive) teams and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Aspergers hasn’t been great for my relationships (I now have a wonderful understanding spouse) but it led to a well paid, fulfilling career.

    “Work to your strengths”

    • Dear David,

      I am the co-founder of the Art of Autism and was also a computer analyst and business analyst. I also annoyed people because I did the same thing! I would love if you wrote a blog for the Art of Autism. I’m not diagnosed but do relate to many who write blogs here. I think people in the business world tookmy criticism personally when I was meaning it to be about efficiency or “good coding.” – Debra

  • Hi, I am 76 and only in recent years understand I am also on the spectrum. Mildly Aspergers. A lifetime feeling the odd one out, with bullying in my childhood, and a deal of unhappiness. But that is all long past. You can master the situation without the aid of “therapists”. I can spot a manipulator a mile off. I taught for many years, though the classroom was a bit overcrowded for me. Others saw I had a future in research. So, now I am a medieval musicologist in my later years, working on manuscripts – joining the dots as it were, and I have had a life in church music playing the organ and conducting choirs. I am also a painter, and was an early web designer. [I’ve let that grow old now. ] Life is good. I have/have had some wonderful friends and I have had a “rich” worthwhile life.

  • Thank you much for this. I needed some encouragement today.

    I do have two arguments to make though, or maybe its actually just one. I am an extrovert Aspergirl and recently read that Aspies are equally extroverted and introverted, but can appear more introverted for a number of reasons–like avoiding people and social situations as a result of having been worn down by rejection and bullying. I am for sure unobtrusive though–I think that would be a much better term for the characteristic you describe as introverted. Introvert technically means you charge your batterie through spending time in your internal world…when I spend too much time there, I get tired and have to get out. I have 2 children myself and want to add that I always wanted children, in part because I thought it would make me feel less lonely. It hasn’t worked out the way I thought. But I agree with you about holding my own where my identity is concerned. I don;t find my identity wrapped up in them. I think it is hard on them that I don’t at times.

  • Look at the bigger picture: autistic people only see beauty in the outward appearance, whether seen with the eyes or not, of things. They misunderstand things when I tell them a paradox, like my brother does, or when it doesn’t gel with their pessimistic attempt at the truth. But most of the autists are optimistic, I have a friend, Sean Borda, who bases his conduct on never again having a bad experience. He’s a Christian (surprise surprise, the most autistic religion, or faith as you would call it, in the book!) and seems to deny its religiosity, when he’s referring to the poison of other religions, including Islam, Hinduism, etc, etc, atheism excluded. I’m a religious atheist, yes I’m autistic, rather Asperger’s, and my relationships between my mother and my father are getting along with them better. The need for psychology isn’t the need for medicines or drugs, but the need for folk psychology by philosopher David Lewis, which autists tend to misunderstand and disregard as a false psychology, when it’s really a method to do what I say. For example if a theory isn’t uniquely realized it names nothing, and the attribute of having the pain plays the pain-role. I can’t exaggerate to say that all the autists are scum. I myself am a religious person and an atheist: I have a ‘THIS IS WHAT an atheist LOOKS LIKE’ T-shirt so it shows atheism is to be shown with great pride, and a Buddhist clothing and Buddhist ring which I got from Tibetan Spirit on the internet. Autism becomes a problem in such cases as that boy who wore nappies until he was 10 years old, and his mother killed him (reported on the news). I think in all sincerity that atheism should be expressed, and that’s something autistic people misunderstand, that atheism isn’t nothing, and the no-God theory should be talked about, without it you’re not an atheist. And furthermore it’s autistic to have your photo taken but not by your brother. My mother has depression and therefore my autism might’ve come from that since I tend to get agitated at details that make me nervous, and seek peace and quiet by avoiding all humans, women, mentally disabled people, and all those who aren’t my race, my friend Sean Borda himself used to be a White Supremacist, I think for the sake of a “pure” race, any admixture of blacks, browns, yellows, and reds is suicide, with someone with autism who happens to be my race, I can say that the pure white master race has blond or red hair and blue, green or grey eyes and white skin, in order to be a European race, Sean Borda in a different way used to be that way, and in case you can’t tell it’s actually an autistic person who will run as king of Adelaide, South Australia (me), and will tie all the loose ends with my political philosophies, ideologies and religions, to form a globalist and Utopian society and the liberty of Australia, emphasising that philosophy is liberty, that an ideal place in a pastoral country setting would be ideal and to support the farmers, as only an autistic will crown himself king unless it was the emperor of New York.

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