Do you have High-Functioning Asperger’s Syndrome?


EDIT: To com­bat non­re­sponse bias, I’d ap­pre­ci­ate it if any­one who looked at this post be­fore and de­cided not to fill in the poll would go and do so now, but that peo­ple who haven’t already con­sid­ered and de­cided against filling in the poll re­frain from do­ing so. We might get some idea of which way the bias points by look­ing at the differ­ence in re­sults.

This is your op­por­tu­nity to help your com­mu­nity’s so­cial episte­mol­ogy!

There is some ev­i­dence that con­se­quen­tial­ist/​util­i­tar­ian think­ing is more com­mon in peo­ple with Asperger’s syn­drome, so I thought it would be in­ter­est­ing to fol­low that cor­re­la­tion the other way around: what frac­tion of peo­ple who are at­tracted to ra­tio­nal/​con­se­quen­tial­ist think­ing have what one might call “High-func­tion­ing Asperger’s Syn­drome”? From wisegeek:

Im­paired so­cial re­ac­tions are a key com­po­nent of Asperger’s syn­drome. Peo­ple who suffer from this con­di­tion find it difficult to de­velop mean­ingful re­la­tion­ships with their peers. They strug­gle to un­der­stand the sub­tleties of com­mu­ni­cat­ing through eye con­tact, body lan­guage, or fa­cial ex­pres­sions and sel­dom show af­fec­tion to­wards oth­ers. They are of­ten ac­cused of be­ing dis­re­spect­ful and rude, since they find they can’t com­pre­hend ex­pec­ta­tions of ap­pro­pri­ate so­cial be­hav­ior and are of­ten un­able to de­ter­mine the feel­ings of those around them. Peo­ple suffer­ing from Asperger’s syn­drome can be said to lack both so­cial and emo­tional re­ciproc­ity.

Although Asperger’s syn­drome is re­lated to autism, peo­ple who suffer from this con­di­tion do not have other de­vel­op­men­tal de­lays. They have nor­mal to above av­er­age in­tel­li­gence and fail to meet the di­ag­nos­tic crite­ria for any other per­va­sive de­vel­op­men­tal di­s­or­der. In fact, peo­ple with Asperger’s syn­drome of­ten show in­tense fo­cus, highly log­i­cal think­ing, and ex­cep­tional abil­ities in math or sci­ence.

This book makes the fol­low­ing point about “High-func­tion­ing adults”:

“In­di­vi­d­u­als at the most able end of the autis­tic spec­trum have the most hid­den form of this di­s­or­der, and as a re­sult, these in­di­vi­d­u­als and their fam­ily are of­ten the most dis­ad­van­taged in terms of get­ting a di­ag­no­sis. Be­cause they have higher IQs, high-func­tion­ing adults are able to work out ways to com­pen­sate for their difficul­ties in com­mu­ni­ca­tion or in so­cial func­tion­ing that are based on log­i­cal rea­son­ing.”

So if you are a very smart AS per­son, it might not be ob­vi­ous that you have it, es­pe­cially be­cause if you have difficulty read­ing so­cial situ­a­tions you might not re­al­ize that you are hav­ing difficulty read­ing so­cial situ­a­tions, rather you’ll just ex­pe­rience other peo­ple be­ing mean and think that the world is just full of mean peo­ple. But there are some clues you can fol­low. For ex­am­ple this web­site talks about what AS in kids tends to be like:

One of the most dis­turb­ing as­pects of Higher Func­tion­ing chil­dren with Asperg­ers (HFA) is their clumsy, nerdish so­cial skills. Though they want to be ac­cepted by their peers, they tend to be very hurt and frus­trated by their lack of so­cial suc­cess. Their abil­ity to re­spond is con­founded by the nega­tive feed­back that these chil­dren get from their painful so­cial in­ter­ac­tions. This greatly mag­nifies their so­cial prob­lems. Like any of us, when we get nega­tive feed­back, we be­come un­happy. This fur­ther in­hibits their so­cial skills, and a vi­cious cir­cle de­vel­ops.

If your child­hood in­volved ex­treme trou­ble with other kids, get­ting bul­lied, picked last for sports team, etc, but not for an ob­vi­ous rea­son such as be­ing very fat or of a racial minor­ity, then add some ev­i­dence-points to the “AS” hy­poth­e­sis.

High-func­tion­ing AS gives a per­son a com­bi­na­tion of strengths and weak­nesses. If you know about the weak­nesses, you can prob­a­bly bet­ter com­pen­sate for them. For refer­ence, the fol­low­ing are the Gillberg di­ag­nos­tic crite­ria for Asperger Syn­drome:

1.Se­vere im­pair­ment in re­cip­ro­cal so­cial in­ter­ac­tion (at least two of the fol­low­ing)
(a) in­abil­ity to in­ter­act with peers, (b) lack of de­sire to in­ter­act with peers, (c) lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of so­cial cues, (d) so­cially and emo­tion­ally in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior

2.All-ab­sorb­ing nar­row in­ter­est (at least one of the fol­low­ing)
(a) ex­clu­sion of other ac­tivi­ties, (b) repet­i­tive ad­her­ence, (c) more rote than mean­ing

3.Im­po­si­tion of rou­tines and in­ter­ests (at least one of the fol­low­ing)
(a) on self, in as­pects of life (b) on oth­ers

4.Speech and lan­guage prob­lems (at least three of the fol­low­ing)
(a) de­layed de­vel­op­ment, (b) su­perfi­cially perfect ex­pres­sive lan­guage, (c) for­mal, pedan­tic lan­guage, (d) odd prosody, pe­cu­liar voice char­ac­ter­is­tics, (e) im­pair­ment of com­pre­hen­sion in­clud­ing mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of literal/​im­plied mean­ings

5.Non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems (at least one of the fol­low­ing)
(a) limited use of ges­tures, (b) clumsy/​gauche body lan­guage, (c) limited fa­cial ex­pres­sion, (d) in­ap­pro­pri­ate ex­pres­sion, (e) pe­cu­liar, stiff gaze

6.Mo­tor clumsiness

If peo­ple want to, they can re­spond to a poll I cre­ated, record­ing their self-as­sess­ment of whether or not they fit these crite­ria. My own take is similar to that of Si­mon Baron-Co­hen: that there isn’t a nat­u­ral di­vid­ing line be­tween AS and neu­rotyp­i­cal, rather that there is a spec­trum of em­pathiz­ing vs. sys­tem­atiz­ing brain-types. For those who want to, you can take Baron-Co­hen’s “Autism quo­tient” test on wired mag­a­z­ine, and you can record your score on my poll.