Are you on the Spectrum?
People on the spectrum typically have exceptional memories for subjects in which they are interested and have an intense ability to hyperfocus. They also tend to be obsessive in pattern recognition. However, with strengths come difficulties, especially in the realm of socialization. Just think about this: if a mind is wired to do one or two things exceptionally well and that mind is designed to do this for hours on end, why would socialization be emphasized. Also, individuals on the Spectrum tend to be intelligent and possess an obsessive interest and can be literal. They also tend to be justice oriented. The most common challenge they face is how to process and respond appropriately to social communication which is primarily nonverbal in nature.
Many people consider Asperger’s to be a disorder, or they hold a stereotype of these individuals as being introverted or feared due to unfair media stereotypes. The stereotype could not be further from the truth. If you have met one Aspie, then you have met one Aspie. Just as there are many introverted and extroverted people who struggle with depression, attention, or anxiety, the same can be said of those who are Aspie. Everyone is different.
Through analogy, I describe the Autism spectrum as the Lemon Continuum. Imagine a glass of water, a glass of water with a side of lemon, lemon-flavored water, lemonade, a lemon, and a lemon farm. The lemon continuum is less and more but never bad. How much lemon is in the water helps one understand where an Aspie may fall on the continuum.
So let’s find out. How much lemon do you have in the water?
1. When I think of socializing I consider myself extroverted and very skilled
2. moderately ok with social situations but tire of them easily
3. having a short social fuse and need quiet environments
4. very awkward socially and avoid complex social interactions
2. When I think about clothing
1. I can wear almost anything and want to be sure I am stylish
2. I don’t pay much attention and am rather practical
3. certain fabrics annoy me, and I’d rather be wearing a star wars or superhero shirt anyway.
4. sweatpants and a t-shirt are all I wear.
3. As a child I was typically
1. obsessed with sports and was very coordinated
2. interested in sports but typically just watched it
3. obsessed with statistics in a particular sport such as baseball or football
4. no interested at all in sports
4. When it comes to my appearance and hygiene
1. I consider it offensive to not go out properly groomed, and I use cologne/perfume
2. I can be physically messy but will clean up before I go out in public
3. I can often go for a few days without showering and will often wear the same clothes each day.
4. I often forget to brush my teeth, comb my hair, and don’t realize how people feel around me.
5. When I have changes in my schedule or routine
1. it can be exciting
2. it’s no big deal and I can go with the flow
3. I tend to feel anxious and irritated
4. I can barely function. Change is bad.
6. When it came to having friends growing up
1. I found it easy to make friends and keep them, and I was popular.
2. I found it easy to make friends, but it was hard to keep them
3. I was not invited to do anything, and I felt isolated even though I wanted friends
4. I did not need friends.
7. When I look at people’s facial expressions and body language
1. I find it easy to understand them and sometimes feel their feelings
2. I have a generally decent understanding of non-verbal communication
3. I find it difficult to understand non-verbal communication and often misinterpret people’s feelings
4. I have to be literally told what people feel as I can not ready them at all.
8. When it comes to food and restaurants
1. I enjoy a wide variety of food and consider myself a foodie
2. I like quite a few foods but can be somewhat finicky
3. as a kid, I only ate a few foods including pizza, chicken nuggets, and bread, but I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older.
4. I only eat certain foods from certain places and do not deviate from my eating habits at all.
9. When it comes to academic interests
1. I’m not too into academics but prefer celebrity gossip
2. I tend to be widely read and enjoy knowing a little bit about a lot
3. I’m obsessed with a few topics such as history and engineering
4. I’m known as an obsessive person who digs very deeply into a particular subject and know more than most people on a particular subject (Roman history, weather, politics, math, etc.)
10. When it comes to the arts
1. I am not very interested in art but used to like to doodle
2. I have an interest in fine art and have studied it somewhat
3. Art is my life and how I make my living
4. I am very into Cosplay, Anime, Manga, and have made my own costumes
Sir Isaac Newton
You are a very intense and highly intelligent person. You are scientist, historian, and have an inventive observant mind. Friends are not important nor are hygiene or clothing. You are utilitarian. Changes in my schedule make me angry and frustrated, and I also tend to struggle with anxiety. My eating habits are fixed, and I am considered a picky eater to the extreme.
Thomas Jefferson (President of the United States)
You tend to have a very strong sense of purpose and justice. Hygiene and appearance is not of great importance to you and while you can be a bit picky with food, you are will to try new things. Sporting events and other highly social activities are not of your interest and feel called to more important aspects of life. With regard to non-verbal communication, you can have some difficulty with this and can also be somewhat literal in your thinking.
Temple Grandin (Inspiration speaker, scientist, and professor)
Specific interest and obsessive focus defines you. Sporting events were not necessarily your thing but the statistics were very important to you. The social world is not important to you and friends are not necessary in your life. However, despite not needing friends, you find it offensive if people do not care for their personal hygiene. Changes in routine can feel painful and cause a great deal of irritation and frustration. Changes in routine extends to your clothing in that you prefer to wear the same type of clothing every day.
Marie Curie (Discovered radiation and a scientist)
As a child and as an adult you have very specific interests and a highly tuned mind. You are known specifically for your special interests and can dig very deep into them to the point you know more than most others. Rules and routines are important including paying attention to your hygiene but consideration of your specific dress is less important. Sports also is not your thing.
Daryl Hannah (American actress and star of Blade Runner and Splash)
While not greatly concerned about what people think about your appearance, you do appreciate the art of clothing and style and take care of yourself. You also care deeply for the environment, animals, and other causes. You tended to be misunderstood as a child, had a very big imagination, and ultimately came into your own. You are not a fan of big crowds or attention, but can manage your way through it.
Questlove (DJ and drummer for The Roots)
Art and music are very important to you as is personal style. I tended to be interested in sports but was not very coordinated. Also, I am generally able to go with the flow and socialize moderately well. However, I can tend to tire of socializing rather easily. I do know a decent amount of many things by special interest is my true love.
Lionel Messi (International Soccer sensation)
In social situations you can do moderately well but as a child were considered somewhat odd, aloof, or quiet. You tend to be very coordination and interested in sports. I can get rather irritated when things don’t go my way and it is hard to shift to new activities. Also, I can be very obsessive and visual in my thinking even though I am not a big fan of art. My special interest tends to be my life.
Little to No Lemon
I tend to care more about what people think of me and socialization is very important. I’m not too much into academics and prefer celebrity gossip. Throughout my life I have found it rather easy to socialize, make friends, and keep them.
The primary joy for me in working with this population is seeing a marginalized child or family feel embraced and find their community. My clients often tell me they have found their family and have never felt so proud of who they are. Many of my clients find their “Why” of life and come to a level of self-acceptance and discovery that they did not believe was possible. After reading my comic book about Asperger’s entitled, “Max Gamer: I’m a Superhero,” a client looked up and asked me if I followed him around each day. The story so resonated with him, he instantly felt supported. And he was no longer alone.