Asperger’s as Mere Genius

Just came across a question on an Asperger’s page on Facebook. Someone asked whether we could name any historical genius without Asperger’s. Most people couldn’t, but this made me think of the validity of the whole Asperger’s concept in highly intelligent people, and whether it’s not just their genius that makes these people appear autistic.

If everyone who is a little quirky gets labeled with Asperger’s, it erodes the meaning of Asperger’s as a disability. I know that probably the people who can’t name a genius without Asperger’s, don’t see Asperger’s as a disability. That’s fine with me, but I for one do see it as a disability, having an Asperger’s diagnosis and clear difficulty functioning.

That’s in my opinion what it boils down to. Most geniuses can function quite well in life. They may have some trouble making friends with the average person, but that’s because they are highly intelligent and the average person isn’t. I did not start suspecting an autism spectrum disorder in myself until I found out that I couldn’t interact with my classmates at the high level high school either, while around 30% of them were gifted. In this sense, I feel the fewer labels the better, and I don’t see why you need a disability label if you’re going to see it as all positive. We already have the label of giftedness for that.

The reason I eventually sought an autism diagnosis, was not that I had a hard time making friends actually. It was because I was overwhelmed with even the simplest of daily tasks. If I didn’t have this many problems, I would be fine just being gifted. It wouldn’t mean I’d have absolutely no issues, because after all I’d still be a misfit among all average peers. But autism isn’t about fitting in or being able to make friends. If that were the case, many more people would qualify for the label of autism than is currently the case.

I was discussing this whole labeling thing with my parents yesterday. My father, who says I’m merely gifted and not autistic, said that Hans Asperger probably didn’t intend merely quirky kids to get his label. Rather, the kids he intended the label for were most likely unable to have any form of meaningful interaction and were completely preoccupied with their own special interest. I wouldn’t be an Aspie in this situation, but neither would anyone on the Facebook page. Now I don’t necessarily agree with this analysis of what Asperger intended his label to mean, and I don’t have his study at hand to look it up. However, DSM-5 backs up this portrayal of autism spectrum disorder in its description (and to some extent criteria) of ASD. I am not sure myself that I meet DSM-5 criteria for ASD, and I can see that many people diagnosable as Aspie under DSM-IV, don’t.

In my case, this has nothing to do with the criterion about the symptoms limiting people’s independent functioning, like many parents of severely autistic children say. I am most definitely impaired in my functioning. The problem areas I’m having are just not the core ASD impairments. But I am impaired.

For most all-genius-people-are-Aspies proponents, the opposite is true: they do have core ASD symptoms as their primary reason for being misfits, but they aren’t limited in their daily functioning. In this sense, I can totally see why parents of severley autistic children would not want them on the autism spectrum. Why lump people with no impairments together with those with severe impairments? That’s either stigmatizing the people with no impairments or invalidaitng the people with severe impairments. One of the main reasons people are fighting to keep Asperger’s on the autism spectrum, is because we most definitely have impairmetns and are in need of support. If Asperger’s is reduced to mere genius and the accompanying and inherent misfit status, I am not saying I want no part in it. Identifying as an Aspie would then be similar to identifying as my Myers-Briggs personality type, after all, and I do participate in places for that. It would, however, mean that I and many others who do have significant impairments, would need an additional label to justify their need for support.

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4 thoughts on “Asperger’s as Mere Genius

  1. I’m not autistic and I don’t have Asperger’s, but I know that in the disability world in general there is a huge range of disabilities, from mild to significant effect on someone’s life. It can still be stigmatizing to take the label, but if disabilities are affecting you negatively, then it can also be useful. That’s been my experience anyway. Thanks for this post! 🙂

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  2. A disorder is only a disorder if it disrupts your daily life in some way. If you feel that way about your condition, people should respect that, as you know your own abilities.

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