Re: THEORY: Asperger syndrome and hyperpolyglotism.
- On 9 March 2013 02:29, Leonardo Castro <leolucas1980@...> wrote:
> I knew I would find someone in this list!We're everywhere! :P
> Excuse my ignorance, but I have heard the people with this syndromeNot rude at all. I prefer people asking rather than assuming :) . First,
> usually can hardly perceive or expresse irony, humour, etc., but you
> seem to express yourself with a wide range of emotions in this list.
> Is this information I got about Asperger syndrome wrong? How exactly
> it affects you? (If it's not rude to ask.)
there is a difference between *having* emotions, and being able to perceive
or express them. Second, the prejudice that people with Asperger's syndrome
are unable to perceive or express emotions is one that cannot die too soon.
We're not robots!
To simplify things a bit, what people with HFA (High-Functioning Autism, of
which Asperger's syndrome seems to be a variety) lack is an innate "Theory
of Mind", i.e. the ability to *automatically* put oneself into somebody
else's shoes. It's something that appears in neurotypical children quite
early (generally it's there by the age of 4 to 5), while children with HFA
lag behind. Notice that I wrote *lag behind*. We do eventually develop a
Theory of Mind (by the age of 8 to 10 people with HFA have usually reached
a level similar to neurotypical people), and thus the ability to understand
people's motives behind their behaviours. The difference is that it's not
an innate one. It's not a reflex. Rather, it's our cortex, our high
reasoning faculties, that compensate for that lack. This has various
– It's a conscious effort. Keeping track of people's motivations through
the few hints they usually give is quickly exhausting. That's why we
perform better with fewer people around, and in formal situations, where
the context is clear and known to everyone.
– It's slow. Imagine someone without a pain reflex, i.e. someone who, when
accidentally putting their hand on a hot surface, would have to consciously
realise their skin is getting blistered to retract it. That's the
difference between our learned Theory of Mind and the innate Theory of mind
of a neurotypical person. This means that in live situations we sometimes
have difficulties keeping track, and get overwhelmed easily. Asynchronous
situations like e-mail conversations are actually beneficial to us: we have
enough time to think things through.
– It doesn't work perfectly. It's a set of rules we had to develop
semi-consciously as we were growing up. Naturally during that time we
haven't experienced all the possible situations we would encounter later in
life. So in some new situations we can react in a way that seems
inappropriate, whether because we're misapplying a rule we learned, or just
because we have no idea how to react. Confusion is unfortunately a powerful
emotion that often takes over everything.
– It can shut down when we need our cognitive faculties for something else.
Basically, we're constantly reserving part of our cortex's cognitive power
to "read" people. When we're tired, or when we are busy with a difficult
problem that requires all our reasoning faculties, that reserved part will
be allocated to something else, which means we'll temporarily lose the
ability to "get" others. This situation is rife for misunderstandings.
– Because we didn't learn to understand and express emotions through innate
osmosis but through semi-conscious self-training, some people with HFA
develop an idiosyncratic way of expressing their emotions. It's not that we
don't have them, it's just that the way we express them can differ from
other people's expectations. In this case, everyone is actually different,
including neurotypical people. We just have a wider range of difference.
Notice that this only concerns the issue of the Theory of Mind. Another
problem is our hypersensitivity. Autists are often portrayed as being
insensitive to their surroundings. That's actually the opposite: we're
hypersensitive to external stimuli, and lack the ability to automatically
filter out the irrelevant from the relevant ones. Depending on how strong
this hypersensitivity is, people will react differently, from repetitive
behaviours (to create some kind of regularity in the chaos around us) to
meltdowns and withdrawals for the worst cases. Personally, I suffer from
mental blocks: when I cannot handle things any longer, my brains just shut
down, and I cannot think anything but the most simple thoughts. Making
decisions becomes impossible as well, which is particularly bad because it
also means I cannot make the decision to leave the situation that makes me
I guess that's enough for now. This is particularly off-topic, so it might
be better to take it off-list if you want more information. Just one last
thing: what I wrote is very simplified, and everyone is different. Every
Autist (whether someone with Asperger syndrome, another form of HFA, or any
form of classic Autism) is a unique person with a unique behaviour. What I
wrote about are generalities, common traits that are often found in people
on the Autism Spectrum. They are not absolute universals of Autistic
behaviour. In a way, they are like linguistic universals: mere trends,
statistically likely, but you'll always find someone who breaks them.
On 10/03/2013 02:55, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets wrote:
> I guess that's enough for now.
Yes - but it is useful for people to know, I think. I think
the frankness of your comments is commendable and helpful.
> This is particularly off-topic, so it might be better to
> take it off-list if you want more information. Just one
> last thing: what I wrote is very simplified, and everyone
> is different. Every Autist (whether someone with Asperger
> syndrome, another form of HFA, or any form of classic
> Autism) is a unique person with a unique behaviour. What
> I wrote about are generalities, common traits that are
> often found in people on the Autism Spectrum. They are
> not absolute universals of Autistic behaviour.
Absolutely - at least that was my experience as a lecturer
in Computer Science. Several of students during those years
(I'm retired now) had varying degrees of autism/ Asperger's
Syndrome - _all_ were very different. As Christophe said,
they were not robots, but all as individually different as
> In a way, they are like linguistic universals: mere
> trends, statistically likely, but you'll always find
> someone who breaks them.
In the words of Poirot: "Précisement, mon ami!"
"language … began with half-musical unanalysed expressions
for individual beings and events."
[Otto Jespersen, Progress in Language, 1895]
- Thank you for that explanation - it is very informative and you're openness helps other people to understand. Personally I have one HFA friend who doesn't seem at all different other than sometimes he is a bit selfish or can throw small tantrums, although he usually overcorrects the selfishness and is a very nice guy. And also quite socially adept.
However other people I know without (diagnosed) HFA also act in this way, sometimes to even greater degrees. I think most of these people are just plain selfish.