Asperger's syndrome is a neurological disorder that disproportionately affects males, at a ratio of 5-1. It was originally diagnosed by Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, who was working in Nazi Vienna at the time he published his postgraduate thesis, entitled 'Autistic Psychopathy' in Childhood. Asperger's research was taken up in 1970's by Lorna Wing, who published her results in 1981.

Asperger's is defined by the Learning Disabilities Association of America as "a severe developmental disorder characterized by major difficulties in social interaction and restricted and unusual patterns of interest and behavior." Asperger's is similar to autism in terms of its dysfunctions relating to communication and social interaction. It is also characterized by linguistic precosity and obsessive interests, e.g., memorizing TV shows/movies and repeating them, which is known as perseverative scripting. They synthesize information in novel ways. Their language is pedantic, rigid, fact-oriented. One Asperger's affliction is an inability to tolerate noise, called auditory hypersensitivity.

An 11-year-old boy with Asperger's describes himself in an excerpt from the American Journal of Psychiatry:

I am an intelligent, unsociable but adapatable person. I would like to dispel any untrue rumors about me. I am not edible. I cannot fly. I cannot use telekinesis. My brain is not large enough to destroy the entire world when unfolded. I did not teach my long-haired guinea pig Chronos to eat everything in sight (that is the nature of the long-haired guinea pig)."

Asperger's syndrome was entered into the DSM-IV in 1994.

props to the NYT

Apr. 22, 2002

Asperger's Syndrome. It is an interesting neurological syndrome (note the absense of the misnomer "disorder") that, well, involves everything above. I am an Aspie. I am not diseased, not ill. I am just.....different. That is all.

While the ANSI standard neurotypical thinks emotionally and with the heart, we Aspies think like Mr. Spock, or Data, or anyone from Third Rock from the Sun. This world is just different to us. We do not know social cues by instinct, but rather by rote memorization, and trial-and-error.

I am displaced from social gatherings. I fear that I will not be taken as "normal", but rather as an outsider. I share Temple Grandin's perspective as being an outsider, or a spectator. I can not get involved easily.

If you want to get to know the true, sweet, and congenial side of an Aspie, all you need to do is pick up the telephone. That is all. Aspies cannot understand these social cues, and do better when they are not a factor in a discussion or exchange. The telephone is a great abstraction layer. It works.

Aspies do not need to suffer on this planet. We are just different, and if you get to know how we operate--which may be a challenge: we're still figuring out how you operate--try to converse with us. Study us.

Some good books to read are Thinking in Pictures, by Temple Grandin, and Asperger's Syndrome, by Tony Attwood.

Update -- Feb. 4, 2003

I would like to also say that one of the worst things that can happen to an Aspie is when Asperger's Syndrome is seen as a rigid structure. The problem is, there are many, many, many different kinds of Aspies out there. One Aspie, Two Aspie, Red Aspie, Blue Aspie — oh wait, wrong track. My point is, what happens to be about one person with Asperger's syndrome is not the same with another person with Asperger's syndrome.

I am not Temple Grandin.

Update -- November 28, 2007

Life and experience have changed every perception I held about the world as an adolescent. Older and wiser, I now disagree with just about everything I wrote above as a child, or at least, I'd rather distance myself from it. It has worth as a historical piece: genuine self-expression from an adolescent with Asperger's Syndrome.

One thing I learned (very quickly) is that the ASD/NT division is a ludicrous false dichotomy. Second, by paying enough attention and thinking hard enough, I improved my social skills to the point where I can make friends fast, find love in my life, and deceive people into thinking I'm cool. After I got to that stage, the going got weird.

Eventually I'll write on the subject "Asperger's Syndrome" and adulthood. Until then, I'll leave you this addendum. Plus, I'm more bipolar than autistic these days.

One more thing: The susceptibility of people with Asperger's Syndrome to groupthink is incredible. Trust me on this one.

Update -- August 17, 2008

Asperger's Syndrome is a funny thing. The older I get, the less I understand it, yet I always know it's part of every perception I have about the world. It'll be years before someone adequately explains the nature of egocentricity and "Theory of Mind deficit" in AS and years more before people come up with a neurobiological explanation that isn't completely insufficient in explaining anything.

Beware of neuroscientists that sound too sure of their pet theories. Neuroscience is a protoscience still in its infancy and hasn't yet posited a reasonable etiology for any common neurological disorder. Therein lies the freedom though: it's voodoo. If you're treating AS pharmacologically, don't be afraid to experiment with your doctor.

Update -- February 26, 2010

Writing autobiographically about Asperger Syndrome is pointless. Writing clinically about Asperger Syndrome is pointless. Reading about it is also pointless. I'm almost 24; I have more important existential issues to worry about, like making a living for myself and the family I may one day have. I've moved on, but I might as well leave this here as an illustration of hope for clueless children and their clueless parents.

masterdix is correct. Asperger's Syndrome is not rigid, and those who have it cannot be stereotyped, not even by the official criteria.

Case in point: myself. I was diagnosed with it just this year, at the ripe old age of 38. The reasons it took that long were a combination of fitting "well enough" into society (we'll get to that) and flatly refusing to believe I was the oddball (everyone else is) and therefore believe anything was 'wrong' with me. That and never having heard of it before.

I could rip the DSM criteria (above) that I was diagnosed with apart, and I shall. It's based on the observations of someone "on the outside", and as such I believe it is prejudiced. Yes, it's accurate to a degree, but it does nothing to explain what's really going on with the person it's being applied to.

The prior writeups to this node are enlightening, but this is a story that can never be completed, because everyone, even every aspie, is different.

Rather than give a motion picture view into a particular aspect, I'm choosing to give small glimpses into the criteria itself, as experienced by someone on the inside.

Social interaction
Eye contact: The main reason I rarely make eye contact is sensory. I don't think I have a problem with it really, although my significant other swears I rarely look him in the eye. Hogwash. I love looking into his eyes when they aren't hidden behind his spectacles. What I can't do is look and listen at the same time, and this is where the Asperger's comes in. All sensory information appears to come in through one single receiver. If someone is speaking, I must either look away at something non-stimulating, or completely defocus my sight in order to process what's being said. People hate that - they think I'm ignoring them or worse, avoiding them. I'm doing neither and am in fact focusing on paying attention to them. Guess what. I won't apologize for that. It's how my brain is wired, and there's nothing anyone can do about it, so live with it if you want to be heard.

It's the same with my other senses. I have to turn down the car radio in order to look for an exit I'm not familiar with (rather, that my car hasn't memorized yet), or in order to pinpoint precisely what that smell is coming from the car engine. Passengers think this is funny. I do, too. I do have a sense of humor after all.

Peer relations: Frankly, I don't understand this one. My friends and acquaintances demonstrate a wide range of "development" both in age and personality. I either like someone or I don't. I don't consider whether the person's mental or emotional level is on par with mine.

Spontaneously seeking to share: Bull. Too often, and I don't just speak for myself, it's not a lack of sharing on the part of the aspie, but a lack of interest on the part of the others in the vicinity. Think about it, though. If people didn't have such a diverse range of interests as individuals, where would we be today?

Lack of social reciprocity: Unlike some with this syndrome, I believe I actually have a fairly good sense of others' body language. Maybe it's because I'm female, maybe it's because I bought the books. I don't know. I just tend to pick up on nonverbal cues far more quickly than I pick up on words. I am not, however, able to respond to those cues as quickly as the "neurotypical". Every movement I make is a conscious effort taken from an inner script I've written for myself over my lifetime. Recognizing the body language of others as quickly as I do might be construed as intuitive, but my responses are not, so no one ever knows I did it in the first place. I cannot react without thinking, and it takes me a moment (or several, or several thousand) to "shift" into a responsive mode. This, of course, means that I have a natural talent for making a fool of myself by appearing to ignore or be unaware of the change in the situation. Give me a minute or two and I'll catch up, alright?

Of course, this doesn't help with small talk. Aspies really are lousy at mild banter. We're more the debating/discussing/dissecting types. Mind if I use this scalpel on your theory?

Emotional reciprocity: Another bag of shit. We are not unfeeling, insensitive people. We may feel very sympathetic and compassionate if we understand the situation. What's considered a lack on our part is the difficulty in expressing said sympathy. Scripts don't work for that kind of thing. Lack of expression doesn't mean the feeling's not there.

Restricted repetitive and stereotyped behavior
Encompassing preoccupation: Ok, so it's almost universal that aspies tend toward the obsessive. Geez, we've got to have something interesting to do with our time since it's not really in our nature to gossip at the water cooler about reality tv stars. Can't we have a little joy in our lives?

Adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines: I hate routine, but I hate surprises even more, so I opt for routine anyway. My routines aren't nonfunctional and I doubt they are for other aspies. Because we have to pay attention to everything we do just to be able to do it, the routines get created as a means of getting moving. They organize us, they get us on a roll, they prepare us. Nothing is more disconcerting to me than having something pop up out of the blue (no, I won't go to the party, because you didn't tell me about it yesterday so I could prepare).

Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms: This is known to autistics as stimming. See that person chewing her lip? See that other one tapping his foot? Most people think of these things as nervous habits. Mostly they are, but sometimes they're done because it just feels good to do it. Rocking is a comfort (I actually don't rock, one of the few of my kind). Flapping is a great way to ease or express excitement (watch me at a garage sale with lots of tools to sift through). Rubbing things that feel pleasant is good too. If you have hair of the length that makes your head feel like a Hallmark(tm) teddy bear, I'm going to stim all over it. It's your own fault for making it so touchable.

Preoccupation with parts of objects: some people like to spin their (matchbox car) wheels. So?

Oooo, now comes the fun part.

Clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
The world today seems hell bent on turning everyone into a car salesman. Social skills are of utmost importance in Western society and causes the biggest hinderance to the aspie. Interaction has become nothing but protocol with little substance. Aspies like substance. Keeping up with social nuance is too much for us because it happens too fast to process (sensory) and means so little (protocol). We aren't stupid, but we are often seen to be because we can't or won't "play nice" along with the other kids. Please. So we don't keep up with what Mrs. Jones down the street is doing with Mr. Smith. We aren't doing Mrs. Jones, so it doesn't have anything to do with us. Are you keeping up with the latest mathematical computations in quantum physics so you can "find God" or learning everything you can about seismic activity in order to design the perfect earthquake-proof building? Didn't think so. We simply can't be casual (actually some of us can, but it gets boring quickly).

That came across as arrogant and cocky, I know. I don't mean it that way, really. Everyone finds different subjects stimulating, and one interest is no more or less valid than another. It just angers me (and not just me) that my interests seem to come second to that protocol everyone else is so fond of. I'd like to order the Substance, please, and hold the meaningless Chit-Chat. Is it any wonder I don't "fit in"?

Call me an "Aspie with an Attitude". I'm old, I'm cranky, and I don't give a damn anymore. Deal. I still don't hate you, so don't hate me.

I will take the liberty of speaking for other Aspies here: give your favorite Aspie a chance. We really can be cool people if you give us that opportunity.

Okay, maybe I give a damn after all.

I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome several years ago, after being misdiagnosed as APDD and, earlier, emotionally disturbed.

I'd like to try and explain the way some of the stuff kessenich describes feels, from the inside. I was born without an instinctive knowledge of how to gauge emotions by looking at faces, and I didn't really learn how to do so until I was in middle school. Also, communicating IRL is still somewhat tricky, since I have to pay constant attention in order to decide when it's my turn to speak, and I still often talk too loudly.

I tend to think through things in a fairly logical, linear way. The downside is that I often seem uncaring, or brutally honest. The upside is that I can, or like to delude myself that I can, be more or less objective when necessary. I don't presume to judge others, but I can and do reach largely objective conclusions, even about myself and my friends.

As for the patterns of interest bit, I do tend to obsess over a certain aspect of something and ignore the rest. For me, a rating scale is very fascinating, reading the gradual differences between the things at one rating and those at the next.
Also, I'm very interested in number theory, particularly prime numbers.
I can't really speak to how I synthesize information, since whatever method I use is the only thing I know. I do know that it's very easy for me to see patterns in numbers or facts, but hard for me to, for example, perceive by the mannerisms of two friends that they've just had a fight. I had a special ed monitor until tenth grade because I simply wasn't organized enough to take notes. I thank my lucky stars that I got past that.

As for senses, I, unlike some I have met at group meetings and such places, don't have problems with many everyday things. However, a flickering light, such as a light tube about to go bad, is very annoying. Also, it's quite difficult for me to be comfortable in a crowded, noisy restaurant, and high school dances were Hell.
I only just learned to sleep with a computer running in the same room, usually searching for the aforementioned prime numbers.

Overall, I would say that I do speak in a fact-oriented sort of way - just watch me in the catbox. The one thing that annoys me most about 'normal' people is their tendency towards dishonesty. I don't mean deliberate lies to mislead, but their habit of saying things like "Well, you raised an interesting point" when they disagree with me. If I hadn't been willing to listen to their honest opinion, would I have asked for it?
By the same token, I have been told several times that I am "brutally honest."
My take on this is that I say what I mean, not expect others to understand the distinction between what I mean and what I say.
Like so many other things, this appears to be a matter of opinion.

To be diagnosed with Asperger means the traits are stronger than in most people, you've run into trouble, and you're wise enough to seek professional advice - but it doesn't mean you're altogether different from the rest of the world.

Many people just consider it 'typical male behaviour' - which is true, but only as a rule of thumb.

Asperger is related to autism and ADD. Actually, I recognise Asperger within myself but narzos was kind enough to point out that ADD seems to fit my peculiarities better (and I agree, although my psychologist doesn't). In my layman's view, ADD is difficulty behaving, Asperger involves more severe problems in perceiving how to behave, and in autism the inability to understand human sensibilities is so severe that anything resembling normal behaviour is out of the question.

The so-called geek community, these computer freaks and math wizards and IRC addicts and Linux users, who have articles written about them on Slashdot these days and generally get a lot of press, I think they're proof that Asperger's is more common than you may realise.

Asperger's syndrome is similar to Autism (many believe it to be a high functioning autism) except that language development is normal.

DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria For 299.80 Asperger's Disorder

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    1. marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
    2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
    3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
    4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  2. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
    1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
    2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
    3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
    4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
  6. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

My father will read this, sooner or later, but it is unlikely that he will ever say anything about it.

I will never ask him to read it, nor if he has read it... and that bothers me. Not that I expect him to read it, but that I can't just talk about this stuff. That I can't seem to talk about anything.

I am finally starting to be able to explain things, and that seemed such a victory, but I now realize it is so little.


I really don't want to type this. I would love to just forget it all. I don't want to share all the most gruesome details of my personal life, oh no, for fear of scaring you all off, I think. And for fear of scaring me off. And because I don't want to have to deal with the replies that I will get.

But I seem to be writing anyway.

Asperger's Syndrome

Yes. There's the link. I typed that much. Even went back and capitalized it. *sigh* Why does this fear have to make this so much work? Why can't it be easier? Why can't I just talk?

Can't really seem to listen either. Or understand.

I can explain things, a bit more, and that makes it all the more difficult. Not being able to explain anything provided a pretty good excuse to shut up. Stupid writing website. Now I have to talk, to articulate those things that hurt so much to not be able to say before. But it's still not complete. Not by far.

It's genetic.

Far more men than women are affected. My father's father, my father, to a lesser extent, and me. I see them acting in manners similar to my own, and it seems like obnoxiousness - I don't see just how much it is me.

Never really had any friends, as a child, or even more recently. And that never bothered me.

Until now.

Now I want to have friends, and I realize, somehow, that it is work. So difficult for me to understand - that I have to pay attention to their faces, to the little looks they make... this does not come at all naturally to me, and I don't even think to do it. I don't know how to think to do it - it's not that I want to be unfriendly, or that I don't want to listen, but I just don't know how to see this stuff.

This is the part that I am really avoiding typing. But you asked. You could stop reading now, and spare me quite a feeling of guilt.

I got really upset with my father tonight. Really really upset. Again. This has to stop, I know,... but how do I even continue to be so... so scary?

We were talking, about nothing really, and he stopped to try to explain something. I got upset because he wouldn't talk, he got more upset because of my screaming and waving my fists at him... I wanted to just destroy something, to drive my car into a tree, something so that I wouldn't have to deal with this. I wouldn't do any of these things, I hope, but it feels so much better to say them, even to think them.

I made him cry. I stomped around and waved my fists... and I got as upset last night. Why can I not listen? Where is the patience that other people have for me?

This scares me. Incredibly. I think, at times like this, I am too much of an optimist. I want to believe that just by a bit of willing and forgetting that I can make it all better. I don't want my father to be scared when he tries to ask me anything, but I know he will be, and the chances of me being this way again are so high.

For goodness sake, I'm 22 years old.

I don't want to continue acting like this... There is this tension, perhaps because my father asks me hard questions, or because he actually asks for answers... I don't know. I want to be able to talk with him. And with everyone else.

I just want to be able to have a normal conversation. I want to learn to listen. At age 22.

I don't want to be isolated, not at all... I just don't know how to understand all those little bits that come from things other than the words. And I want to be able to talk to my dad.

Some might wonder what it’s like to suffer Asperger’s Syndrome. A few thought experiments might make the experience of this disorder a little clearer to those who only see its surface manifestations.

Imagine that you are sealed permanently in a box. It looks just like a human being, but it is a box, and you spend all your time inside it, and you cannot escape. Within the box you have a control panel of switches and levers and dials which operate and monitor such things as your facial expression, tone of voice, gait, posture and other media of nonverbal communication. You must maintain constant vigilance over this panel of indicators and controls. Every few seconds a snapshot drops into the box… pictures of such things as somebody’s knit brows, a smirking or laughing mouth, a person yawning or winking at you. At the same time as you analyze these clues for some idea what’s going on outside the box, you listen carefully with headphones to things that are being said. Unfortunately, all the transmissions you receive have been automatically translated into a foreign language and then back into English, so all you hear are mechanically stilted phrases, lacking nuance, but awash with confused connotations and subject to confounding interpretations; consequently, you don’t easily recognize sarcasm, and many forms of humor and irony are lost on you. Remember, at the same time as you are poring over the pictures-- trying to put together the story-- also while listening to, and examining transcripts of the strained syntax coming over the headphones and trying to make sense of all that, you must simultaneously maintain conscious control of the panel. Does this sound difficult?

There’s more. Growing up in the box, you’ve become increasingly aware that you’re “different” from the people around you, or, I should say, the people around your box. You inevitably get teased and bullied a lot in school. Others don’t appear to suffer the strain you endure in trying to deal with people from within the box; for them, “reading” other people is natural, easy, and “fun”. You are called a bookworm (and many other less innocuous names) because, for you, even higher mathematics and particle physics are easier to comprehend than the idly chattering people around you. Thus, you become a sort of “walking encyclopedia” of various subjects you’ve retreated into… books never shunned you, and they have become your only reliable friends. People comment that you often appear absent-minded or lost in thought, speak in a pedantic or artificial way, and generally lack “common sense”. Passengers in your car notice that you appear to have great difficulty conversing and driving at the same time. You acquire a reputation for saying precisely the wrong thing at the worst possible moment. People avoid you; they don’t understand how a demonstrably intelligent person could at the same time be such a blithering idiot and social washout. They don’t understand how much work it is trying to manage in the box, how easily you can be overwhelmed by all the fragmented pictures and illogical phrases-- each requiring close analysis and evaluation-- which inundate you. Do you think you might feel very lonely, bitterly lonely, under these circumstances?

You do your best to assuage the loneliness by constructing an acceptable demeanor, built up of all the things you’ve learned-- learned the hard way-- about managing interpersonal relations from within the box. You learn some routines which can be punched into the control panel by rote, all for the purpose of feigning normality. The veneer is very brittle, though, and has to be repaired constantly and at great effort to maintain the façade. For instance, a new acquaintance might mention the beautiful weather; you, delighted at meeting someone who shares your interest in meteorology, discourse on the high-pressure system recorded via satellite a few miles away, and are bewildered that your newfound friend appears to be trying to get away from you. But you learn from this. You program a macro into the control panel which automatically replies “Yes, what an effing gorgeous day! I can’t wait for the weekend!” to any mention of attractive weather, though you know you’ll be indoors, all by yourself that weekend, just like every other weekend. You might start feeling a bit insincere and empty after doing this for a while. Do you think you could get used to that?

Affectations of normality only go so far, though, and you don’t get invited to many parties. This might come as a relief, given the stress dealing with groups of people creates in the box. However, there is one particular social gathering which remains memorable. It is the one where you discover that you’re not just “different”, but that you truly don’t belong. At this gathering, you find yourself surrounded by laughing people, all or most of their attention being focused on you. You feel a bit flattered that all these friendly people find you so interesting and entertaining. At first. Then a few of the snapshots which drop into the box start to reveal a different story… they appear to be signaling to one another as if to say “get a load of this dork” and you begin to realize you are being humiliated with the sarcasm you don’t comprehend, and are being set on display for ridicule. That’s the reason you were invited, in fact: it is a circus, and you are the clueless sideshow freak. You begin to falter as you go over the evidence which has now piled into the box, and tears fill your eyes as you look over the snapshots you’ve collected, searching desperately for some other interpretation. You can’t believe that people would be so cruel. Deep inside the box, you start sobbing, uncontrollably, and you drop the pictures, throw the headphones aside and turn away from the control panel, in abject hurt and pain. But the box isn’t crying… the control panel has been left unattended, so the box is left staring blankly into space, twitching nervously, and rocking back and forth in silence. Sweet, numbing silence.

Had enough?

Then try this one on for size. Imagine that you have a grotesque deformity… but not just one particular deformity, because people can get used to those, and, depending upon the character of the afflicted person, some may come to find big scars and missing parts colorful and endearing. No, imagine that you have some sort of constantly-changing deformity, such that, say, a rhinoceros horn would grow out of your cheekbone for a period of five minutes, then recede only to be replaced a half hour later with a third-degree burn which consumes your nose and right ear, and then a few minutes later this scar in turn fades away, but after another twenty minutes your lower jaw drops off, making you look like a hagfish. This process continues throughout your life, and you have absolutely no control over it. Your job-- which you must perform every day-- is to go out and meet people while pretending that absolutely nothing is wrong. Clearly, your working life would be hell. But what would your social life be like during your non-working hours? What about your sexual life? Where would you go, and what would you do? How would you feel?

Well, that’s the way I feel every day. The deformity is a pervasive developmental disorder on the autistic spectrum. It affects my personality and everything I do and everyone I meet on any more than a casual basis. Some would deny that there is any sort of “disorder“ here; I know I sure did. In previous years I’ve told my self I was merely “shy,” “melancholic,” or “hypersensitive”. I even called my habit of sitting in a corner rocking back and forth for two or three hours per day-- a trait I share with my fully autistic brother-- a form of “meditation”! But I don’t lie to myself anymore. The best I can do is reassure those close to me (a very precious few) that, though I’m alarmingly whacked, I’m not at all dangerous. Did I mention that AS is no more treatable nor curable than any other form of mental retardation?

I am dating someone that I think may (I am not into armchair diagnosis, it just looks like this may be the case) have Asperger's. I also seem to recognize a few things that may apply to myself, and will be speaking to a therapist about this.

I have gone through a year and a half of pain dating this guy, and feel very much relieved to know that there may be real reasons for the way he acts beyond the definition of "jerk" - which would apply only part of the time. (Which is why I'm still hanging in there.)

I've written something that I'd like to say to him, and I'm interested in knowing what people who actually have Asperger's think about it - how you'd feel if your very frustrated girlfriend said or wrote this to you.

Here goes:

Emotional and "niceness" reciprocity is a problem in this relationship.

What can I live with?

I need some reciprocity. When I do something nice, I would like something nice done for me in return. The reason for this is that it would make me feel good. I did the thing for you to make you feel good. It makes me feel good to make you feel good. So when you don’t reciprocate there is this odd little automatic dialog I probably learned for the first time in kindergarten or earlier – “I did the thing because I wanted him to feel good. He did nothing in return. Doesn’t he want me to feel good?” And it all goes downhill from there.

If I do nice things on occasion for you, but you don’t for me and this non-reciprocity goes on for too long, I worry that on some level (not necessarily deliberate or malicious) I may be being used. (People use those they love all the time. Some forms of use are benign, others feel bad. Even though the latter happens a lot, it still isn’t a nice feeling on the receiving end. I think people would have better relationships if they could avoid this except in ways they have accepted and agreed to. It’s probably better if that agreement is not only explicit but revocable – one might agree to something, then find out they really don’t like it.)

This desired reciprocity includes demonstrations of love and affection.

I have figured out that while you feel emotions, you may or may not be able to express deep feelings the way other people might expect. In the past, I have interpreted this as a lack of those emotions, but I now realize that while you may feel them you have a hard time transmitting that. Still, I would like a little more expression. It’s as if I am expected to know that you feel them, perhaps telepathically or at least empathetically.

But I am an adult who has experienced hurtful behavior from past partners. I am now more wary and self-protective than I was once, and I do not assume that just because someone loves me or acts like they do, that I know how they are feeling. I mean that there is some uncertainty there. We definitely have a linkage, but I’m not in your head, and the hostility you sometimes express when you’re uncomfortable can also tend to confuse me - you see, I read that hostility as lack of emotions or dislike for me.

While there is no need for constant self-monitoring and endless discussion, there are lots of ways to express affection that can be within your comfort level, yet expressive. I think the reason you are uncomfortable doing this at all is that you may be anticipating the extreme discomfort you clearly experience when it will get to be too much – for example an embrace that goes on too long for you - and dread that so much you don’t embrace me at all. But an embrace might be a really appropriate and helpful thing at that moment. I’ll be happy if you give me the embrace, and when it begins to be a bit much, lovingly disengage from it without having to get away from me entirely, which you would if it had gone to the point where it felt too much.

It occurs to me that if you can step just to the edge, or one step beyond, of your comfort zone and see that I don’t mind if you retreat back there quickly, maybe between us we can advance the boundary of the comfort zone gradually to a point I can live with too.

I don't mind if you do this and watch my reaction to see whether I’m telling the truth here - I know you need to test me rather a lot to see if I mean the things I say to you - but it would feel better if as you watched, you gave me the benefit of the doubt and watched me in anticipation of a positive and loving reaction, not in suspicion that I am just saying all of this to make you be affectionate against your will.

Some thoughts on Asperger's Syndrome:


Asperger's syndrome seems to be heavily present in those who are identified as gifted. I suggest anyone who has it or who has a child who has it get the person who may have Asperger's syndrome tested to see their IQ.

I was identified as having an IQ well over 180 when I was 6 - apparently, the methods they used were no match for my young brain. There is a possibility that I may have Asperger's syndrome, for which I am getting tested soon.

Some of the characteristics of gifted people are characteristics of Asperger's syndrome. Read these excerpts from NINDS's page on it:

The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Some children with AS have become experts on vacuum cleaners, makes and models of cars, even objects as odd as deep fat fryers. Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors.

What they'd call obsessive I'd call simply high interest. I have known people who are highly knowledgeable on advanced topics such as the intricacies of quantum physics, prime numbers, the neurological bases of intelligence (my particular area of knowledge) - it's interest in a subject, plain and simple. High vocabulary is in addition found in the gifted in nearly every case.

Children with AS will gather enormous amounts of factual information about their favorite subject and will talk incessantly about it, but the conversation may seem like a random collection of facts or statistics, with no point or conclusion.

Their speech may be marked by a lack of rhythm, an odd inflection, or a monotone pitch. Children with AS often lack the ability to modulate the volume of their voice to match their surroundings. For example, they will have to be reminded to talk softly every time they enter a library or a movie theatre.

Unlike the severe withdrawal from the rest of the world that is characteristic of autism, children with AS are isolated because of their poor social skills and narrow interests. In fact, they may approach other people, but make normal conversation impossible by inappropriate or eccentric behavior, or by wanting only to talk about their singular interest.

Does one suppose that poor social skills and narrow interests might be triggered by a lack of exposure, in some cases? I was the 'weird kid' at school and did not always have situations in which to practice my social skills. In addition, I find the brighter a person gets, the less willing they are to do the small talk shit, even though most of us bright folk suffer through it for the sake of being social.

Children with AS usually have a history of developmental delays in motor skills such as pedaling a bike, catching a ball, or climbing outdoor play equipment. They are often awkward and poorly coordinated with a walk that can appear either stilted or bouncy.

Many children with AS are highly active in early childhood, and then develop anxiety or depression in young adulthood. Other conditions that often co-exist with AS are ADHD, tic disorders (such as Tourette syndrome), depression, anxiety disorders, and OCD.

A lot of these also happen with gifted people - ADHD and OCD, specifically, and depression and anxiety can be brought on by what a lot of gifted folk go through.

The DSM-IV criteria for Asperger's Syndrome are no less flawed:

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    1. marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
    2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
    3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
    4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  2. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
    1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
    2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
    3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
    4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
  6. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Impairments in nonverbal behaviors: I dislike looking people in the eye because I find it a little scary and I don't know what it communicates to others. In addition, many people with Asperger's develop relationships appropriate to their developmental level or higher, and frequently seek enjoyment. One person I know who has Asperger's syndrome has a group of friends who, I would say, have fairly similar levels of maturity (they are not exactly the most mature group of twenty-year-old guys, but they're pretty similar in maturity to others in their group) and seems to join them in their activity . In addition, I have known others who have Asperger's to be very emotionally reciprocating, to the point of fussing when they don't.

Restricted, stereotyped behaviors : The people I have known who have Asperger's have never exhibited any routine behaviors. Honestly. The only repetitive behavior I've ever seen has been out of anxiety. Heavily focused interest is just very focused interest. I know many, many people who have very focused interests, and I highly doubt all of them have Asperger's.

Part C of the DSM seems to be the key part - do the impairments in nonverbal behaviors and the routine, repetitive behaviors cause them clinically significant impairment. This is a very nebulous statement and I wish the people that make the DSM would expand on this.

In general, as a student studying neuroscience, I have very little trust in psychologists.

I don't even know why they pathologize all this.

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