In their article, The Discovery of “Aspie” Criteria, Dr. Tony Attwood and Carol Gray offer criteria for “Aspie” for “a much needed but currently nonexistent Manual of Discoveries About People (MDP I).” I encourage you to read the entire article. This is is the first part of a series of blog posts in which I will discuss the criteria proposed by Attwood and Gray. In this post, I will look at part A of their critera, which I will list below…
A. A qualitative advantage in social interaction, as manifested by a majority of the following:
- peer relationships characterized by absolute loyalty and impeccable dependability
- free of sexist, “age-ist”, or culturalist biases; ability to regard others at “face value”
- speaking one’s mind irrespective of social context or adherence to personal beliefs
- ability to pursue personal theory or perspective despite conflicting evidence
- seeking an audience or friends capable of: enthusiasm for unique interests and topics; consideration of details; spending time discussing a topic that may not be of primary interest
- listening without continual judgement or assumption
- interested primarily in significant contributions to conversation; preferring to avoid “ritualistic small talk” or socially trivial statements and superficial conversation.
- seeking sincere, positive, genuine friends with an unassuming sense of humour
It might seem strange to view something described as a “syndrome” or “disorder” as a collection of strengths, and I’m certain it seems odd to see an “advantage in social interaction” when the syndrome’s diagnostic criteria include “failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level” and “lack of social or emotional reciprocity” (DSM IV), but when we look at it as a different way of thinking, understanding, and being, then it becomes easy to consider that it might come with a set of strengths. It becomes “different, not less”, as Temple Grandin says.
Look back through the list above and consider that we aspies tend to miss the little cues that would tell us the rules of a social encounter. Consider also, that the mechanism by which cultural norms are learned doesn’t seem to work in our minds. Lastly, consider that we tend to be very strict in our adherence to routines and to struggle with changes. I think it becomes clear that these apparent weaknesses are the direct causes of these social strengths.
In my own experience, I’ve seen all of these in my aspie friends and I value these traits in myself. I hope you will look for them in the aspies you know. I encourage you to praise these traits when you see them. As Attwood and Gray mention later in the article, the best praise is that which is given on a personally valued trait, and “traits like loyalty, honesty, perseverance, logic, intelligence, and sincerity are worthy of frequent praise.” These are traits I know my aspie friends value in themselves and that I know they have in abundance.
To be continued…