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How to think about Aspergers

People more often make the mistake of defining “normal” too narrowly, compared to the mistake of defining it too broadly. Once you agree with that, it makes sense to check your own comfort zone and see if you’ve been missing out on things at the edges.

From my journal:

A subset of the population is born with an unusual brain structure. Let’s avoid the thorny discussion of what constitutes “normal” and just say that folks with this condition have a sizable chunk of their brains wired differently than the rest. Say someone with this condition was engaged in a conversation. Instead of, for example, directly asking for or giving out information, they might instead communicate at more subtle (and less efficient) level, using facial expressions, social cues, body language, and so on. All the while, because of their condition, a whole chunk of their brain is dedicated to processing these faint signals from the person on the other end of the conversation, to make up for the inefficiency of the communication channel.

The activity described is called “having a conversation”, and perversely, it’s the folks who don’t have the condition I just described that get a label: Asperger Syndrome.

The model of a foreign culture is a productive one. What makes a different culture seem foreign to you or me? Lots of things, but at the core, its a question of different fundamental assumptions about the world and how it works. Aspies and NTs essentially come from different cultures (or the wrong planet, as it is sometimes described) and differ on several fundamental assumptions.

This is a readily surmountable obstacle. One side can grasp the other, but it takes effort, patience, and a desire to move outside your comfort zone. You have to be willing to examine your assumptions, and even if you don’t change them, still realize that they are assumptions. Flipping around a point-of-view, as the journal entry above does, can be an effective tool to help with this.

It this sounds a lot like what anyone who wants to be a better human being should be practicing anyway, then you’re getting the point exactly.

Thanks for reading.

Read more in my autism series.

P.S. I am looking out for any books or references about understanding foreign and alien cultures. If you know of any, please share them in the comments or contact me directly.

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Micah Joel

Purveyor of things geeky