Too often, the microscope is focused on all that is wrong with Aspergers adults. Yet, these grown-ups actually have much to contribute to families, friendships, and the workplace than the general population recognizes.
It’s quite true that there are thousands of strengths associated with Aspergers. Any attempt at a list is going to stereotype these individuals, but here are four strengths that come to mind:
1. It’s a cliché by now to say that some adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism have higher than average intelligence, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Some Aspies are downright smarter than just about everyone else out there, and some are quite aware of it and aren’t afraid of telling others about their level of expertise in a particular field or subject.
2. Many Aspergers adults have a wonderful sense of humor that demonstrates a truly unique way of viewing the world. Whether it’s the humor found in someone making the same mistake over and over, or the hilarity found in seemingly irrelevant details of social situations (e.g., how loud someone is breathing while at the dinner table), neurotypicals can learn a lot about how to appreciate details in life that they never would have noticed without learning from their friend on the spectrum.
3. Another strength is the fact that the Aspie is going to tell the truth about something, whether you like it or not! Perhaps he has something figured out that you don’t – and he isn’t afraid to tell you. Perhaps the answer to a problem is obvious to him, and it’s annoying how slow the neurotypicals are to figure it out -- and he isn’t going to hide that annoyance. Maybe it’s a case of just being brutally honest with you when your new haircut looks ridiculous. But the honesty that the Aspie possesses is refreshing. In this pretend world of political correctness, contrived so-called “reality television,” and unrestrained commercialism that we all live with on a daily basis, it’s really cool to have someone just tell it like it is every now and then.
4. Many Aspies have an absolutely uncanny ability to focus. Sometimes this manifests in inconvenient ways (e.g., a youngster focusing only on the irrelevant details of a learning situation, and therefore having difficulty with learning the bigger picture). But just as often, this manifests in an ability to solve problems that would stump the neurotypical. For example, one Aspergers employee helped engineer the dependent relations between hundreds of different components of a software system. The problem was that, not only did it require a huge amount of focus, but a huge amount of focus over a long period of time, because every detail that was changed in the system caused hundreds of other small changes in the ways all the other components of the system depended on one another. This Aspie accomplished in a few days what the company expected to take several months.
Without question, the Aspies brain operates differently. Most Aspies are better at detecting changing sounds, detecting visual structures, and manipulating 3D shapes. Too often, employers don’t realize what Aspergers employees are capable of, and assign them repetitive, almost menial tasks. But most are willing - and capable - of making sophisticated contributions to society, if they have the right environment.
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