By DAVID GREEN
Some of the most interesting people you run across in life might have a personality that pegs them as having Asperger’s syndrome. Or on the other hand, some of the most interesting people that you’ll never get to know are Aspies. For some of them, social interaction isn’t their cup of tea, as they say.
I almost used the word “disorder” in that first paragraph, but it doesn’t seem quite proper. After all, how do you define “normal”? Do you know any normal people? Don’t we all have our oddities if you really get to know us?
Asperger’s is a difficult one to pin down. It comes in so many flavors and it has both its problems and its gifts. Problems with social interaction might be accompanied by an amazing memory and attention to details.
Some researchers don’t want the words “syndrome” and “disorder” used at all. It’s just a different way of thinking, they say.
I was thinking of Asperger’s because of a segment on the radio show “This American Life.” The story is about a woman named Kristin who works as a speech therapist at a school and she often comes in contact with Asperger’s kids. In school, problems often arise because the kids show emotional distance, inflexibility and missing social cues.
The joke among the female staff where Kristin works is that all of their husbands have Asperger’s because its typical symptoms overlap with stereotypical male personality traits.
It’s said that every woman, when she first hears about Asperger’s, suspects that her husband has it. Kristin began to take the joke seriously. She wondered if her husband really did have Asperger’s.
She heard about an on-line quiz that can give an indication of an aspie personality. It’s not an official diagnostic tool, but it matches up a lot of personality traits.
I think I was driving back from the regional wrestling meet when I heard the show. When I got home I asked Colleen if she was tuned in and, yes, she did hear it.
I think her next statement was, “So do you think you have it?”
Hmm, another wife diagnosing her husband. Of course I could think of some areas where she would score points.
Do you sometimes feel tortured by the clothes you’re wearing, as in itchy tags? That’s Colleen.
Do you tend to get so absorbed in your projects that you forget everything else (e.g. eating, sleeping, etc). The library dominates.
Do you have a poor concept of time? Like when she awakes in the morning asking, “What time is it? What day is this?”
I told a friend about the 100-question quiz and she immediately suspected her husband was an aspie. She took the test for him, never mentioned it to him, and said he scored high. I think there’s a problem with that use of the quiz.
Back to Kristin. She finally got her husband to take the test. Actually, she didn’t tell him what the test was about. She just started asking the questions.
After a few minutes, he began to wonder if she wrote the quiz for him. Everything was so familiar to him.
There was a happy ending to their story. They had been having a lot of problems in their marriage for years and the Asperger’s diagnosis led to a greater understanding of each other. The husband, Dave, described the moment as though someone had just handed him a user’s manual for himself. Everything in his life became easier.
For Kristin, she realized the things that had been making their marriage so difficult weren’t Dave’s fault. She now understood how hard certain things were for him. As a typically obsessive Aspergian, Dave became obsessed with closing the gap between his behavior and that of other people. He made it work.
At this point I can see dozens of readers asking Mr. Google for “asperger quiz.” It’s easy to find and maybe some day I’ll administer it to myself.
Reading through it, it’s obvious that everyone will find something of themselves in the list. Of course my wife is in there, but nothing too significant. I’ll score higher, but I don’t think I’ll come through as a strong aspie. More likely I’ll score as just one of the many people with some Asperger’s tendencies. Or, as the joke goes, as a typical husband.