Monthly Archives: July 2012

Perfectionism

One interesting trait that I notice a lot of people with Aspergers show is perfectionism. The perfectionism usually goes right along with one of the Aspie’s main “passions” – if the Aspie is interested in doing something, it MUST be done perfectly, otherwise what’s the point in doing it? Note that this is not the same as OCD, although Aspies can show that as well. No, this isn’t excessive handwashing or hyper-organization I’m talking about. It’s the overwhelming need to NOT BE WRONG.

My daughter is having so much trouble with this right now. She has been absolutely tearing through her home school assignments. She’s learning stuff so quickly that she’s now getting deep into Grade 2 assignments even though she is only 7. As she comes across subjects that are more complex, it’s natural for her not to have all the answers right away.

Try telling her this.

When she doesn’t know the answer to a question, she does everything she can to avoid making an incorrect guess. She will whine, cry, overdramatize… ANYTHING to avoind giving a wrong answer. Even after I tell her to take a guess and that being wrong is okay, she still won’t give in. She has had full on, hour long tantrums simply because she could not spell the word “bounce.”

Although my reactions aren’t as extreme, I definitely have a perfectionism issue as well. While it’s an asset professionally (I work in a place that pretty much demands perfectionism), it is a drain on my psyche socially. My perfectionism manifests itself as a fear of looking stupid in front of people by doing something “wrong.” That’s why I’m constantly second guessing my behavior, which accounts for a great deal of my social awkwardness and anxiety.

The good thing is I have learned to cope with my perfectionism to a degree. I’ve learned that being perfect is pretty much impossible, and that my best effort is all I should be looking for. If I’m wrong, so be it, as long as I tried my hardest to do the right thing. In essence: the best I can do is the best I can do.

Now if I can just get my daughter to believe that bullshit.

Advertisements

Get Smart

There’s been debate over whether or not people with Aspergers have higher IQs or are generally smarter than the average population. I’m not going to debate that too much, nor am I going to debate what exactly “being smart” means (knowledge vs. intelligence, etc.). I will say that most Aspies often have an abundance of talent in one or two specific areas. Sometimes, the area that benefits is brain power.

I fancy myself a pretty smart guy. School was a breeze for me, I’m really good at my job and know a lot about it, and I sometimes scare my wife with how many answers I get right on Jeopardy. I’ve wondered: am I smart because of my Aspergers, or in spite of?

As always, I have a theory.

People with Aspergers don’t have a strong sensory filter; it can sometimes be impossible for an Aspie to block out stimuli. Because of this, the Aspie brain is forced to process incoming information at much higher speeds simply to avoid a sensory meltdown (parents of Aspies know that sometimes the incoming stimuli is so overwhelming, these meltdowns can be absolutely unavoidable). It’s this adaptation that gives Aspies the ability to process knowledge faster than a neurotypical brain can. They catch on faster. It’s easier to “get” it.
Whether or not this ability is used to the fullest advantage differs on a case by case basis – not every Aspie is guaranteed to be a genius. It takes hard work to realize this potential.

I also think Aspies are primed for intellectual greatness because people with Aspergers tend to focus their attention on hard facts. The greatest thing in the world to an Aspie is a question with a definite correct answer. Actually, the greatest thing is knowing the correct answer. Subjects with “gray area” responses – such as social situations and debates – can either be annoying or downright scary to an Aspie. Incoming information from these subjects can often be conflicting and contradictory – there is often no “right” answer. Aspies are are more comfortable with asbolute answers than relative ones.

So don’t always think that just because a person with Aspergers seems smarter than you, that means he is. He may know the “right” answers, but he doesn’t have all the answers.