AS traits

Aspies are as individual as the rest of the population and can have the most varying characteristics when it comes to body type, neurology, temperament, abilities, difficulties, interests, values etc. Painting a uniform picture is therefore rather impossible; all one can do is mention characteristics that one can have or which been found relatively common, even if there may be many exceptions.

The DSM-IV definitions of ASD need not be replicated here. I believe there is a growing consensus that these definitions are too narrow, stereotyped, gender biased and negatively slanted to be relied upon as a complete definition. Hopefully, the next edition will include more nuanced definitions, including the many sensory issues which are incredibly common but not even mentioned in the current edition.

A more positively slanted list was created by autism expert Tony Attwood & Carol Grey (some of which points may be more relevant than others, according to the layman-created Aspie-Quiz):

Attwood & Grey’s Characteristics of an Aspie:

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; 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.

B. Fluent in ‘Aspergerese.’ a social language characterized by at least three of the following:

  • A determination to seek the truth.
  • Conversation free of hidden meaning or agenda.
  • Advanced vocabulary and interest in words.
  • Fascination with word-based humour, such as puns.
  • Advanced use of pictorial metaphor.

C. Cognitive skills characterized by at least four of the following:

  • Strong preference for detail over gestalt.
  • Original, often unique perspective in problem solving.
  • Exceptional memory and/or recall of details often forgotten or disregarded by others, for example: names, dates, schedules, routines.
  • Avid perseverance in gathering and cataloguing information on a topic of interest.
  • Persistence of thought.
  • Encyclopaedic or ‘CD ROM’ knowledge of one or more topics.
  • Knowledge of routines and a focused desire to maintain order and accuracy.
  • Clarity of values/decision making unaltered by political or financial factors.

D. Additional possible features:

  • Acute sensitivity to specific sensory experiences and stimuli, for example: hearing, touch, vision, and/or smell.
  • Strength in individual sports and games, particularly those involving endurance or visual accuracy, including rowing, swimming, bowling, chess.
  • ‘Social unsung hero’ with trusting optimism: frequent victim of social weaknesses of others, while steadfast in the belief of the possibility of genuine friendship.
  • Increased probability over general population of attending university after high school.
  • Often take care of others outside the range of typical development.

Besides Asperger Syndrome, Autism, Hyperlexia, Rett Syndrome, PDD and other Autism Spectrum Conditions, the wider Neuropsychiatric or Neuro-Diversity Spectrum also includes ADHD, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Developmental Dyspraxia, Learning Disabilities, OCD, ODD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Scotopic Sensitivity, Tourette Syndrome and perhaps a few more; the list keeps growing.

What can be rather confusing is that so many diagnoses overlap. The autistic spectrum seems to be the most inclusive, whereas the others are more limited and specific. Here is one voice about neurodiversity and the problems with labelling:

“I think, when you look at neurodiversity as a whole there is a large group of difference.  Some of them are a problem only because they are different from the majority of people and therefore the world is not set up for them.  Some examples of this would be HSP and introversion.  Some are problems no matter how you look at them – such as face blindness or lack of coordination.  The majority of these things are on a continuum.  For example, some introverts are more introverted than others.

“These traits often cluster together.  If you have one neurodiverse trait you are more likely to have additional neurodiverse traits.  I am not sure why this is.  The more of these traits you have, the more difficult it is to function.  It is much more difficult to cope or compensate for 7-10 traits than it is for 1-3 traits.  Also the stronger the traits are the harder it will be to cope or compensate for.  If you can’t function in society because you have to many of these traits and/or they are too intense then it becomes a disability.  And when it becomes a disability then they have to put a label on it.

“So clumps of traits are grouped together and given a label AS or ADD.  But other clumps of traits, perhaps just as common are not given a label.  For example there is no label for a combination of introvert, HSP and poor coordination.

“The ‘clump traits together and give them a name’ strategy is fundementally flawed.  It ignores the huge differences among people that share the same label – such as AS or ADD – and implies that if some thing is proven to help [some] people with AS or ADD it is good for anyone who shares that label.  It hurts those who need help but don’t qualify for it because their clump of traits do not fit a defined dx.  Labeling falsely claims you have one thing, not a group of things which may be better treated individually.” – Ilah, adult probable Aspie from USA


For anyone with an autistic child, I warmly recommend Donna Williams’ book The Jumbled Jigsaw where she sorts out the confusing mess that is called ‘autism’. (Just like I try to do on this site about AS.)


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