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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Are Aspies not responsible for their own behavior?

Any fair-minded person would agree that no one should be blamed for what they are (their race, gender, sexual orientation, looks, etc.), but that people should be held responsible for what they do.

But what if people are somehow impaired? Should they then still be held responsible for their behavior? One of the saner criticisms I got for my post on Aspergers was from someone named Cory Riesen:

"You point out a lot of truths about aspergers syndrome. However, your tone is pretty offensive. One major problem I had is that you imply or assume aspergers is "wrong" or "bad". And you seem to put the blame on the people with the this disorder for not "trying" hard enough. I realize you did not say these directly! BUT it is clear you hold these views. Especially if we take into account your replies to many of the comments on this post. You accuse people of being "typical" aspergers or showing traits... As if that is an argument? I mean it is a real disorder that they have to deal with on a daily basis. Would you write an article about how you have to wait for someone in a wheelchair to take the long way around instead of using the stairs?"

Riesen has a point: it is true that Aspies do not choose to have their syndrome. So should I be more patient with them? Should I show them a forbearance that I wouldn't show to most people?

It's an interesting philosophical question. A corollary: dumb people can't help but be dumb, either. Should they be given more leeway for their behavior? They are certainly less able to think clearly and logically, and it's not their fault that they were born with subpar brains. So should we hold them less responsible for their behavior?

The NY Times will occasionally inveigh against the death penalty being applied to some murderer whose IQ has been tested at 65 or 70 (70 is considered the cutoff point for retardation). The idea is that the murderer didn't fully comprehend what he was doing.

But let's take this argument a step further. What if a murderer has an IQ of 85? Does that make him a little less responsible for his actions, than, say, a fellow with an IQ of 100? And does someone with an IQ of 155 bear more responsibility for a crime than, say, someone with an IQ of 110 would have? (The former would theoretically be able foresee the consequences of his crime and the harm he would cause better than the latter.) 

Or how about an elderly person whose faculties are not what they once were? Does that render him less responsible for his bad behavior? 

There are those who feel that women are less logical than men. Are women therefore less guilty of their crimes than men are? (In fact, the death penalty is much more rarely given to women than to men.)

Should we give women a pass for being more emotional than men, especially when it's their time of month? (In fact, most people do, but should we?)

At yet another level, sociopaths can't help but be sociopaths. They turn out that way because they had no close bond with a nurturer at a very young age, or, more rarely, for organic frontal lobe-related reasons -- neither of which they are responsible for. And since no sociopath has ever been "cured," they have no choice but to be without conscience. Does this make them somehow less culpable for their conscienceless behavior? How long before we start seeing sociopath support groups?

("Hey -- you can't really blame him for having killed all those women. He's a sociopath, that's the way he's programmed.")

Ultimately, no one is responsible for his own family background. ("It's not my fault I exhibit such selfish behavior, my parents spoiled me rotten when I was a child.")

Or how about an otherwise sane person who is under the influence? ("Yes Your Honor, it was my own choice to drink, but you see, I didn't make the decision to get in my car and drive until after I was drunk, so by that point, I really was no longer responsible for my own actions. You have to understand, alcoholism is a disease, not a crime.")

No one would accept these ridiculous excuses.

But, at the same time, there's no question that a sociopath can't help but be the way he is. Any more than an Aspie can help be unreasonable and rigid, or a moron can help being stupid.

Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, had Aspergers Syndrome, which he couldn't help. That syndrome shaped his personality and undoubtedly contributed to his behavior on that fateful day. Had he not committed suicide, would his syndrome have absolved him from his murderous behavior in the eyes of a court of law?

There is such a thing as free will, and theoretically we all have it.

So, back to original question: should we -- or I, at least -- be more patient with those who have Aspergers Syndrome? I'd probably have more sympathy if advocates for Aspergers would at least admit that part of the syndrome is an intrinsic unreasonableness and rigidity which almost always lead to various forms of what most of us would call selfishness. But advocates instead constantly point out famous and successful people who have the syndrome, and talk about how Aspies are "differently abled" or some such nonsense. 

If Aspergers spokespeople would only say, we can't help the fact that even though we're very critical and judgmental ourselves we melt down if given criticism, and we can't help the fact that we can't take jokes and and that we're extremely rigid and very literal....Well, then I suspect I'd be more patient and sympathetic. But Aspergers advocates never admit to these things.

And if people with Aspergers are, as they claim, so sensitive and smart and see things that non-Aspies don't see, why can't they see their own hypocrisy? One would think that people who have meltdowns when criticized would be a little more circumspect with their own criticism. Should resentment against hypocrisy not be directed at Aspies? ("Oh, he's an Aspie, so it's perfectly okay if he's a hypocritical, rigid, self-righteous lame-o.")

I honestly don't know: it's one of those philosophical questions that doesn't have a perfectly right or wrong answer. (Although I guess it's apparent from the examples I've given that I lean towards the free will viewpoint.)

Anyway, here's my excuse: I can't help the fact that I am only human, so after repeated exposure to willful obtuseness and hypocrisy, my patience wears thin.

I have no choice. Really.


neilallen76 said...

Here’s a motive for Adam Lanza’s massacre – Adam was raped by a local, convicted Catholic priest, Fr John Castaldo, when Adam was 6 years old, and was taking revenge against other 6 year olds. Here's the verified evidence:

Adam Lanza Motive At Sandy Hook

It can’t be proven yet, but it is the best explanation yet for why Adam would want to take revenge against the parents of other 6 year olds, since those parents didn’t help him since he was raped at 6 years old.

John Craig said...

Neil --
I've heard that theory before, and it does make sense. The other theory is that he resented the children whom his own mother seemed to like more than she liked him.

Both are plausible, and ultimately it will be impossible to prove either (since we can't read his mind). But neither theory changes the fact that he was almost certainly autistic to some degree. Plenty of kids have been in his situation, either raped by a priest or spurned at some level by a mother, yet the vast majority don't react in the incredibly destructive way he did. The difference seems to be, autism. (Of course, the vast majority of autistic kids don't react like him, either.)

It's also possible that it was a combination of all three of these factors which resulted in the massacre.

Sura said...

I totally agree with you John. If the rest of us so-called normal people must be held accountable for our actions then, so must persons who "suffer" from Asperger's syndrome. I mean for one my rigid immediate supervisor is quick to "punish" others for making mistakes, but when she does, she deems herself "too tired or overworked". A classical example of their hypocrisy. The rest of us are incompetent but their poor "smarter-than-average" brains are just overworked. Ugh!!!

John Craig said...

Sura --
Thank you. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this. On the one hand nobody chooses to have Aspergers. On the other, hypocrisy is hard to take, no matter what the source, and it's not as if Aspies have absolutely no free will. I guess they should be given a slight break, but not nearly the break that they and their backers say they should. And all this stuff about how they're so special and we should treasure them is ridiculous. Anyone who thinks I'm being too harsh should watch the movie "Hangover" again and decide for themselves much patience the Zach Galafianakis character deserves.

the_riesen said...


Sorry it took me so long to reply. I was finishing up college and moving around a lot. It wasn't until my friend google searched my name when they were drunk that I realized you had made a whole post in reply to my claims. Thank you for taking the time to consider what I said. This is a way more in-depth post than I was ever expecting (LOL).

I think you nailed it on the head when you said that this is a philosophical debate that doesn't have a right or wrong answer because it is so complex and convuluted by relative facts concerning each situation.

I do think that you straw-man my arguments a bit when you point out murderers and mass murderers. After all I was calling you out on an article where you cite day-to-day sitatuions or common discrepancies and arguments that ocurr. Murder is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly no matter the mental or social condition of the individual involved.

Cory Riesen

John Craig said...

Cory --
I actually wasn't expecting a reply, so it's okay. (And if it takes people getting drunk to come to my blog, that's fine, I welcome readers no matter what circuitous route they took to get here.)

I don't think I was straw-manning your argument so much as using a leap of logic to make a philosophical point about free will, which is what the entire post was mostly about.

I am sure, however, that if Adam Lanza had survived, his defense team would have used his Aspergers in an attempt to avoid the death penalty (if they still have it in CT, I'm not even sure). They would have said that he wasn't entirely capable. (I do realize that he may have had full blown autism as opposed to Aspergers, despite the reports that he had the latter.)

Peace, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I understand where you are coming from, but at the same time your tone is incredibly offensive. I have Asperger's, and though this may skew my opinion on this matter, you're neurotypical viewpoint also skews yours. So seeing as how both of us are equally skewed, we can cut the skews out of the equation, ya?
Please don't associate that person with Asperger's. Even if he did have it, the syndrome has no effect on someone's ability to kill another living person. He was obviously some sort of sociopath, to be able to kill other human beings, is completely beyond me. He was sick, but Asperger's was not his sickness.

John Craig said...

Anon --
By all accounts Adam Lanza had Aspergers, though from what I've read it's possible he was further up the autism scale. I'm not suggesting that most people with Aspergers are killers, far from it. In fact, i wrote another post ("Do Aspies span the full range of morality?" from December 20, 2012) in which I say that Aspergers and sociopathy seem mutually incompatible, which makes the Lanza case confusing.

But you can't deny that Lanza had some form of autism. His behavior up until the shooting was a textbook case.

Anonymous said...

Mr. John Craig -- (this is the same anon as before)
I'm not disputing the fact that he could have had autism. But there is also the possibility that he could have had something else that had similar symptoms to autism (there are too many to count, and many of them I was diagnosed with before I finally received my Asperger's diagnosis).
Even if he did have autism, I know that I, and many other people who are on the spectrum, would rather not have him associated with our diagnosis.
The reason being, people who don't know enough about autism automatically assume that all people on the spectrum are like him. This lead may lead to even more discrimination against people on the spectrum than there already is.
The honest truth is that neurotypicals don't need a reason to hate people on the spectrum. They're different, and the way they interact with the world around them doesn't fit into the norms of society. God forbid they ever find a genetic link, because once they do, abortion of infants with autism and asperger's will be as common as aborting children with down syndrome.
This may seem a bit eccentric, but I hope you can understand my point. The autism spectrum image doesn't need to be any more misinformed than it already is.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Did you read my other post, which I referenced in my previous response to you? I don't think anyone would draw the conclusion from the existence of an Adam Lanza that most people on the autistic spectrum are dangerous. Most people are smart enough to have a sense of statistics, and know who's dangerous and who's not, and the general public thinks of Aspies are harmless dweebs, for the most part. As far as murder goes, by far the most dangerous types are sociopaths, and they tend to be good at hiding their sociopathy, at least at first.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't hold people responsible for things they have no control over. It's a question of the amount of control they have though. If a coworker was sneezing or coughing loudly you would probably give them some slack even though it might be annoying because they can't control fact that they are sick. However, if they are sniffing a lot because they can't be bothered to blow their nose, they are responsible for annoying you.
If someone with aspergers is bothering you, they are probably not doing it on purpose. When they make lame jokes they are trying to fit in. You wouldn't hold someone with down's syndrome responsible for not knowing how to do math. You shouldn't give them too much special treatment though. If someone can't do math they obviously shouldn't employ them as an accountant, whether they have down's syndrome or not.

You seem to believe that just because someone has aspergers, they are going to be hypocritical, "lame", judgemental, rigid and literal. They must therefore have no control over any of these things and therefore cannot be responsible for them.
I disagree with this. I think that aspergers makes it harder to read people and contributes to many of the qualities you have pointed out. That doesn't mean they have no free will. Nobody likes being wrong and taking criticism isn't easy. Most people can get past this if they try hard enough though. Aspergers may make this more difficult or maybe even impossible in severe enough cases. There are many people that don't have aspergers but still are bad at taking criticism. Maybe they are arrogant or narcissistic, or maybe they are just dicks. People with aspergers can be dicks too and if they are they are responsible for it.
If aspergers was actually the sole cause of Adam Lanka's actions, something pretty much impossible, then he could not be held responsible for them. He would still need to be put in an institution because he is dangerous.
I think that your dissagreement about aspergers advocates using the term "differently abled" is understandable. But there are advocates who have said that people with aspergers are bad at taking criticism. Aspergers is also thought of by some people as similar to down's syndrome. By pointing out that Einstein had asbergers and that it may made him focus on theoretical physics, they hope to give people a more complete view of aspergers.

I look forward to your reply

John Craig said...

Anon --
You make a lot of good points, and you seem to have a good perspective on things. My point in writing this post was that it's hard to know where to draw the line; I've obviously had negative and frustrating experiences with Aspies, and expressed that in my original post. (And by the way, if you have Aspergers, I can't tell; my guess is that you're a supportive relative of one, but that's just a guess.)

You're right that one would cut a break to a cougher but less of one to someone who didn't bother to blow his nose; but by the same token, I think you should cut pretty much of a complete break to someone with Downs, but less of one to someone with Aspergers. Yes, it's a matter of the severity of their case, and sometimes if you don't know them well, that's hard to tell.

You're right, if someone makes lame jokes, they're just trying to fit in, and that's something I'd never blame anyone for (though I certainly don't enjoy the jokes and don't want to be around that person). Hypocrisy is another matter though: even if someone has Aspergers, i find them extremely hard to take if they're constantly critical themselves, but can't take any criticism without having a meltdown. And you're right, there are plenty of non-Aspies who exhibit that same trait; they're almost always narcissistic personalities. (In fact, that's pretty much the definition of a narcissistic personality. But in either case, it's hard for me to believe that they have no control over that behavior.

I used the example of sociopaths on purpose: absolutely no one cuts them a break, but at the same time, they have absolutely no control over the fact that they are sociopaths, and so are predisposed towards evil. Should we cut them a break since they are not responsible for the fact that they were unable t bond with another human being in the first year of their life?

I never said that Adam Lanza's Aspergers Syndrome was the sole cause of his murderous rampage. But at the same time, it obviously had a lot to do with who and what he was. And as I think I've said somewhere on this blog, I consider Aspies in general a particularly UNthreatening lot; most are not dangerous at all. That said, you can't separate Lanza from his Aspergers, or autism, or wherever he was on te spectrum.

Anyway, thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

What is an "Aspergers meltdown"?

John Craig said...

Anon --
It's when an Aspie throws a fit or has a temper tantrum over something that would not elicit such a reaction in a non-Aspie.

Anonymous said...

What types of things are likely to cause these meltdowns? I mean, I realise every Aspie is different, but what are some general examples?

John Craig said...

Anon --
Criticism, mostly. They have a very hard time dealing with it. They can be constantly critical themselves, but if they are criticized, they tend to become filled with rage; if the person who criticized them doesn't realize that the person he's dealing with has Aspergers, he will then get angry himself, and the Aspie will go into full-fledged temper tantrum mode.

They also don't like having their world view contradicted, and if you present them with facts that contradict that view, they will get angry, which can sometimes deteriorate into a temper tantrum too.

Another thing they really don't like, although it generally doesn't cause a meltdown, is having their schedule interrupted.

Anonymous said...

Do they realise that they are being hypocritical when they criticise everyone else, but can't take criticism themselves? Or are they oblivious to their own hypocrisy?

What happens during these meltdowns - does the Aspie just start swearing and being disruptive, or do they also sulk like normal people?

As for not liking their schedule interrupted, does this mean that Aspies have a general problem with spontaneity and change? For example, would it be difficult for an Aspie to move to another geographical location?

John Craig said...

Anon --
They start screaming at you and accusing you of all sorts of things you're not guilty of. Then, if you point out that they are in fact guilty of those things themselves, they say they're not, even when they are. Sometimes tears ensue as well. The thing to remember is, they are like children; you can't deal with them as if they're adults.

No, in my experience, their hypocrisy doesn't seem to occur to them.

Yes, spontaneity is a problem. I've never thought about the geographical relocation aspect; I suppose that could be a problem.

Anonymous said...

Okay, thanks for answering my questions. It sounds as if childishness and emotional immaturity is a large part of what Aspergers is about. I also agree with your point that Aspies would be less irritating if they admitted to being sometimes unreasonable; nothing is more annoying than people who deny their own flaws. At least sociopaths admit to being evil and ruthlessly self-serving.

One other question - are conversations with Aspies usually boring? A friend complained that she took a bus journey with an Aspie and he just went off on a monologue about some computer game throughout the whole ride, never realising that she hadn't the slightest interest in computers and was simply saying "mmm" occasionally out of politeness. Whenever I saw this Aspie, he seemed to be looking at his mobile phone a lot rather than at his surroundings - I even saw him do this when I walked past him on the street, and I saw pictures of him doing it at a (peaceful) demonstration. He would be, as you described on the other post, "stiffly polite" - offering me a glass of water when I went over to see his flatmate, but I had the (maybe biased) feeling that he was doing this because he'd been taught to rather than out of instinct. On one occasion he called my friend a slut in front of her own mother. I didn't talk to him much, but now I wish I had because I'm curious as to whether he would have been able to hold normal conversation. Could the Aspies you knew have a back-and-forth discussion? Or did they constantly exhibit speech pathologies such as excessive derailment?


John Craig said...

Gethin --
I'm a little embarrassed to say that I just had to look up "derailment." The website that defined it for me said that it was associated with both schizophrenia and mania, but didn't mention Aspergers. From what I've seen, though, they do tend to have more non sequiturs, and just talk about whatever interests them, with scant attention paid to whether or not others want to hear about it.

I knew one Aspie who said that children have to go to the right schools to learn social skills. It took me a while to realize that what she was referring to was the basics like offering a drink to guests, asking how people are, shaking hands, looking them in the eye, etc. The more subtle social skills, such as bantering, flattery, humor, etc, are beyond them -- and can be learned by normal people anywhere, not just in school.

I'd describe conversations with Aspies as painfully awkward rather than boring. Yes, they do tend to be boring, but the overwhelming feeling I'm left with is more one of awkwardness. When you're with someone who is awkward, you always end up feeling a little awkward yourself -- or at least i do.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about feeling awkward when with awkward people - in those situations I try my best to ignore embarrassing comments, make polite smiles during any attempts at humour and generally focus on maintaining an almost business-like composure. And on making a swift exit.

I agree that subtle social skills such as banter, flattery, charm, humour and (appropriate, non-creepy) flirting cannot really be taught to anyone; normal people pick these up naturally, but I can't imagine an Aspie becoming naturally charming or a good comedian. Maybe that's why Aspies are said to have the syndrome for life - they can be helped through being taught basic social skills, but not the more advanced stuff.

As for humour, I know plenty of non-Aspies with no natural sense of humour either. The difference is that they are generally aware of it and thus don't even attempt to crack jokes or pretend to laugh at them. I've read of Aspies, on the other hand, who make awkward attempts at humour when they'd be much better off not even trying. Pretending to have a sense of humour when one doesn't is highly transparent and generally makes one seem phoney. I think it's better for such people to embrace being thought of as dry and serious; at least then people will think them sincere.

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Yes, I try to make a quick exit too. And "business-like composure" isa good way of describing the mode I fall into.

Couldn't agree more about people with no sense of humor; they're much better off simply being dry. I've always felt that every time I have to fake a laugh at an unfunny joke, it takes five minutes off my life.

Anonymous said...

It strikes me that patience and understanding are often, as they should be, met with appreciation. For instance, I might say to a good friend after I've gone through a hard time, "jeeze Pete, It's been a rough couple of months, but I really appreciate you standing by me...I know I've been a bear to deal with b/c of how stressed I am, but trust me, I'll always remember your kindess and have your back too brother."
It is my experience that despite years of patience, kindness and understanding beyond human limits shown to an aspie will never, EVER be appreciated. Heck, it likely won't ever even be recognized and likely, the best part: it will be seen as some sort of negative thing that you will soon and constantly be getting 'blamed' for.
We tend to be understanding so that we feel we're doing our duty as human beings to bring good energy and positivity into the world. Most people with aspergers do nothing but suck all that up and stomp on it. They are takers. They take kindness and turn it into "patronizing," they take understanding and use it to take advantage. They are joy suckers. To use compassion and empathy when dealing with an aspie is an exercise in futility. It's rubbish. In other words "give them a break" at your own peril and for your own reasons...don't expect it to make a difference on their end. And trust me when I tell you, I'm the warmest person you'll ever meet. It is experience that has taught me this. If there came a day when an Aspie said to me "gosh, I know I can be difficult, but thank you for sticking by me..." I'd retract everything I've said here. What I know now, is that day will never, ever come.
John, your points paralleling the drunk driver and the aspie are well made. Maybe someone isn't responsible for the reason they are a jerk, but they sure need to take responsibility for the consequences. You can't just go around hurting people and blaming it on this or that and expect to be excused.
I also wanted to add one more thing since someone mentioned that Adam Lanza likely had full blown autism vs. Aspergers. I actually think (since my husband and son are on the spectrum) that autism is a heck of a lot less damaging and toxic to the people around than is Aspergers. With Severe Autism, a parent, or companion know exactly what they're dealing with and this question of befriending someone despite their limitations is just that. With aspergers, there is an initial honeymoon period where the person has the NT believing they have a real friend/lover/partner etc. They are following scripts or whatever they are doing, until you become sucked into the vortex of BS and toxicity.
I also want to add that in defense of the argument is that statistically speaking the most violence surrounding Aspies is suicide. I have never found literature supporting a causal link between ASD and violence.
Although anecdotally I could see a lot of violence being dreamed about by the NTs married for 14 plus years who just want OUT! ;)

John Craig said...

Anon --
You are SOOOO right, on all counts. All I can tell you is, your reaction is entirely natural for someone who's been married to an Aspie. In fact, anybody who reacted in any way other than the way you have would have to be lying, both to herself and to others.

"Joy suckers" is the perfect way to put it. They tend to be constant wet blankets, constantly preaching political correctness at anyone who would make an insightful comment or good manners to someone who would make an off color joke. To be around them is a trial.

You're also right about the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't aspect of being around them. They seem to only be capable of putting a negative interpretation on your actions, and will do so no matter which direction you go in.

I"d never thought about it before, but you make a great point about how Aspies do a lot more damage than full blown autistics, simply because the Aspies can "pass" at first, and get unsuspecting people involved in their lives.

I sometimes wish that people had to have whatever syndrome they have stamped on their foreheads, along with their IQ's. It would save other a lot of aggravation.

Thanks again for your comments, both this one and the one from last night.

Anonymous said...

It's Gethin here again. I've just re-read this post and have something else to say about it. It's not about Aspergers, but still relevant to the topic:

I used to be aquainted with an extremely annoying guy with ADHD. His most irritating trait was, predictably, his inability to just sit quietly. He always had to be talking, it didn't matter about what, or whether it was interesting to the listener, he just had to constantly be saying something (he was like someone on amphetamines).

When I first met him, I made the mistake of giving him my phone number. He kept calling me at the most inappropriate times, when he knew damn well that I would be at asleep or at work. He never actually had anything to say when he phoned, just "hi, how are you? What are you up to? You ok? What are you doing later?". I didn't really know how to politely ask him to stop, so I tried answering and quickly telling him that I was too busy to talk, in the hope that he'd get the message. He didn't, and these pointless phone calls continued every single day, sometimes 2-3 times. The final straw was when he called me during an important meeting and my phone loudly went off in front of everyone. After that, I switched it to 'vibrate' mode and later began ignoring his calls altogether, pretending to him that I simply didn't have my phone on me much anymore. That didn't deter him though, and his endless calls kept coming in the fruitless hope that I'd pick up. 80% of my phone's battery must have been drained by his calls.

Everyone who knew him would report the same behaviour. I was on a long bus journey with him once and, as soon as I pretended to put my iPod on to get him to stop rambling on about trivial subjects I had no interest in, he switched to phoning other people "for a chat", making three or four phone calls immediately after another. He even called my single enemy right in front of me, having no regard for how that would make me feel. From what I could tell, none of his "friends" were real, long-lasting friends: they were all just acquaintances he'd known for a few months. His behaviour was simply too frustrating for anyone to stay in his orbit for too long.

That being said, I do feel a bit sorry for him. I get that it isn't his fault he has ADHD and that he is inherently annoying. I don't think he sets out to irritate people, it's just his nature. Thus I feel somewhat guilty for keeping my distance from him, but at the same time, I am no martyr. It's not my job to befriend people with psychological problems when I could instead spend time with people I find fun to be around.

John Craig said...

Gethin --
First of all, you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty about having dropped this guy as a "friend" -- he obviously would have driven anyone to distraction.

Secondly, it sure sounds as if there was something more than ADHD working there. My guess is, he may have had some form of autism, to be so unaware of the reaction he provoked in others. Then again, I've known a few people with Aspergers, and none of them exhibited the compulsive verbal diarrhea that this fellow did, so I'm not sure.

Third, it's actually a wonder that he was able to keep a job -- if, in fact, he was. In any case, your feelings of guilt are completely misplaced here.

Anonymous said...

OMG, to the lady who is married to an Aspie man - everything you said is true! Thank you for posting this!

It is so bizarre that it is almost fascinating such condition exist.

Anonymous said...

Arguing the case of a sociopath again? I thought you guys were supposed to be good at hiding...

Anonymous said...

I think that the egotistical behaviors that appear in people with aspergers might be caused by low self esteem, as opposed to the condition itself. Many people with aspergers are bullied and socially isolated as children, and this is known to lead to low self esteem. A lot of the behaviors you've mentioned are symptoms of having a low self esteem. Also, I think the fact that not all people with aspergers have these behaviors shows that they aren't just a natural part of the condition. If they were then ALL people with aspergers would have them, not just SOME of them. Honestly, I think I'm grasping at straws. We might just be monsters from birth like people with ASPD. I just read stories written by women about what it's like to be in a relationship with a man with aspergers and I'm really feeling bad about myself. They were all so horrible, and there were so many of them. There was an entire online support group dedicated to wives of men with aspergers. I know that can't mean nothing. I don't want to be a bad person, but all of this just makes me think that I am and I'm getting really upset. I don't want to be a monster. I'm really scared right now. I don't know what to do. I want to be a good person. I don't know what I'll do with my life if I find out I'm not. There won't be a point to living anymore and I know I won't be able to live with myself. I hate this.

John Craig said...

Anon --
People with Aspergers aren't monsters, not by a long shot; it's just that most of them are annoying. That's a far cry from being evil, as sociopaths are, and I pointed this out in my original post on Aspergers.

In a sense they are just babes in the woods, albeit frequently annoying babes in the woods.

Anonymous said...

Should they be responsible for their behavior? yes I believe they should be to a point. Should we give them more slack and understanding? Yes I believe we should. I am a mother to two teenagers with aspergers one boy and one girl. I have been teaching them consistently since they could walk and talk how to have good manners, be respectful and kind and how to handle anger, frustration and criticism in healthy way's. I have been very consistent in teaching them these healthy behaviors and reactions yet they still struggle with meltdowns and frustration. I see the struggle they feel within themselves when something triggers anger or a meltdown in them, it is very hard for them to stay cool and handle the situation appropriately, but much of the time they are able to do it. Yes sometimes they have a bad day (as we all do) and they don't react appropriately (usually when they are overly tired or over stimulated) but they always talk it out with me after wards and we go over why it happened and how to help it go differently next time. They know to apologize and admit their mistakes and keep on trying their best. I get compliments from other parents who have them over for sleepovers. They tell me my kids are very well behaved and well mannered. Just this morning my son came downstairs after waking and said "Good morning mom? How are you? May I watch some television?" I said "yes" and he said "Thank you". Yes they both struggle with reacting appropriately but the point is they both try. They have good day's and bad day's but they alway's care about how they make others feel. They are alway's heartbroken when they have hurt someones feelings and they are always ready to apologize and learn from it. I don't think we can generalize people with aspergers because they are as diverse as any other group of people in this world. I have known many people with aspergers over the years as I have attended many play groups and met adults and children alike with the condition. Most were good caring people but yes there were a few who were just jerks. Please don't let the bad apples ruin your view on the bunch though. Blessings.... Triscuit

Anonymous said...

I have an aspie friend who lies a lot. He is very high functioning so it seems he knows his behaviors are unacceptable, so he developed this coping mechanisms of making up excuses. Most of the times his lies are very obvious and unnecessary. He got away a lot because of his aspergers but he seemed to think the coping mechanism worked well so he keep doing it. Eventually everyone around him feel they are being manipulated unintentionally.

What's the best way to deal with this situation? I don't know, but not letting him to take on responsibilities for his actions is probably not doing him a favor, yet I still couldn't figure out how to handle this in a mature and compassionate manner.

John Craig said...

Anon --
If you want mature and compassionate, you may have come to the wrong guy, but here goes. First, try just explaining to him why what he is doing is wrong, and how it could backfire on him when he's caught. Explain that he will lose all credibility and that eventually no one will believe a word he says, just as with the boy who cried wolf.

If that doesn't work, then just make sure it does backfire on him in some relatively minor way. If that doesn't work, then see that it backfires in some more than minor, but perhaps not quite major way. (I can't tell you exactly how to go about this because I don't know exactly what types of lies he tells.)

There you go; not particularly compassionate but straightforward is the only way I can think of which doesn't involve tangible penalties, after that all you can do is increase the penalties.

To tell the truth, most of the Aspies I've known have been relatively honest, and although they do tend to come up with lame excuses, it's never skilled enough to quite be called "manipulative."

Anonymous said...

Actually people with Aspergers are considered above average in a lot of things. They may be lacking in social skills but definitely not intellectually. Also, most of the people with Aspergers i have met have not been like anything you have described in this post and in others. A lot of my Autistic friends are some of the funniest, talented and interesting people i have ever met. I also do not recall a situation where they have not been able to take criticism well or understand the needs of others around them. I think you need to understand that everybody on the spectrum is an individual and therefor display different traits. Also, from what i have observed, Aspergers does not appear to be a disability. In fact i think that it is a gift as Autistic people often have skills that completely exceed those of NT's like ourselves. I am not criticizing you, i am only pointing out there are many Autistic people in this world and not everybody fits these labels you have been writing about.

Cindy B said...

The people I've know with Aspergers have been exactly like the descriptions on this post, and one boy was, in fact, prone to violent tendencies. Regardless of what Aspies can or cannot control, there is only so much abuse you can take from them. I, for one, believe many can control their behavior better than is expected today. No one would have put up with this behavior 40 years ago, period. You learned to conform to society or you weren't part of it. We treat the rest of society today as if they should all have boundless patience and expertise in handling all of the psychological disorders on the books. It is unrealistic. And it is unfair. Understanding why people do what they do does not correlate with the ability to interact with them on a healthy level nor should it excuse all behaviors. I think most of us would like to know where to draw the line. At what point does it become acceptable to confront an Aspie about their hurtful behavior without coming off as the monster?

Anya Luz said...

My husband of eight years is an Aspie. He and I learned about Aspergers at about the 3 year mark in our marriage. The first year had been quite fulfilling really, largely because there was plenty of good romantic/sexual chemistry to keep us going. Also, I found many of his eccentricities refreshing, even charming. I also found his child-like sense of humor endearing, and I'd often smile at the "off the wall" manner in which he "connected the mental dots" when expressing an idea.
After a while though, my patience started wearing thin, and there were times that I felt like running down the streets screaming. The main problem was his non-stop talking (and nearly always "at" me rather than "with" me.) I was also growing weary of his intense egocentricity, and his rigid insistence on precise household routines. Then there was the embarrassing blurting out of things at inappropriate times, sometimes when other people could hear it. But it was the sudden and unexpected meltdowns that pushed me into a chronically traumatized state. (These tantrums didn't clearly emerge until about two years after we got married.)

Now, eight years into our marriage, I still want to scream sometimes, but mostly I'm happy with my man. Why? Probably because, once we learned about Aspergers, this knowledge, combined with a little help from a counselor, helped us come to terms with many of the disparities that had previously overwhelmed us. I consider myself lucky that my husband is the type of Aspie who -- like so many who write in to the various blogs on the internet -- truly wants to learn how to make a relationship work. Without this kind of dedication, I think our marriage would have ended years ago.
He have weekly, 40 minute meetings, during which we come up with strategies aimed at preventing difficulties. A big part of the solution, for us, turned out to be calling "time out," whenever emotions got too heated. Also, I've been learning learned how to be patient about explaining things...what "works" for me and what doesn't. We also put notes on the refrigerator door, because learning new habits doesn't come easily to an Aspie.
Somehow, the fact that we have these weekly meetings, allows me to separate myself from my frustrations the rest of the time, at least to a large degree. Thankfully I also manage to disengage from the "patient and guiding wife" persona. After all, how un-romantic would it be to get stuck in that role? It's almost like someone else is patiently coaching him, and all I have to do is relax and live my life. Progress -- although "iffy" at times -- does happen.
We do fun things together, and that helps a lot. As far as some of the more irritating Aspie traits go: I've learned how to "grin and bear it," and just let him be a "dorky guy" sometimes. So what if once in a while he blurts something out that embarrasses me? Does that signify the end of the world? I'm not perfect either, after all; I can get pretty bitchy. So, one of the things I'm working on is learning how to chill.
In recent months, we've sometimes found ourselves laughing at the comedy of errors that occasionally takes place in our marriage. It's amazing how laughter can heal! One minute I'll be thinking, "Why on earth did I marry this grown-up child?" Next thing I know, we'll be listening to each other's unique "takes" on the crazy misunderstanding that threw us for a loop. Even though I don't always feel amused by the things that amuse him, it seems like -- whenever we manage to put our egos on hold, and just look at our spats curiously and lightheartedly -- we find ourselves, once again, in love and laughing together.

John Craig said...

Anya Luz --
That was an enlightening comment. Yes, yours is the way to make the best of a marriage to an Aspie. You've demonstrated wisdom and insight, as well as remarkable patience and restraint.

Anya Luz said...

Dear John Craig,
Thank you for your response. It's wonderful to feel acknowledged! You're right, it has required a great deal of patience, not only with my husband, but with myself as well. I've had to forgive myself repeatedly, every time I've lost patience with him. I'm fortunate that my husband -- in spite of the occasional system's overloads -- is a loyal and forgiving guy.

John Craig said...

Anya Luz --
I don't think you have to forgive yourself, virtually any neurotypical is going to find dealing with an Aspie on a regular basis a trial. And I'm just trying to be fair, though, as you'll see if you read all the comments on this post, there are an awful lot of Aspies who feel I'm completely unfair.

Anonymous said...

John you are so right! I have a 7 month old with an Asperger man. He's a nightmare and so are his parents!! I presume his mother has Asperger's as well.

Unknown said...

I am of the opinion that Aspies should be dealt with harsher than a normal person, though within reason.

As an Aspie, I'm going to blow up at myself if someone sugarcoats it or not, so why not blast me with both barrels. Chances are I've annoyed someone to the point where tact makes no sense, and I probably won't get the whole point anyways, so tell me EXACTLY what I did wrong, and exactly HOW little you're going to put up with it. Giving me a second chance? Maybe. But make that the LAST chance, because if I make the same mistake again, I am going to CONTINUE making it, and you don't need that sort of stress!

If anyone disagrees with my opinion, I am sorry, but it is my opinion, and how I choose to live, it's the treatment I feel I deserve.

John Craig said...

Jon Corbett --
As an idealist, I think all people should be treated the same. But you have a point, the same tactics don't work equally well with different types. And the idea of explaining exactly WHY you find someone's behavior annoying has merit, especially if that person is otherwise unable to see why for himself.

It's not a question of "deserve," it's a question of what works best.