Posts on Quora
These are just my responses to questions asked on the Quora forum…
A. Most research numbers are based on children within the age group 4–12 and approx. 2.8% of these children have a dominant autism profile. However this figure does not really give a good representation. Many people receive a diagnosis later on in life, even up till their 60's and 70's. These people are not in view, even if there was a possibility of registering, for the simple fact they just weren't diagnosed up till then. This aside from the privacy aspects which limits registering in most countries.
Then there is the very large group that stays out of sight because they do not experience hinder from their autism traits, in fact it might even help them to excel in their field and when you're good at something there is more tolerance for “excentric" behaviour. So many people working in the fields of science, medicine, accountancy, ICT, data, art, etc. go undiagnosed through life even though they have a form of autism. So what would be the percentage? Significantly more than 2.8%, more likely 6–7% (just a rough educated guess). In the Netherlands, where I live, the population is around 17 million. 6% of 17 million (adults and children) is approx. 1 million people. A very significant group indeed. It's up to you to do the maths for your own country.
A. Not really. Our neuro-typical oriented society is fairly complex with specific conventions, codes and social interaction patterns. Of course Aspies can learn these, they're smart enough, and they can cope and adapt based on this learning but this will cost a lot of energy and, in general, they will have to rely on their existing repertoire. Social antennes are just not part and parcel of the Aspie profile. Their forté is a sharp analytical mind, good memory and a large dose of curiosity.
A. I’m not sure if you could call it a movement, probably just more awareness.
What would be the goal? Acceptance that neurodiversity is just as normal as biodiversity and cultural diversity. We embrace the latter 2 because we understand that they are necessary for our existence or the enhancement of it.
We tend to forget that people within our own culture who think and sometimes act differently are very much needed. It's this group of a-typical thinkers who help us by thinking differently help us move forward. This is done by taking very different approaches and in many cases doing things which NT-ers would normally not do, like challenging banks and credit card companies with a private payment system (PayPal) or challenge a very large and influential enterprise with an own operating system (Bill Gates - IBM -MS DOS) and I could go on with Einstein, Mozart, Tesla, Jobs, Spielberg etc. etc.
We need neurodiversity direly but we don't know how to handle it let alone appreciate it. Fortunately there is some headway being made but it's slow and cumbersome. So a movement would be appreciated to help recognize the real value of a-typical thinkers and to stop stigmatizing and marginalizing this very important group of people.
A. Good for you Ryan. It is such a pity that in general our society does not embrace neuro diversity as we pretty much do with cultural diversity. We really do need a-typical thinkers to help us forward, just check the famous philosophers, composers, artists and inventors history has presented and are still there helping us out. Strangely we have trouble accepting them because they think and sometimes act differently.
This is maybe due to the strict norms we maintain regarding social correctness but these are very fluid. ìn the 60's and 70's of the last century there was a lot more slack and we regarded as now deviant behaviour as normal then.
The Thomas Theorem rather wil help with a nice starting point.
A. Neither, you have a personality just like everyone else and just like everyone else you have a certain amount of autistic traits, you just may have somewhat more. To define yourself as autistic would be the same as saying I'm gay or I'm black. Sure that's OK but why make the distinction. You may be different than the majority but the majority is only a dominant group with common traits in a certain environment or culture. This majority imposes it's conventions and rules on the others, there are no universal norms just cultural, religious or otherwise. So, why set yourself apart with a clinical label? You're a person with a personality with certain traits and talents.
A. I certainly would. I wouldn't approach it as a disorder though, why? Because it's isn't, it's just another way of thinking which is a natural occurrence in our neurological divers society. Neurological differences a should be recognized and respected as any other human variation. We need people who can think differently to help us forward and to develop as a society.
Your son wil have to cope with a dominant neurotypical society which may not be easy but with good support and coaching and above all focus on his talents (which he undoubtably has) he may mature and have a fulfilling life.
He doesn't have to be like the others, this will cost a lot of unnecessary energie, frustration and disappointment. He can develop in his own way and meet others who think and act like him. Give him this chance.
A. There is a definite indication that there is a correlation between autism profiles and genetics. After interviewing more than 600 people with a high functioning autism profile most of them do recognize that there is a pattern of autism in the family lineage. As only a very small part of people with a dominant autism profile have an official diagnosis most are left undiagnosed. Autism really only became a theme about 50 years ago so the older generation may have got on with life with their excentric and quirky behaviour but without a diagnosis.
Q. I think I meet all the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder, except for section B. The diagnostic criteria for social pragmatic communication disorder don't describe me well. What social disorders could I possibly have?
A. Actually the diagnostic criteria are not as hard lined as they appear. As ASD is not a binary state meaning you either have or you don't but more of a diffuse en sliding scale of ASD characteristics. So some people may have autism traits but it doesn't bother them or their significant others and then again, some may have certain traits that do impair their functioning in a regular society. The latter tend to seek a formal diagnosis.
So it's not about having all the diagnostic criteria but how your specific ASD related personality traits hamper you in real life. If this is the case seek support.
A. Autism as such cannot be healed, it is a personal state and no, in more than 85% of the cases it's not a disorder either. It's a perception from a rather subjective and narrow neuro-typical viewpoint.
In many cases it's not autism that needs to be "treated" but co-morbidities that encompass this state. For example, mental deficiency can be seen in combination with autism. However, this deficiency is defining and autism is just the personal state one is in, it's not the other way around.
Q. As someone on the autism spectrum, I am not interested in any of these jobs, but if I must choose one, what would it be: police dispatcher, SaaS sales representative, web designer/developer, or IT job (but it requires a degree)?
A. Any of these which requires content skills and a minimum of people skills. They're all fine jobs. Avoid jobs that are extremely taxing such as sales, consultancy, project management, teaching (except on academic level) andWorking in the IT sector doesn't necessarily require a degree but it does require relevant sector (and vendor) certifications, motivation and preferably some practical experience. Most IT courses and certification tracks can be found online.
A. You would expect one of those very famous people like Einstein, Jobs, Gates, etc to be mentioned. Honestly, despite their enormous contribution I think that the most amazing people with autism are those that despite their drawbacks, failures, frustrations and disappointments still have had the courage to battle on and find their own pocket of talent. In doing so, have been able to contribute not only to their own well-being but in many cases to society in general in some small or maybe even, large way.
Q. Can people on the autism spectrum have difficulty recognizing only certain emotions on the faces of others, as opposed to having equal difficulty recognizing all emotions? If so, what are the emotions that they are more likely blind to?
A. I have asked this many times to the people with autism I interview and I get pretty much the same answer, "Oh yes I can recognize emotions, I have them too, but I just don't know what to do and how to act, so I just do nothing.”
This may not be this case for all people with an autism profile obviously but the larger part of Aspergers and PDD-NOS personalities do tend to give this reaction. The most have issues with negative emotions especially where sadness is concerned.
A. The human brain can be wired in a variety of ways, it's just part of our normal variation. Most of us in our society (western) are born with a neuro-typical wiring others with an a-typical wiring like Aspergers.
Calling it a syndrome is like calling people from other cultures who think and act differently, having a disorder. Sounds ridiculous? Think about how different cultures are to our western culture and how different these people are. Apsergers can think anmd act differently but are usually smart enough to learn to cope with our neuro-typical society, be it at a cost.
Secondly, you are born with a personality profile, neurotypical, a-typical or otherwise. It doesn't affect your brain, it is your brain.
A. Actually you are born with a certain personality containing more or less autism characteristics and more or less neuro-typical traits. How these develop over time can be influenced to a certain extent bij nurturing factors such us culture, parental influence, societal position of parents, schooling, peers, societal and medical approach.
Answering your question, you actually do not develop autism or autism traits as you grow up.
Those with autism on the other hand, can learn to adapt and to cope, up to a certain degree, with their society and its norms. As you get older, coping tends gets better but there is always a bridge to gap between a prevailing autism personality profile and our predominantly neuro-typical inclined society.
A. Let's start with considering telling people, who are relevant to you, that you have a different personality profile than most. It's not a disorder just as much as someone from another culture has a disorder because she thinks and acts differently. You'll be able to weed out the real meaningful people or employers. I know it sounds very optimistic but in the long run it will help you more than trying to cover up the fact that you have a different profile. It will show. Give people a chance to look at you from a different approach and help them by being explicit in what you're good at and where you can do with some help. Having a coach really does help.
Try to find where your talent lays. This may be something which you can develop and make use of. You are capable of doing this, maybe better than other just because you have an autism profile. It certainly will help with your self-confidence.
There are employers out there who are welcoming people with your profile. Why? Because they need you to help their company move forward. They are there, I know.
Don't make a big fuss about it and let people know who you are. What seems to be a weakness may prove to become a strength.
A. You kind of gave your own answer. Of course we're all humans and have feelings. Some are just better at expressing them than others. In general people with an Aspergers profile have somewhat more difficulty in expressing their feelings adequately. In many cases they just don't know what to do or lack confidence to do it because it may not be the "right” way.
A. Sorry, there is no treatment for autisme. We should just embrace it. Autisme is a personality profile and is part of the natural diversity of the human race. The fact that we approach autisme as a disorder is part of their problem. This approach is explained through the Thomas theorem. The Thomas theorem states that, "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." If we approach autisme as a defect or a disorder then that is so in its consequences, whereas it is based on perception and not on unbiased facts.
There maybe co-morbid occurrences and these maybe treatable either through psycho-therapy and in a number of cases through a clinical or non-clinical support. Non-clinical could entail homeopathy.
Q. It feels weird to lump everyone on the autism spectrum on the spectrum. Is there a scientific way to differentiate two people who are around the same area of the spectrum but don't share any of the same traits?
A. I agree, it is weird to use one label for very different typologies.
The short answer however is …no. There is no way we can scientifically differentiate two people on the spectrum. Why? We're dealing with personality traits and personalities are different by nature and you can only compare them on certain common traits not on differences. Personalities are too complex for this and besides, science by definition, is based on facts and in the area of psychology there are few facts and there's a lot of empirical findings. Empirical data then is based on a certain perception, etc. you get the picture.
A. Actually they're not, at least not all the time. Sometimes they can be helpful. In a NT oriented society we expect a certain manner of behaviour and communication. We maintain conventions and norms. Not all people meet these expectations but are still compared against these and thus are viewed as deviant. When they say, ”Listen, I have an Asperger profile", this would give people the opportunity to adjust their views and norms. Obviously many will not adjust but this is helpful in choosing the right friends and working environment.
The labels themselves should be superfluous and unnecessary but this needs more time.
A. Of course. Statistics indicate that around 2% of a population have an ASD related diagnosis. On average 85% of these have an Asperger profile. Why do they have a diagnosis?
The most likely reason they they have run into difficulties is because their personality profile doesn't fit into society's neuro-typical organization. This could be in an early stage where it concerns communication or education and in a later phase issues coping with the working environment.
But what about the rest of the Aspergers without a diagnosis, where are they then? They're in their context, meaning they have found their sweet-spots in society as artists, medical specialists, ICT specialists, accountants, researchers, scientists, etc.
The common denominator is they are good, very, very good in their field of work, they are the guru's, maybe a bit eccentric but nevertheless exceptionally good.
A. For practical reasons, if you don't mind that I turn your question around into “How many geniuses are there that could be qualified having an Aspergers personality profile?” we could then hold the good old DSM manual next to a number of known geniuses and see how they match up. This might give a rough estimation.
But first of all, how do we define genius? Well let's just keep it simple and say they excel at an extraordinary level in one more more fields and have (had) impact on our lives in some way or other. Savants may be considered geniuses because of their extreme and detailed knowledge but most of them lack impact and do not fall into the Asperger range.
Who qualify then? We must bear in mind that Aspergers Personality Profile was only accepted in the mid 80's of the last century so there is some amount of speculation concerned with profiles before then. You will find many lists on the Internet and some are debatable but in general they're pretty much accepted for exampleFamous People Who Have or Had Asperger's Syndrome.
A. Well that depends on your interests and background. Of course Cyber Security, I.O.T. Block Chain technology, Data Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are all very hot but unless you really have an aptitude or a fitting background they are not fields you just step into.
If you're looking for a soft entry into ICT then software testing (ISTQB) or software development (Java, C, C++ or C#) are probably the best choices. There are other languages such as Go, Swift, Python or even PHP, all are very good but they limit your possi bilities. Unless you have specialities, webdesign, game development and app development are not your best choices, this mainly because of the limited demand and large supply.
System and Network management on a day to day level (associate) are getting under pressure, it's all going to the cloud.
A. In our western world we have a neurotypically defined society with a very small bandwidth for that which we consider "normal”. Anything outside of this is considered a disorder or worse.
We're familiar with the autism spectrum but consider that this in turn is part of a larger spectrum. On the one side of this spectrum we have the neurotypical traits and on the other side the autism traits. Now picture a sliding ruler across this spectrum starting at the neurotypical side. At a certain point the autism traits take the overhand. People with this profile won't fit into the neurotypical defined society. That's when support is needed.
Essentially most people will have certain signs of autism but it doesn't effect them in their work or daily activities. This could be due to the fact that they few or light autism traits or that they work or live in a context where having autism (Aspergers) is actually in their favor, e.g. scientists, researchers, ICT specialists, software programmers, medical specialists and more.
So can you have signs of autism and not show it, of course, that depends on the profile NT versus Autism and on the context where one works or operates.
A. I tend to see the neurotypical and autistic brain as a natural part of our evolution and that all the corresponding personalities fit on an axis:
One person may have a personality that corresponds with more NT traits and the other with more autistic traits. Obviously there are differences te be found in brain functioning but this too is necessary for us as a species to enhance, just like in the rest of the animal world (yes, I do believe in the evolution theorie at least until soemthing better comes along). At this point the NT oriented brain has the overhand and thus defines what is considered "normal”. Deviating from this is then viewed as a disorder. You see, it's just a question of perspective. Whether someone with autism can function within this neurotypical world has more to do with the right education because there are developmental differences, and the rightcontext. Yes, context is extremely important, place the person in the right context and you'll see a wonderful person.
A. Why would you want to treat it? Because Aspergers think differently, because they're not adapted to our society, they're the square pegs in the round holes?
We NEED these people direly. We do. Just think of all the people who changed the world and how many would qualify voor an Asperger diagnosis.
Please, it's not a disorder, it's just a different way of thinking just as other people in other cultures think differently. We seem to find that "normal”.
It's our very normative society that defines what is in order and what's a disorder. The boundaries are very subjective and prone to align with the the current social norms. The latter do tend to change over time, just take a peek at the 60's and 70's of the last century. People with Asperger are required to adapt to the neurotypical social conventions, this is not an easy job.
Warren Buffet and on the same note Bill Gates, they may have Aspergers but have done extremely well for themselves and have the intelligence and compassion to share their wealth with those less fortunate and contribute to a better world. Why would you want to treat that?
A. Aspergers is a personality trait and it kind of depends on the other traits and the type of work you're doing. People with Aspergers have a number of talents people without do no have. They have on average a (much) higher IQ which enables them to address and understand more complex problems. They have a natural tendency for hyper focus and details. They can remember details and utilize them when required to a far greater extent than NT's (Neuro-typicals). Their power of reasoning and logic is in general superior.
The downside is that they can get lost in details and have trouble with distinguishing between what's important and what's not. Efficiency is not one of their strong points and sometimes they need some guidance and support to bring out the full potential.
If a company is willing to accept the fact that Aspergers do not always comply with NT social norms and that they need some guidance and feedback at certain times then I'm very sure they are a fantastic asset with great potential. And they fun to be around with ;-)
A. Once again ASD is a very difficult label to use outside the clinical setting. DSM(5) is not equipped for use in a social context. In order to give any kind of answer that makes sense let's just assume you are referring to the high functional side of this spectrum. I, personally, still prefer and use the Asperger and PDD-NOS names which are fairly clear.
What I have noticed when interviewing and talking with adolescents and adults with mainly Aspergers, they all have different personalities. I have come to understand in the proces of hundreds of these interviews is that Aspergers and PDD-NOS are personality traits and not disorders or defects persé as DSM has us believe. It’s just that we are dominantly a neuro-typical society and the specific traits linked to this are forced upon the non neuro-typicals. Pushing square pegs in round holes will damage the square pegs in the proces.
Yes, the human gene-pool generates a great variety of personalities and there is a certain amount of difference to be noticed between Aspergers and neuro-typical traits but it just part of our neuro diverse species.
If we boil that down a bit to male and female differences, there may be good reasons why there is also a difference but it raises the question, nurture or nature?
• Do girls grow up with a focus on social skills? Do they learn coping skills at a very early age?
• Are social skills part of the nature of girls and to a lesser extent with boys?
• Is the need for social acceptability larger for girls than for boys?
• Is there a larger tolerance for deviant behaviour with girls and women and much less for boys and men in general? This could be culturally defined.
Obviously there are many more to be mentioned but there is a lot they have in common besides the neurological aspects e.g. increased sensory sensitivity, weak central coherence and hyper focus. They also have strong analytical capabilities, a need for intellectual challenges and they are are seldom interested in mundane information or events, just to name a few.
Is it well supported that traits are different between boys and girls, no I don't think so but obviously there are differences. These are based on the fact that there are differences between boys and girls and between people in general.
A. What's there to cure? They are different, they think different, they add to the world. Society needs to enlighten and really appreciate we have these wonderful people amongst us, many of whom are examples of how we can work and live together without prejudice in the hormone driven world of the neuro-typicals. Yes we have a pluriform society not only culturally but also neurologically and let's start appreciating that.
A. Personally I would take into account the following:
• Just remind people that Aspergers can be viewed as a personality trait. it's not always a defect or disorder, in most cases it is not. It's pretty much about perspective. An open mind and curiosity create a fruitful environment for all involved.
• Just like NT's, Aspergers have positive sides and sides which need coping with. The good thing is that both are pretty explicit with Aspergers and can be taken into account and if needed be supported.We even make little personal manuals which are handed over to the managers and direct colleagues so they understand how to communicate and offer the structure often needed.
• Focus on the aspects which are strong with Aspergers such as; analytical mind, intellectual challenge needs, focus on details, hyper-focus, loyalty, honesty and much more.
• Offer coaching, not only personal coaching but also (eco)system coaching .
• Job application can be very daunting for Aspergers, communication with the HR official can be difficult. Offer support with the procedure and make sure that the potential employer understands what Aspergers is.
• There are companies that really want Aspergers or at least give it a try but make sure they're ready, willing and able. This usually needs prep work from a professional. Remember a failed application reduces the chance of an employer willing to try again, or for that fact the applicant trying again too.
These are just a few tips. A job board may work for some but not for all Aspergers. You may even consider setting up a secondment for Aspergers.
A. When we view this from a medical point of view and we use DSM V as a guideline then your neurologist is correct. But does it help your son cope with his surroundings so that he can enjoy his potential? Sometimes maybe.
From a social standpoint we tend to refer to these as personality traits that differ per person and are not necessarily considered as “disorders". People may have ADD, ADHD or Aspergers or PDD-NOS but it doesn't bother them or their environment and they can lead fulfilling and happy lives.
“Disorder” is in many cases a perception ruled by the governing consensus of a neurotypical society.
A. I’m not sure whether you're referring to the high end part of the spectrum or the part where people need care and special attention.
Assuming that we're talking about what DSM 4 would classify as Aspergers or PDD-NOS then let's start off with an adequate question: Is this actually a disorder. John Elder Robison (2013) sees this differently and I agree with his neuro-diversity stance.
"They look at the pool of diverse humanity and see – in the middle – the range of different thinking that’s made humanity’s progress in science and the creative arts possible. At the edges they see people who are functionally crippled by being “too diverse.” When 99 neurologically identical people fail to solve a problem it’s often the 1% fellow who’s different who holds the key. Yet that person may be disabled or disadvantaged most or all of the time. To neurodiversity proponents, people are disabled because they are at the edges of the bell curve; not because they are sick or broken."
That said, yes there tends to be a neurological difference.