Asperger Syndrome in a Sound Byte

by Nomi

What is Asperger syndrome?  Can you define it in 10 words or fewer?  Can you explain it in 3 seconds?

The problem with the autism spectrum is that it is so hard to reduce to a sound byte.  And out in the real world, where it seems just about everyone is at least a little preoccupied and self-absorbed, this may be all that one has time for.

The autism spectrum is incredibly complex.  It resists distillation.  It cannot be simplified beyond a certain point and still retain its accuracy.  And that point, that point of no return – well, I’m not sure exactly where that point is.

I believe I can reduce certain other mental conditions to 10 words or fewer.  I have been practicing a bit.  So, at the risk of insulting people with my oversimplifications, how is this:  DEPRESSION:  Miserable and negative and hopeless about life (7 words).  ANXIETY:  Tense and worried and fearful about the future (8 words).  ATTENTION-DEFICIT DISORDER: Short attention span, high distractibility, and impulsivity (7 words).  OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER:  Obsessive worries and fears propel compulsive behaviors (7 words).  INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY (Formerly Mental Retardation): Global intellectual functioning below the 70th percentile (7 words).

Admittedly, these are not complete sentences (with a subject and a verb and all that), but I do believe they are complete enough descriptions to give a person a general, accurate, broad-brush-stroke idea of what is going on with you.  And to do so quickly.

What about for autism and Asperger syndrome?  You might notice that all the conditions I “defined” above more or less contain their own definitions within their names.  What is depression?  When you’re depressed, of course.  Anxiety?  When you’re anxious.   OCD?  When you are obsessive and do things compulsively.  ADD?  Deficient attention.

Unfortunately (in my view), Asperger’s and even autism do not offer that quick-and-easy definition-within-the-name.  The words “Asperger” is named after a person and is in itself meaningless, if you aren’t aware of the context.  The word “autism” is taken from the Greek autós, for “self,” and is loosely defined as meaning “self-orientation” (or something like that).  But given that all mental (and physical) conditions involve the self, knowing that autism means “self” doesn’t aid all that much in defining it.  And that is assuming a person even knows what autism means.  As descriptive words go, in the realm of mental disorders, “self” is not high on the list.

But that was a bit of a digression.  My simple point, I suppose, is that I find it frustratingly difficult to wrap my mind around autism and Asperger syndrome.  They are just so complex!  The more I learn, the more I perceive the depths and intricacies of the autism spectrum – this extraordinarily different yet entirely whole way of experiencing life.  And every time someone asks me – only vaguely curious, and inevitably somewhat distracted – “Asperger’s, huh?  What’s that mean?”  I exhale heavily … and wish I had a simple answer.

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P.S.  So, I’m wondering: Can anyone out there define Asperger’s in a sound byte?  Ten words or fewer – and try to touch on all of the major aspects of the condition.  A truly excruciating exercise in distillation and, ultimately, central coherence.  Is anyone up to it?

I look forward to seeing what people come up with!!

November 2, 2010       Posted in: Life, Uncategorized
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6 Comments

6 Responses

  1. Cate - November 4, 2010

    Inability to decode social cues, communicate spontaneously, and nuance behavior.

  2. ryan - November 4, 2010

    I Can..And Its The Place Between NT Heaven And Autism Hell..

    10 Words..

    Mind Crippling Anxiety/Depression Driven Beyond Your Control Autism Limbo

  3. DJ Gallagher DJ Gallagher - November 5, 2010

    Misunderstanding and misunderstood and resistant to change.

    These are all subject to some bias of course, whether it’s based on direct experience or stereotypes or clinical summaries. Depression can also include loss of energy and desire, just as autism can include sensory and organizational problems. Regardless, the shorthand is a useful thing to know.

  4. Abram Abram - November 8, 2010

    Not even going to try to encapsulate autism in 10 words. But if you’ve already got autism, I can give you a short yet pithy definition of Asperger’s:

    “Like autism, only not as much.” (6 words)

  5. Nomi Nomi - November 9, 2010

    These are all great — clever, and very powerful. I am happy to see people playing with this idea. The variety of “10-word definitions” you gave attests to the heterogeneity of autism/Asperger’s. I do want to acknowledge that all disabilities and differences are very complex, and that my 10-word examples really don’t do justice to any of them. When you examine anything closely enough, you tend to get more than you bargained for! Thanks again for your ideas.

  6. Jonathan Knight - May 25, 2012

    Asperger’s: in neuropsychology, dominance of intellect over emotion or social norms.

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