# Autism

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Basically, for those of you who don't know, Autism is a neurological disorder that interferes with the ability to communicate. Symptoms include delayed speech or language impairment, poor social skills, some features of obsessive compulsive disorder(s), and in some cases (usually low functioning autism), deficiencies in cognitive abilities.

I put this up mainly because I have high functioning autism. More specifically, I have Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the mild side of the autistic spectrum disorders. High functioning autism basically means that the person does not have any cognitive or language deficiencies, but still have other characteristics with associated with autism (most notably, poor social skills). They also have normal to above average IQ's (I scored a whopping 165 on the IQ test long ago).

There are many discussions that one can have on this thread on it such as:

-Who has it

-Who knows about it and what do you know

-Who here researches it

-Personal experiences

-Questions

-Historic Figures

-And other stuff you may think of

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I have aspergers too. I didn't want to post in this thread though because employers search for you on the Internet, and you cant trust that they aren't going to discriminate. But I'm going to try this thing where I remove my name and everything from profiles. I kind of like being open about who I am on the Internet but I'm afraid an employer is going find out I have opinions that he doesn't agree with.

You do know that IQ tests on the Internet give you extremely high results, right? If you got that from a psychiatrist, that's really good. Mine is 144 and I test 160~180 on the Internet, so if that really is an Internet test, we have about the same IQ. Not that it matters though.

I'm a believer that a lot of intelligence we (as in aspies) display comes from our, what neurotypical people call, "obsessive" interests. I post a lot about global warming, esp at forum.bodybuilding.com, and people have assumed I was an actual climate scientist before.

"That's you're career, of course you're going to agree with global warming! It means your job to you!"

Nope. I just like to read. Especially about climate change. I printed "Do Models Underestimate the Solar Contribution to Recent Climate Change?" because I was finding it difficult to read on the computer and people at school were like "why are you reading that?" We have this thing called silent sustained reading where you get points to read every Tuesday and I had to argue with my teacher that it wasn't a computer website and that I should get my points.

I was wondering what it's like in college with asperger's syndrome. I'm starting this year so I'm hopping it's better -- especially with people and women. I actually know a lot about people, dating, conversation, etc, it's just that... people are hard to systematize. I really hate it when I say stupid stuff and then have to get someone to explain why it was so stupid to say. There are so many things to remember when talking to people and when you mess up... that's one more thing you have to remember. I had a girlfriend once who would help me out a lot here but then again if it was stupid and offensive to her I have a feeling she never told me.

Btw there's a book to help people with asperger's syndrome find a career. I don't know if you've decided on a major or anything but it'd probably be of some help. I havn't bought it yet so I don't know if it gives advice for getting/keeping jobs or anything, but it probably does.

(isn't there a sfn amazon type link?) http://www.amazon.com/Developing-Talents-Individuals-Asperger-High-Functioning/dp/1931282560

I figure I'm just going for computer science/engineering (or maybe electrical/mechanical engineering but I doubt it). I'd really like to be an actual scientist though -- like a climate scientist or psychologist. But you don't make a lot of money as a scientist, especially for someone with a PhD. $70,000 thereabouts. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Wouldn't psychology be just about the most difficult career choice possible for someone with aspergers? #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Well I've thought about this as well. I never would've thought I'd be good at psychology and, the funny thing is, everyone who knows me doesn't think I'd be very good at psychology. The thing is, I really enjoy psychology. I can understand/remember concepts very well, and psychology is full of lots of interesting concepts. So is sociology btw. If all of college is like my psychology and sociology classes then it's going to be a breeze. Psychology is misunderstood by the general public. It is about people, yes, but it takes a systematic approach towards people. This is very different from psychiatry. But I still do have serious doubts about how successful I'd be in psychology. (forgot to mention my psychology and sociology classes are college classes. We get a professor from wvu tech and everything) #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Wouldn't psychology be just about the most difficult career choice possible for someone with aspergers? Only for those who would need to interact with people on a deeper level: counsellors, therapists, clinical psychologists and the like. It wouldn't be a problem for researchers. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites That's true, psychology is very systematic. That was one thing that surprised me when we covered it in health class, given that we don't know a whole awful lot about the mind and all. Also, I've tried to look into Autism but there's not a lot of info I can find...one thing that does interest me is autistic savants. From what I understand, it's either a central part of the brain missing or damage to the left front lobe...not sure which, or maybe both.... #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I guess I stand corrected. My only experience with psychology has been from the philosophical end, reading Hume, Kant, Hegel, William James, Freud, etc. The guy I know with aspergers was totally at a loss with that stuff. But it makes sense that systematized behaviorism and such would be just as easy as math tends to be. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Yeah, I find that psychology is misunderstood by the general public as well, and I especially see a lot of misunderstanding of various mental and personality disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive and Schizophrenia. I would have to say that the reason for this misunderstanding is probably because most of their understanding of psychology comes from mass media and popular entertainment, in which the symptoms are greatly exaggerated and psychology is generally linked with the mentally disturbed (which by the way falls under the realm of abnormal psychology). Oh, and Velocity517, if your having trouble finding information on Autism on the web, go to this link: http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/ . This site has a lot of information on Asperger's Syndrome and Autism. About Autistic Savants, their characteristics are linked to damage or developmental impairment to the left side of the brain. In fact, it is well documented that people have obtained savant-like personality and skills through car accidents, in which the left side of the brain is damaged. They also did an experiment in which they applied repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to give otherwise normal people savant-like capabilities. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites They also did an experiment in which they applied repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to give otherwise normal people savant-like capabilities. This really isn't that true. For the purposes of proving the left-brain link, yes, but the results were actually very mild. People did a little better on tests, like drawing a dog for instance, when the left side of the brain was "turned off" with these magnets. This shows, of course, that damage to the left side of the brain can lead to servant characteristics, but the study you're talking about didn't exactly "turn normal people into servants" so to speak. Just thought I'd point this out as well... High functioning autism basically means that the person does not have any cognitive or language deficiencies, but still have other characteristics with associated with autism (most notably, poor social skills). They also have normal to above average IQ's (I scored a whopping 165 on the IQ test long ago). Actually high functioning autism means you dont meet the criteria for mental retardation (which is an IQ of 70 or bellow). You can still have an IQ of like 75 (thus having intelligence that's well bellow average) and be considered "high functioning." It's only high functioning compared to traditional autism where one of the defining characteristics is mental retardation. Asperger's is where you have normal to above average intelligence (I'd say 95 and up, though most people with Asperger's do have above average IQs). For those of you that don't know, everyone actually has some level of autism. Autism just means you have an extreme male brain. There are tests you can take online that are administered by psychologists that can tell you where you are. (this is by no means a diagnosis though) http://glennrowe.net/BaronCohen/MaleFemale.asp People who are commonly labeled "smart but lack common sense" usually have a higher systemizing quotient then people who are "really nice but not that good at math." Women are ten times less likely to have autism, and we all know about the gender difference with math/science. This is just statistical averaging though. And the male brain isn't really smarter then the female brain, it's just that systematizing is what we commonly correlate with "smart" -- math, science, and engineering. You can read about all of this in Essential Differences, the truth about the male and female brain. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Just thought I'd point this out as well...Actually high functioning autism means you dont meet the criteria for mental retardation (which is an IQ of 70 or bellow). You can still have an IQ of like 75 (thus having intelligence that's well bellow average) and be considered "high functioning." It's only high functioning compared to traditional autism where one of the defining characteristics is mental retardation. Asperger's is where you have normal to above average intelligence (I'd say 95 and up, though most people with Asperger's do have above average IQs). [/i] Oh yeah, I did forget to mention the IQ's of people with Low Functioning Autism, although I did already say that people with HFA generally have average to above-average IQ's. And of course, technically you can still be "high functioning" if your IQ is above 70. And it is still true that people with Asperger's Syndrome do not have language deficits, unlike other forms of Autism. For those of you that don't know, everyone actually has some level of autism. Autism just means you have an extreme male brain. There are tests you can take online that are administered by psychologists that can tell you where you are. (this is by no means a diagnosis though) [/i] Ah yes, the Simon Baron-Cohen model. Although people with autism do score high on the SQ portion of the test, it does not mean that Autism is the extreme male brain. There is a whole lot more to Autism than just simply whether or not they have a high empathy/systemizing intelligence. This model, however, may help to explain how autistic brains work and why there are much more males with autism than females, as well as possible origins. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites They also did an experiment in which they applied repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to give otherwise normal people savant-like capabilities. Do you know the name of this experiment by any chance? #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Do you know the name of this experiment by any chance? I'm not sure if they gave a name to it, since I don't see one anywhere, but here are a couple of links about it. The study was conducted at the University of South Austrailia. and this is a thesis by the people who did it Just note that it didn't turn them into savants, it just induced in them some of the characteristics associated with savants, such as improved memorization and the like. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Hey thanks for the link Atomika! #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I'm not sure if they gave a name to it, since I don't see one anywhere, but here are a couple of links about it. The study was conducted at the University of South Austrailia. and this is a thesis by the people who did it Just note that it didn't turn them into savants, it just induced in them some of the characteristics associated with savants, such as improved memorization and the like. Very interesting...there are so many directions this research will probably go. I'll definetely be keeping an ear out for more in the future. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I would think as we are in a science community, on a forum and on the internet then the proportion of autistic people here would be unusually high. Autism is not an on\off thing, there are meany people only slightly autistic, appeantly 1/3 of people experance some form of mental "illness" some time in there life. Wouldn't psychology be just about the most difficult career choice possible for someone with aspergers? Most psychology involves one on one communiaction with somone in a familiar place, the only thing that changes is the person, this would terrify some autistic people but others would be quite happy with it. Autistic people find lurning languege at first hard but tend do develop better than averege communication later on. NLP and other modern psychology's are often structured and involve complex and abract concepts that would not be in some cases easyer for an autistic person to understand. Conventional psychology/councelling would be hardest for an autistic person to be able to do. I too would be verry intrested to know more about the reserch being done into savants. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Most psychology involves one on one communiaction with somone in a familiar place,... This is not true, at least, no more true than of any other occupation. Psychology is a huge field and only one end of it involves one-to-one communication in a professional (i.e. theraputic) sense. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I would think as we are in a science community, on a forum and on the internet then the proportion of autistic people here would be unusually high. Autism is not an on\off thing, there are meany people only slightly autistic, appeantly 1/3 of people experance some form of mental "illness" some time in there life. Not exactly. People with autism can also be a prodigy in music, history, etc. It is more or less based on what their intense interest is. Sometimes their interest changes while other times it stays static and they may become experts in their interests. I have had a passion for science and math since about the 3rd grade because I am a math prodigy and I tend to be a very logical person (hence science makes a lot more sense than religion for me). And yes, all people have some traits associated with personality disorders and mental illnesses but they are not severe enough to be considered as such. Autism is neither a mental illness nor a personality disorder. It is a developmental disorder, but has some traits associated with OCD. I too would be verry intrested to know more about the reserch being done into savants. you can start by looking here: #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Not exactly. People with autism can also be a prodigy in music, history, etc. It is more or less based on what their intense interest is. Sometimes their interest changes while other times it stays static and they may become experts in their interests. I agree Science makes a lot more sense than religion Indeed it does, Religion and Lies are loosing water in the world today, they may seem like a big problem but look though history, we have it good in this age. Autism is neither a mental illness nor a personality disorder. It is a developmental disorder Disorder sounds so negative for something some verry intelligent and famous people have had, but I think you are probbebly right. You can start by looking here: Thanks #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I have no experience in the psychology field but I would think that 'empathy' would be the single most important variable in being a psychologist. Isn't empathy what some autistic people lack or have difficulty with? Humans are social animals. If one has developmentalproblems and is unaware of what it is to be a healthy mentally and social functioning human then how could one help achieve it in others? it would be like asking a person on a tropical island who has never worn or seen shoes to design comfortable high heel shoes for women. The tropical islander might be a whiz at lots of other functions or occupations but not one of which he has no basic understanding. There was a fellow student in first year university who was what today we would call autistic. Back then we called Paul 'a bit wierd'. He became a math teacher and didn't last a year. The issue wasn't math but he couldn't relate to his students. He didn't even mind when he became an object of ridicule...he just couldn't relate to the human emotion. I have no idea what happened to him but hope he found an occupation he could channel his energy into. On a scale of one to a hundred his suitability in psychology would be a 1. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I have no experience in the psychology field but I would think that 'empathy' would be the single most important variable in being a psychologist. Isn't empathy what some autistic people lack or have difficulty with? Yes, meany autistic people would make verry bad psychologist's. Humans are social animals. If one has developmental problems and is unaware of what it is to be a healthy mentally and social functioning human then how could one help achieve it in others? It would be like asking a person on a tropical island who has never worn or seen shoes to design comfortable high heel shoes for women. In NLP (although im shure this is not only an NLP thing) the aim is to try and help remove blocks to effective and productive thought patterns and allow the person to think more openly, the person then tends to resolve there problems with far more ease. It's not about imposing any high level concepts like morality on the person (Like how a hypnotheropist should be able to help somone to give up smoking even if they knew nothing about what it is like to smoke). There was a fellow student in first year university who was what today we would call autistic ... It seems like he should have become a mathamatican not a teacher, but I don't understand why anyone would really want to become a teacher despite several people I know who do want to become teachers, im shure he had his reasons but he does (based on what you say) seem verry badly suited to that job. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites There's a paleontologist I met on and off over the years who had some type of disorder I never understood. He'd get fixated on a subject and research it to death..eat and sleep it and then, wham, drop it completely and fixate on something else. When he button holed you at a meeting he would talk on about his current subject and, no kidding, if you were to stick out your tongue and cross your eyes, he wouldn't notice. He seemed to have no reaction to human feedback. I could walk away from him talking to me and he wouldn't be the least bit upset or offended. Now, having said this, he was a fascinating fellow and and a lot to contribute to a subject once he latched on to it. I could have said 'I think you're ugly and and idiot but could you explain brachiopid calcium phospate shell structure to me again' and he wouldn't have even noticed the personal half of the comment but move onto giving an excellent analysis of the second. But, if I met him a year later on he was on another tangent he would only focus on his new subject matter. He was quite functional in every other aspect. He could drive a car, do his finances and everything most of us do day to day. I don't know if this was some subset of autism or some other syndrome. Regardless, the fellow made great contributions to outherwise somewhat dry areas of research. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I have no experience in the psychology field but I would think that 'empathy' would be the single most important variable in being a psychologist. Isn't empathy what some autistic people lack or have difficulty with? It's not that they lack empathy or emotions, the real issue is that people with Autism have a difficult time being able to interpret what other people are feeling, and other nonverbal cues. In my particular case, I am often unaware of the more subtle cues. I once took a test that measured my ability to interpret the emotions of both adults and kids by looking at facial expressions, and I found it easier to interpret the emotions of children. Unless you have something like a big, beaming smile on your face or an obvious frown, I would not be able to interpret how you are feeling. The same holds true for listening to your tone of voice; unless it is obvious, I would not be able to tell how one is feeling. Humans are social animals. If one has developmental problems and is unaware of what it is to be a healthy mentally and social functioning human then how could one help achieve it in others? Well, this is assuming that all people with autism live alone, when in fact they do not. They don't socialize a lot mainly because of the difficulties in being able to relate to other people. They may be seen as strange, but depending on their personality and abilities they are not completely isolated and can still contribute to society (Albert Einstein, for example, is suspected to have Autism). As for learning how to adequately socialize, its just like learning any other useful skill, we have to be taught some of them. There's a paleontologist I met on and off over the years who had some type of disorder I never understood. He'd get fixated on a subject and research it to death..eat and sleep it and then, wham, drop it completely and fixate on something else. When he button holed you at a meeting he would talk on about his current subject and, no kidding, if you were to stick out your tongue and cross your eyes, he wouldn't notice. He seemed to have no reaction to human feedback. I could walk away from him talking to me and he wouldn't be the least bit upset or offended. Now, having said this, he was a fascinating fellow and and a lot to contribute to a subject once he latched on to it. Yup, this does sound like autism. I could have said 'I think you're ugly and and idiot but could you explain brachiopid calcium phospate shell structure to me again' and he wouldn't have even noticed the personal half of the comment.. Well, no. If you told him that, believe me he would notice. We know when we are being insulted. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Disorder sounds so negative for something some verry intelligent and famous people have had, but I think you are probbebly right. Yeah, I know it sounds negative. But so does any other disorder, whether it be mental or physical. What makes a person successful is that they don't dwell too much on the negatives. Whether anyone likes it or not, everybody has a disability. What makes a disability a disorder is when that disability interferes with being able to function and live out our daily lives. It does not interfere with my life in anyway. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I've only recently started accepting that I'm a little different from everyone else (about a year, but relatively speaking: I've known for 7 years). I denied it for the longest time and tried to teach myself how to be social because I just don't want to be different (this is why I've read so much about conversation and everything else). I'm a senior in high school and it feels like I've missed out on a lot of things. I work at a baseball park just to get out cause I never go anywhere with friends, and several of my closer friends work there as well. People always think it's weird that I don't go out and do things, and they think it's even weirder when I tell them that I consider working "going out." (which I've stopped telling people cause of it -- is it so wrong to enjoy working? Should I go find a place I hate working that maybe pays more? People see working like a chore, and in the end I don't even care about the money cause I only spend about$10 a week, plus I have my entire college payed for with excess money over top of that!)

I was just wondering what you think about telling people that you have AS. I've only told one person (two days ago) because I've been denying it, and recently because I figure people might think of it negatively, but I kind of feel like it might help my relations with people if they knew.

I was working at the baseball park wrapping hotdogs and met this new 40 or so year old lady, who inevitably asked me why I was quiet and "focused." We were actually talking for quite a while -- we met each other, talked some about each other, talked about hotdog wrapping (she wrapped hers like she thought marijuana was supposed to be wrapped, but I asked someone who actually smokes marijuana and he says that's not right), everything was cool and she stooped talking so I didn't talk anymore. When people are quite it means that they're either content or angry, and sense she wasn't angry, I figured everything was fine. I was just focused on wrapping hotdogs because people were taking our hotdogs as fast as we were wrapping them, and I really like the wrapped hotdogs to be in the warmers because it heats up the buns and they taste better. People were taking newly wrapped hotdogs with cold buns, so there were customers who were receiving sub-par hotdogs!

So when she asked me about being quite, I thought for a second, and decided that sense she doesn't know anyone I know, it'd be alright to tell her I had autism. She said I didn't seem like I had it, which I guess is a good thing (of course she probably doesn't know much about autism but this means that I'm not totally deranged from society, which I'm pretty sure I'm not anyway). But instead of her maybe feeling better about me, it sort of seemed like a cry for help, and then it was used as an excuse for me to not really try to talk to her. It really felt like a relief because she was a very talkative person, and once I told her I had autism, I could talk less then she was and not be seen as rude. Besides, talking is a distraction. Our job was to wrap hotdogs -- what didn't she understand about that?

There's this forum called wrongplanet for asperger's syndrome, but I'm asking here because there are a lot of neurotypical people here, and also because a lot of you seem to have good insight (wrongplanet seems divided on the issue anyway). So if you were to meet someone who was maybe a little strange do you think it'd be better to think of her/him as being a little weird, or to refere to him/her as the person with that "condition?" I'm still 17 so at this point it's ok for me to "lack common sense" but as I get older I think people are going to start expecting things of me that I really cant pull off, and telling them I have aspergers might be able to help.

Btw getting out or working is probably the best thing to do if you have aspergers. I think it's really helped me a lot, not just working with other people, but interacting with customers. Talking to customers in the context, "you ask for something and I get it for you" allows you to gain social skills without being in an informal, undefined random context. There is a purpose to the interaction and small talk is kept to a minimum. My nametag even says, "enjoy the game" so I don't have to tell them (though sometimes I do cause getting told to enjoy the game twice might make them more happy)!

And I think the employees respect me as well because they always ask me to do things or to help them. I always end up fixing the cheese machine or running down to storage to pick things up. And when they mess up a register they're always like, "shit, can you come over here and fix this?" One day there was nobody there who knew how to change the kegs so they decided to send me to the beer cooler and "figure it out." (you're on your own but we know you can do it!) It was really pretty simple -- I just looked at how the current one was set up, found the appropriate number, and copied that exactly over to a new keg of the same beer.

I've actually noticed a couple things. Like if you list prices, start most expensive and go down cause they'll be more likely to buy. Even neurotypical people don't seem to realize this. Like if they ask, "how much is a hotdog," don't say "2.50 but cheese/sauce is extra," instead tell them chily-cheese is 3.50 and plain is 2.50, but you can get ketchup/mustard over there." If people aren't sure that they want something you can always say, "they're really good" or "people have been buying a lot today" and that'll reassure their decision to get something.

If there's no line and you want to serve more people when they walk over, say "can I help you" and they'll come over to you instead of the other person. It's funny cause people (male and female!) usually go to the female cashier if there's a guy running the other one, but if you say "can I help you," this reverses the rule. Same thing w/ the two middle ones verses the two on either side (we have six registers, three groups of two). People always walk past the first two registers and go to the middle ones, even if there's a line! But as they walk past, you can inform them that you're there w/ "can I help you" and they'll go to you instead of to one of the middle registers. (and if there's a line this stops them from having to wait in it, and it eases the load on your coworker. Of course if there's a long line people will get in whichever is shortest, and don't much care if it's a male or female or one of the middle registers.)

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I was just wondering what you think about telling people that you have AS. I've only told one person (two days ago) because I've been denying it, and recently because I figure people might think of it negatively, but I kind of feel like it might help my relations with people if they knew.

In my opinion, it's entirely up you whether or not you choose to tell people. I don't think it's whether or you tell people that's important, I think why you choose to tell them is more important.

I think the only circumstance in which you might begin to have problems is if you begin (unconsciously) to use AS as a crutch and a way of avoiding things you find challanging. This is known as 'adopting the patient role', and people can do this with any condition/illness/injury.

They get reward from the way people treat them when they are incapacitated or less able for any reason, and start to rely on their sondition to get them out of challanging or difficult situations. They don't do this deliberately necessarily, it just sort of creeps up on them, largely due to the reinforcement that comes from the helpful way people around them act once they know.

People who adopt the patient role tend to become more and more helpless over time as they are confronted by fewer challenges and rely increasingly on others.

If you choose to tell people for any other reason than to avoid something you find challanging, then I see no problem with it. You seem very high functiong, so as you face more challanging situations and learn by success and failure, you will increase significantly your ability to compensate for any limitations you might have, the same as everyone else does. The key is not to avoid challenging situations. These are where we gain our life experience, social skills etc..

But instead of her maybe feeling better about me, it sort of seemed like a cry for help, and then it was used as an excuse for me to not really try to talk to her. It really felt like a relief because she was a very talkative person, and once I told her I had autism, I could talk less then she was and not be seen as rude. Besides, talking is a distraction. Our job was to wrap hotdogs -- what didn't she understand about that?
Many people feel the same way when they are trying to work with somebody who loves to talk. We all find different ways to deal with the situation. Some work well, other work less well, but we learn.

You do acknowledge that on that occasion, you felt you used it as an excuse. That's ok, but if it becomes habit, then you have the situation I described above. Next time something like that happens, you could try another tactic and see how that goes.

There's this forum called wrongplanet for asperger's syndrome, but I'm asking here because there are a lot of neurotypical people here, and also because a lot of you seem to have good insight (wrongplanet seems divided on the issue anyway). So if you were to meet someone who was maybe a little strange do you think it'd be better to think of her/him as being a little weird, or to refere to him/her as the person with that "condition?" I'm still 17 so at this point it's ok for me to "lack common sense" but as I get older I think people are going to start expecting things of me that I really cant pull off, and telling them I have aspergers might be able to help.
Most people, in their own minds, can't tell the difference between a person who seems 'a little weird' and 'a person with that condition'. They just think 'that condition makes them a little weird'. So, for most people it won't make much of a difference whether you tell them or not. As I say, it's really up to you. You'll probably have to make the choice many times, but you'll need to use you're judgement in each case. You could try telling some people, and not telling other to see what difference it makes (if any). That might help you decide in future.

Btw getting out or working is probably the best thing to do if you have aspergers. I think it's really helped me a lot, not just working with other people, but interacting with customers. Talking to customers in the context, "you ask for something and I get it for you" allows you to gain social skills without being in an informal, undefined random context. There is a purpose to the interaction and small talk is kept to a minimum. My nametag even says, "enjoy the game" so I don't have to tell them (though sometimes I do cause getting told to enjoy the game twice might make them more happy)!
I agree with you absolutely. Getting out and doing stuff is the best thing you can do. Social skills are precisely that - skills, and like any skill, they have to be learned and practice in order for people to become good at them. This is true for absolutely everybody. Nobody can be good at any skill they don't practice.

Given the time and the practice, you'll probably reach a point where the question of whether or not to tell people you have AS ceases to be an issue. You'll develop you own techniques for coping in random, informal social situations and over time, these will become habit. This is pretty much the same for everybody else too. Those people who don't practice (e.g. the severely shy), never get the hang of it and remain awkward and uncomfortable in social situations, which compounds their intitial shyness.

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