Often referred to as “autism lite” or a “shadow syndrome” of autism, Asperger’s syndrome* is relatively common, with up to 1 in 250 people in North America meeting the diagnostic criteria (Brasic, 27 April 2011).
Those with Asperger’s, or “Aspies” (a term coined by Liane Holliday Willey in Pretending to Be Normal) are high-functioning in the sense that they are better able to maintain social relationships than those with autism. Unlike those with autism, Aspies often score highly on measures of verbal intelligence.
When contemplating disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome, there is a tendency to focus on negative aspects, such as difficulty in reading social cues. But many of those with Asperger’s syndrome have positive traits as well, which has led some people to question whether it should be viewed as a difference rather than a disorder.
Trustworthy and Reliable
Most people with Asperger’s are dependable and loyal. They don’t play games or force others to live up to demanding social expectations. Aspies have no hidden agendas and most have no interest in harming others or taking advantage of their weaknesses. The majority are not inclined to lie to, steal from, or attack the reputations of those around them. Aspies are not likely to be bullies, con artists, or social manipulators, and they are less inclined to be fickle or bitchy than their neurotypical counterparts. While some people with Asperger’s may lash out when provoked, they are unlikely to launch unprovoked attacks, verbal or otherwise.
Aspies like to spend time alone and are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves. While most like to have friends, their need for social contact is not usually as strong as that of neurotypical people (those not on the autistic spectrum). Because they are not motivated by an intense social drive to spend time with anybody who happens to be available, they can be selective, choosing honest, genuine, dependable people who share their interests.
Free of Prejudice
Aspies tend to be very accepting of the quirks and idiosyncrasies of others. Most don’t discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, age, or any other surface criteria, but instead judge people based on their behaviour. They don’t usually recognize hierarchies, and so are unlikely to accord someone superior status simply because that person is wealthy or has attained a high position in an organization.
Those with Asperger’s can listen to people’s problems and provide a fresh perspective, offering pure assessments based on the the information provided, untainted by the judgments that people often make regarding one another’s social position or social skills. Others can relax and be themselves around an Aspie without fearing social censure.
Aspies will not go along with the crowd if they know that something is wrong. Most stick to their positions, even in the face of intense social pressure, and their values aren’t shaped by financial, social, or political influences.
Most Aspies have a good work ethic and pay attention to detail. Conscientious, reliable, and honest, many Aspies make very good employees if able to control their pace and work within either a solitary or socially supportive environment. Aspies are persistent, and when they set their minds to something or make a promise, they can usually be trusted to follow through.
Intelligent and Talented
Those with Asperger’s syndrome often have above-average intelligence, and many have one or more highly developed talents. They are more likely than those of the general population to pursue a university education, and because many are drawn to technology, they tend to become proficient in the technological media required for lucrative employment in the Information Age.
Enthusiasm and a propensity for obsessive research ensure that Aspies develop a broad and deep base of knowledge in subjects of interest. They loathe small talk and trivialities, preferring instead to talk about significant things that will enhance their knowledge base.
Because they have exceptional memories, those with Asperger’s can bring up a variety of interesting facts (though some of these facts will only be interesting to the Aspies themselves), as well as recalling fine details that others miss. They also bring a highly original perspective to problem solving, and their acute sensitivity may support creative talents as well.
According to Brasic (27 April 2011), “Published case reports of individuals with Asperger syndrome suggest an association with the capacity to accomplish cutting-edge research in computer science, mathematics, and physics, as well as outstanding creative work in art, film, and music.”
Some of those with Asperger’s syndrome have great endurance when engaging in activities they like, which may translate into a talent for certain athletic pursuits. Some Aspies have talents for swimming, rowing, running, bodybuilding, or other activities that require sustained physical effort. They tend to prefer individual sports to team sports, as there are no social demands and they can exercise complete control over the activity.
Those who develop an interest in sport or fitness are likely to work at it every day, often for long periods of time. This tendency to adhere unvaryingly to routines enables Aspies who have fitness interests to stay fit and healthy, manifesting an exercise ethic that neurotypicals can only match with a heroic exertion of will power.
Full List of Positive Traits Often Associated with Asperger’s Syndrome:
- High integrity
- Able to offer fresh perspectives
- Dedicated to lifelong learning
- Unimpressed by status or superficial charm
- Good memorization skills
- Appreciative of good qualities such as kindness and intelligence in others
- Often able to derive great joy from free activities and inexpensive objects due to enhanced sensory responses
This article provides a brief, generalized overview of common positive traits, but there are significant variations among those with Asperger’s syndrome, and not all Aspies will have all of these traits. For more articles about Asperger’s syndrome, as well as links to learning resources providing more in-depth information, visit the main Autism and Asperger’s syndrome page.
*Asperger’s syndrome has been removed from the DSM as a diagnostic category, and is now considered part of the larger autistic spectrum. However, many people still use and identify with the term, and it has been an area of focus for prior studies, so we continue to use Asperger’s syndrome in this article series.
- Attwood, T. (2007). The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Brasic, J.R., MD, MPH. (Reviewed by Chief Editor C. Pataki, MD). (27 April 2011). “Asperger Syndrome.” EMedicine.Medscape.com.
- Gray, C., & Attwood, T. (n.d.). “The Discovery of ‘Aspie’ Criteria.” The Gray Centre for Social Learning and Understanding, TheGrayCenter.org.
- Zuckerman, M.J. (29 March 2001). “Hacker Reminds Some of Asperger Syndrome.”USA Today, USAToday.com.