I was chatting with, oh, let’s call him an old friend of mine the other day. The subject of Asperger’s came up, and he suggested he might have an undiagnosed case. I laughed at him. I told him he was far too adept at picking up social cues for this to be the case.
He said, “With you, I’m perceptive. With everyone else, not so much.”
Aaah, got it. “You grew up in geek culture. Were your parents science fiction fans?”
“Science fiction, no. Geek culture, definitely.”
I pointed him to this piece on the differences between geek/fannish communication behavior and “mundane” behavior.
We also speak in larger word groupings between breaths. This does not necessarily mean that we speak faster; we just pause for a shorter time between words — except where there is punctuation. She pointed out that when Teresa Nielsen Hayden said she came from Mesa, Arizona, Teresa actually pronounced the comma by putting a slightly longer pause there, while most mundanes would simply run the words together. Mundanes slur a lot of consonents that we pronounce individually. We use punctuation in our spoken utterances. Sometimes we even footnote.
What we say in those large word groupings is also different. We tend to use complete sentences, and complex sentence structure. When we pause, or say “uh”, it tends to be towards the beginning of a statement, as we formulate the complete thought. The “idea” or “information” portion of a statement is paramount; emotional reassurance, the little social noises (mm-hmm) are reduced or omitted. We get to the heart of what we want to say — if someone asks us how to do something we tell them, not leading up to it gently with “have you tried doing it this way?”
This leads us to body language. Our body language is also different from mundanes. We tend to not use eye contact nearly as often; when we do, it often signifies that it’s the other person’s turn to speak now. This is opposite of everyone else. In mundania, it’s *breaking* eye contact that signals turn-taking, not *making* eye contact. She demonstrated this on DDB; breaking eye contact and turning slightly away, and he felt insulted. On the other hand, his sudden staring at her eyes made her feel like a professor had just said “justify yourself NOW”. Mutual “rudeness”; mixed signals.
Oh, yeah, he recognized himself.
There’s just one bit from the report that I have to quibble with.
She didn’t get much into why this is all the case (I think she was surprised at the laughter when she suggested diffidently that we might be a bit under socialized. No, really?? ), and turned away questions about possible pathology.
It doesn’t require any kind of pathology or even under-socialization to produce this kind of behavior pattern. Sure, fandom is very accepting of social disorders like Asperger’s and its ranks were once stocked with people who had it.
However, fandom has become its own culture, isolated to a certain extent from the pressures to conform to “normal” society. The label, “mundane,” for people outside of fandom indicates just how isolated it is comfortable being. We’re into a second generation of people who are being raised almost entirely within fandom. Kids are being socialized to this behavior, just as my friend was. This is their normal.
So, given that my friend and others like him are perfectly well socialized to a standard that mundane society says is pathological, what does this mean for diagnosis (lay or formal) of things like Asperger’s?