Asperger’s: “A fancy name to describe people who are rude.”

In an opinion piece in the main national newspaper here in New Zealand, Paul Little has a rant about the changing fads of diagnostic labels. He predicts that “depression” will no longer be a condition by mid-century, then goes on to state:

And now, Asperger syndrome turns out to have been, in many cases, a fancy name to describe people who are rude and can’t be bothered to change their ways. The new edition of the psychiatric profession’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, will not recognise Asperger syndrome as a condition. People showing behaviours formerly falling under this label will be seen either to have autism or to not have autism.”

In the piece, the writer shows no awareness of the fact that the autism label is itself being changed, and is likely to thereafter accommodate many of those who currently have an Asperger’s diagnosis. He’s also missed the relevance of the proposed introduction of “Social Communication Disorder,” which would have otherwise being supposedly rich fodder for his attitude towards “rude people,” and which is relevant to the changes to those with an autism spectrum diagnosis.

Putting that aside, I want to ask a question: Why does hate speech get so easily shared by a national newspaper? How is it considered acceptable that someone can take a very large group of vulnerable people, and declare them merely to be intentionally rude people?

The damage this does to these individuals can be profound. Not only does it further stigmatize this group of people, it perpetuates a pop-culture misunderstanding and goes further to claim that the misunderstanding has now being revealed as truth, when in fact it is very clear that the very people making the changes he so approves of, do not hold such a view as his and were not motivated by such a view in deciding to remove Asperger’s. Even cursory research into the reason for the changes to the diagnostic criteria, would have made that clear to Mr Little.

Is it true that some people claim to have Asperger’s to get away with being rude, as he goes on to claim in that same piece? I have no doubt. Those people are just like him though: They have misunderstood Asperger’s and are belittling the lived experiences and hardships of a people they clearly know very little about. Plenty of people pretend to have conditions they don’t have, does that mean the condition was never real for others? Of course not, and yet the writer seems to use this as proof that Asperger’s was always a farce (“for many” anyway).

I personally know of people with Asperger’s who are polite to a fault. This is because they are hyper-aware that they can misunderstand others and be misunderstood because of their challenges reading and reacting to social communication, so they over-compensate by always apologizing even when they’ve done nothing wrong, and second-guessing their every word and action in an effort to not accidentally offend others. Some even hide themselves away, preferring not to personally interact with others, because they fear the mistakes they’ll make. Is that what we think of as intentionally or indifferently rude people? Because that’s the Asperger’s I see everyday.

Not all of those with Asperger’s are like what I describe above, but that’s because they’re human beings with their own various pasts and experiences and preferences and making their own choices in life. Asperger’s does not dictate personality and does not shape every aspect of who someone is: It’s not as simple as “Asperger’s= rude.” To imply it is, is both cruel and ignorant.

I’m all for free speech, but I’m also all for people doing research and applying thought to a topic, before furthering stigma and hurt on a vulnerable group of people. Paul Little can say what he likes (apparently), and a major newspaper can share it with their readers, but so can I reply to point out the rather obvious and objective errors in such a piece, and so can you, because the piece allows comments.

Feel free to let him know that the rudeness (and ignorance) on display, is all his own.

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26 Responses to Asperger’s: “A fancy name to describe people who are rude.”

  1. jentroester says:

    Honestly, I think there is a lot of self-diagnosing going on these days, people who truly do not have Aspergers (or any spectrum-disorder), and that is seriously hurting the people who DO. I have met kids/adults who truly, TRULY have AS. There is no mistaking it. You can dx them from the parking lot, so to speak. It isn’t just social anxiety, or being a little awkward, or having the tag on your shirt bother you…it’s so much more complex. But…I see it happen often. So, you have a population who is skewing what AS really is. Also, if someone uses their autism as an excuse to be rude or mean, those are the ones I immediately question in my mind.

    Unfortunately, when you have a disability that is behavior-based, you are always going to have people who don’t believe it really exists. That it’s just bad parenting. Heck, I had the school guidance counselor tell me if I just counted to 3, K would be cured. HA! It’s the plight of the invisible disability. I guess all we can do is educate as much as we can, and try not to give a crap when the ignorant choose to speak.

    (Also, I totally agree with a lot of people on the spectrum being polite to a fault, and being overwhelmed with the anxiety of offending someone, so they hide away. My dd has HFA and this is SO her. She would never, ever be rude and blame her Autism, and it’s offensive that there are those who do).

  2. Shazza says:

    Paul Little can kiss my arse.

  3. Angela says:

    I appreciate you writing about this unusual comment by Paul Little.I felt mighty peeved off when I read it and wondered what peculiar social circles he frequents that someone would say such a bizzare thing to him? In my experience ( am including my own family members here) “Aspies” try so hard to be socially appropriate and they usually succeed-if not none of them would ever excuse themselves in the flippant way Paul Little suggests . I joke with a friend who is a psychologist that in a few years he will need to teach social skills to so called “normal” people as with the advent of facebooking, texting and generally not engaging in person with each other-they will have forgotten how to say “Hello” and “How are you?” to each other! Good post. Advice to Paul Little-they are not true “Aspies” who you speak of-they are just RUDE people, and you are daft for repeating their nonsense.

  4. I think its reclassification as high functioning autism is a good idea for this kind of reason. I wrote about that recently actually on my blog. I also think there are far too many ignorant people, often see t shirts such as ‘I am not naughty I am autistic.’ It’s a shame they even need to be made. It’s also a shame that unbalanced opinions make it into national press.

  5. Sunshine says:

    I will never understand people who have such strong, passionate opinions about something they haven’t bothered to learn about in the least.

    • Thanks for sharing your link, yes I’ve been aware of what’s going on, I’ve seen my stats go through the roof by people searching for “autism and violence.” I wrote a post about the non-link between the two a while back (you can find it if you search for “mass murder” in my blog’s search engine).

  6. Janine Moran says:

    Please, please, please share your superbly written piece with the said Paul Little.

  7. Ezoob says:

    So he believes I’m rude and closed minded? My response is this.

    Dear “Paul Little” I believe you must have had some unfriendly encounters. We all do at some point in our lifetime. When someone bumps into you while at a concert and does not apologize immediately after does not mean they have “Aspergers syndrome”? Maybe you can think a “Little” next time you post a “rant” “Rhetoric” and misinformation!

    Does your diet consist of fluoride GMO foods and gas station crap? If so that would explain a LOT!

  8. Hanna S. says:

    Good question you raise: “Why does hate speech get so easily shared by a national newspaper?”.

    For the answer to that, one need only scrutinize the owner(s) of any newspaper. You won’t need to dig too deeply – they tend to be vain, attention seeking, socially ignorant, egotistical types, They’re typically not highly educated, but they’ll push their kids to be, and they take their bad attitudes out on those they have a gripe against on any given day by propounding such disgusting, low-life, typically ignorant articles as the one you quoted.

    Gives them a feeling of power, you see. They really are that pathetic.

  9. Hannah says:

    My boyfriend has Aspergers’. My transgender friend, who is his female friend, also has Aspergers’. The brother of a girl that I worked with, has Aspergers’.

    So Paul Little, you really, really need to check your privilege on what constitutes as “bad manners”, and exchange that view for the favour of “social impairment”, before you start using a health condition as an outlet for your hate speech. GFY.

  10. trey. says:

    Hi, I have asbergers and I appreciate you standing up for people like me. It hurts me to even think someone might misunderstand my condition and just label me as “rude”, I may come across rude at times but I try my best to be socially appropriate at all times and it bothers the crap out of me if I slip up. It’s not intentional at all, it’s just something I can’t control.

  11. Aspies have no manners says:

    Typical Aspie assholes justifying their behaviour . I had the misfortune of having a severe Asbergers sufferer who I had never met face to face but had formed an online friendship stay at my residence over the Easter break. He behaved like an animal . He had NO manners at all , could not read my body language or face and didn’t even say thank you for the hospitality when he left.

    Aspie is code for asshole , I’m sorry but that is my view . Psychiatry and psychology are pseudo sciences. Until I see proof that their brains function differently to the rest of humanity , for example lacking certain chemicals and or different shaped brains I don’t believe it.

    • You’ll be very pleased to know that you can let go of your ignorant hateful prejudice then, since the proof you demand already exists, in huge amounts. There have been extensive studies done documenting the different ways the autistic brain looks and functions, including scans that visually show the differences. These studies have been in major news sources over the years, but seeing as you somehow missed them all, feel free to search for autism brain scans and autism brain differences evidence, and all the other searches you could have done if you genuinely cared about basing your strongly negative views on actual facts. You are quite simply hating an entire group of people for something they cannot simply control, that is as bad as racism or sexism and every other ism, I can only hope you will reconsider your view, because it is quite simply empirically wrong.

    • Kacee says:

      I do wish that you would do some research on what autism and aspergers actually is,before you make such a rude,hateful,uneducated comment.

    • A Person With Asperger's says:

      I’m afraid I wasn’t planning on saying anything until I saw this particular comment.
      I am a young teenaged girl who has been consistently put down and insulted for my differences and abnormalities. Yes, I may be considered rude. Yes, I may be considered arrogant. But I can assure you that this is a syndrome that develops during the first few years of one’s life, and I have not been rude all my life. Rather the opposite, But I was also naive- sadly others took advantage of me, which has led to me being rather shut-in and attempting to avoid social situations, as I have developed an aversion to interacting with others. I am aware that the behaviour of some those with asperger’s may lead to negative opinions of them, and I find this to be understandable. Stereotyping is a part of human nature, after all.

      However, given the fact that physical differences have been found within the brains of those with asperger’s, I ask you attempt to reconsider your opinion, at least somewhat. I am not one to be defending myself, and I don’t believe I have a right to considering my ‘rude’ behaviour, but I feel that there are those who are much more polite, as well as sensitive and hurt by words such as these than I am, and perhaps a reconsideration could be done for the benefits of these people, and your own perception.

      Thank you for your time, ‘Aspies have no manners’.

  12. Pingback: The Unforgivable Sin of Rudeness - Catholic Bandita

  13. Kacee says:

    Paul little needs to get over himself.I’m an a 17 year old girl with high functioning aspergers and yes I have had a professional diagnosis by the state of Georgia,2 psychiatrists,and my pediatrician.Little’s opinion is far from being accurate.I do not have any real friends,just people who talk to me and are nice to me,but sometimes I do worry that I appear rude.it’s not that I’m trying to appear rude,but “I have trouble showing body language that tell people it’s ok to talk to me.”I quoted one of my psychiatrists there:)

  14. Rhys says:

    I am a medically diagnosed Aspergers sufferer, and I quite enjoyed this article. I was, however quite shocked by the existence, let alone publication of such distasteful and outright mean, opinionated views displayed by the the author of the article, Paul little. I understand how he may think these thoughts of hatred towards people such as myself who do not see the world quite like he does, as he obviously is rather ignorant. What I cannot understand is his motive as to publishing such narrow minded opinions to the people. He must know his opinions could offend a lot of people, but yet has still gone ahead with pushing his distaste onto others.i personally do not believe myself to be a rude person, nor do I use my aspergers as a shield for rudeness, should I display it. All in all I believe Paul Little needs to rethink his views on people with Aspergers Syndrome, and maybe have a look at himself to see who is really the rude and senseless being.

    • John says:

      Unfortunately, it’s not a great surprise for myself. Inflammatory and ignorant rhetoric is the currency that funds careers these days for a good number of public figures. Squeaky wheels everywhere – voices of reason and sanity have to shout to their level. Exhausting.

  15. Kent the Canadian says:

    Just a couple of thoughts about the article and some of the responses:

    Saying that people with Aspergers Syndrome are assholes, because you know someone with AS who is an asshole, is like saying that people with Cancer are thieves, because you were robbed by someone with Cancer. This is a type of Cognitive Bias, (ideas that prevent people from thinking rationally) the same biases that influence people to form the negative stereotypes they use to perpetuate other forms of hate, based on race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
    Interestingly, people with AS think more rationally than people who don’t have AS, studies have shown.

    People with AS are no more likely to be assholes than anybody else, in fact maybe even less so. Being an asshole is not one of the characteristics that define AS. Some people will make excuses for bad behaviour, regardless of wether or not they have any underlying disorder. Criminals will often cite childhood abuse as an aggravating factor in order to diminish or avoid responsibility for their actions. Likewise, people with disorders such as Narcissistic Personality , Borderline Personality, Schizoid Personality, even those with mental illnesses, or just plain assholes, who have not received a definite diagnosis, will make claims, such as having AS, in order to explain or excuse bad behaviour. This does not mean that they have AS, however, nor is it a reflection of people who actually do. People who make such claims have little, or no understanding of what AS actually is, and are merely using a misinformed idea to explain away bad behaviour (being an asshole).

    As for Psychiatry and Psychology being “Pseudo Science”; people who say this have little real understanding of what Science and those particular disciplines actually are. Such claims are rhetoric. As a Psychiatric diagnosis, Aspergers is a Syndrome, a group of clearly identified and recognized characteristics that define the disorder, far from being some vague allusion to weirdness and rudeness; it’s a serious, often debilitating condition. Making ignorant and ill-informed comments, especially such caustic ones, is unwarranted, and unfairly dismissive. A person can believe what they want, but that is not the same as perpetuating misinformation, ignorance, and hatred towards generally good, intelligent, and decent people who already struggle to do many of the things that others do easily and take for granted.

    Look, if you are going to express an opinion, especially such strong ones, at least be informed, if for no other reason than to not come off looking so ignorant and silly yourselves. There is a word to describe people who are willfully ignorant and disrespectful towards others…

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