New thoughts about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and nerds
Thanks to spending so much time analyzing Elliot’s autobiography, and thinking about why he’s not on the “autism spectrum” despite the claim by his mother in a court document, I have some new theories about these conditions.
Humans are born with a natural instinct to copy the behavior of other humans, and to seek approval of people with higher status in the social group. For people born with autism, this instinct is missing or lacking. For this reason, true autistics fail to learn how to speak because as I’ve previously pointed out, languages are learned by mimicking rather than by reasoning, and learning by mimicking doesn’t happen when a child is born without the instinct to copy his parents.
Partial autistics, in other words those who have Asperger’s Syndrome, do enough mimicking to learn how to talk, but they don’t acquire the fully expressive language abilities of normal children, and they also don’t acquire the correct social behaviors, facial expressions, etc, because those are also learned by mimicking. Lacking the natural copycat instincts of normal children, they usually become social outcasts because they fail to copy the behaviors of the other children and become part of the group. They also tend to pick up odd interests because they lack the copycat instinct of normal children who choose their interests based on what other children like, or what their parents convince them to like.
I am rejecting an idea I previously had, and which seems common on the internet, that nerdiness is a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, or that all nerds have that syndrome. The reason why there is a lot of overlap between nerds and Aspies is because they are both social outcasts, and as social outcasts they both fail to learn the correct behaviors of the popular kids, but the reasons for why they become social outcasts differ. Boys who have a combination of high neuroticism, introversion, small/weak/bad athletic skills, and ugly appearance, are at risk for being excluded from the popular kids groups, and thus become nerds. Unlike Aspies who are often completely antisocial and become interested in weird things like train schedules, nerdy boys are social with other nerds and they have shared nerdy interests like science-fiction television shows and video games. To further confuse things, Aspies often fall into their orbit because the nerdy clique is more welcoming of a weird Aspie than the popular kids clique. And nerds can appear to be anti-social because they are often shy, but it’s not the same cause as Aspie anti-socialness.
Girls can have Asperger’s Syndrome and autism, but otherwise girls don’t become girl nerds in the same way or for the same reasons that boys become boy nerds. For example, sports and appreciation for roughhouse play is not important among girls, so a small/weak/unathletic girl does not have the social handicap of a small/weak/unathletic boy.