I am not the only person in the world with Asperger’s Syndrome. In fact, there are tons of us. I would suggest we would make an effective army, but when you mix too many socially awkward people it begins to get, well, awkward. That being said, there are several Aspies in my school who I come in contact with daily, and I’ve begun to notice the patterns in how they are treated: people don’t seem to know how to react to an Aspie. Two notable cases of mistreatment are in my friends Thing 1 and Thing 2. They represent the extremes how of not to treat someone with Asperger’s.
Thing 1 is in 11th grade with me. Although he has a more severe form of the condition than I do, he is high-functioning enough to hold conversations and to engage in social activity. However, he has no ability to read social cues. He cannot tell sarcasm from sincerity, a dangerous deficiency in the high school world. This disability often leads to him being taken advantage of by other boys. I often witness kids patronizing him with questions such as “Hey, Thing 1, do you have any ladies in your life?” or “Thing 1, what do you think of that girl over there?” and he doesn’t see any option other than to answer seriously with “No, I don’t have a girlfriend,” or “I think that girl is alright,” and they laugh at his answers. He perceives this as them thinking he is funny, so, of course he laughs along. He considers these boys his close friends and sees no insincerity whatsoever in their conversations. He is oblivious to the fact that the laughter is aimed at him. However, because he enjoys the conversations, it would be devastating to him to discover they are teasing him. I myself am not sure whether he would benefit from knowing the truth. On one hand, he will learn to translate social cues, but on the other hand, he would become upset.
Thing 2, on the other hand, is a year younger than me and has a relatively severe case of Asperger’s. He has an aide to assist him in his schoolwork and to escort him to classes. The kids recognize his disability and treat him differently because of it. They talk to him in simple terms (“Good job scoring when we played basketball, Thing 2!”) and treat him a lot nicer than they would if they didn’t know about his condition. While this boosts his morale, it makes me wonder whether he will be prepared for the real world once he leaves high school. When kids are mean to others, the ones who are picked on become stronger and learn how to adapt to the insults. If Thing 2 didn’t have an aide, he would likely be in the same boat as Thing 1, with people teasing him. While it’s good that the kids are adapting to his ways, I think it would be more worthwhile for Thing 2 to adapt to theirs.