Many diseases during our lifetime have been, if not eradicated completely, at least greatly minimized. These include smallpox and polio, among others. But will there ever be a cure for Asperger Syndrome? For that matter, does there need to be?

school icons on the blackboard

Remember that A.S. isn’t a defect so much as a difference: That is, the Aspy brain is wired somewhat differently than that of the so-called “neurotypical.”

While those differences do cause problems in a neuro-typical world at times, they can also be very beneficial if channeled and directed properly. For example, Einstein probably had A.S., but in spite of, or perhaps because of that, he went on to fill his resume with accomplishments that would give anyone cause for envy. Would you say he needs to be “cured”?

If I weren’t an Aspy, I’m not sure I’d be able to do math in my head or play music by ear. I’m not sure I’d be able to relate to animals the way I do. Also, I doubt I would have the memory I do either.

To this day, if my family has a mathematics question, or if my brother is trying to figure out who sang a certain song on the radio, I’m the first one they consult. This might not be the case if I were “neuro-typical.”

A few years ago, I tracked down a former co-worker and sent him an email. This friend, an advertising executive, wrote back and told me how he was sitting in a business meeting with facts and figures flying, and he thought about how nice it would be to have my math ability. My friend has had a much more successful career in advertising than I did, but he still recognizes that I have abilities he could use.

The point is this: If I were “cured” of being an “Aspy,” I might function better in the world, have an easier time detecting non-verbal social cues, etc. But I might well be robbed of the very abilities that make life so much fun at times.

Think of what the world might be missing if Einstein were “cured” of what made him different. Or Isaac Newton. The world might be a much different place, and not necessarily for the better. No, there may never be a “cure” for A.S. And for that, we should be grateful.

By Ken Kellam

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  1. Hello!
    My 13y/o is an “Aspy”, and, as parents, we struggle to help him navigate the minefield of teenage life, and we are heartbroken when we hear things that’ve happened at school, that, while he may not be too upset by (We can only hope that he doesn’t truly comprehend what transpired, in his quiet, introspective moments….), we realize the social significance of these interactions.

    We have yet to identify an “upside” (He’s a wonderful kid, but, what is his “gift”?) to our son’s Asperger’s. He’s fallen into a very narrow set of interests (Gaming, youtube, etc.), and he’s loath to broaden his horizons, yet we feel this is key to his future success/happiness.

    He seems to’ve taken an interest in girls, lately, which brings his social challenges to the fore. I’m looking for ways to help him identify the “right” kind of ppl, both for platonic and romantic relationships, which are suited to his personality.

    Any “pro tips”?

    1. Author

      If’s he’s only 13, it may take awhile to find his “gifts.” I certainly weren’t sure what mine were at his age. Sounds like his narrow interests are those typical of those his age. Give him time–he will broaden his horizons when he is ready. As for identifying the “right” kind of people, ask him who makes him feel good when he’s around him, and who treats him with respect. Romance may be further down the road–I never dated in high school. In addition to the lack of social skills, I was also smaller than most of my classmates, which sometimes led to bullying even by younger kids. But again, ask him which girls treat him nicely, and are proactive in talking to him. That’s a good place to start. Best wishes.

  2. No, I’m sorry but I fundamentally disagree. I think it’s very easy for people to glamourise this condition (albeit with good intent) without being in-the-know of just how difficult it is people with asperger syndrome (like myself) or other forms of autism. You talk of Einstein and the likes: These individuals are the lucky few to whom autism may have benefitted but understand, this is an insignificant fraction of people of the spectrum.

    I have worked with autistic people as support worker six years ago which I have been doing since. When I went into that job, I imagined working with people like Sheldon Cooper like many other workers did. Well, needless to say, working with people across the entire autistic spectrum was a real wake up call to how much help these individuals need and debilitating autism is.

    Life has been tough for myself: I’ve lost out on meaningful friendships, I’ve lost out on work opportunities and the ability to network because my illness (yes, I’m going to call it that!) has inhibited me to do the things I want and achieve my goals. I feel such despair when I dig out old school reports from decades ago showing good grades yet right now, I’m doing under-qualified jobs (out of fear that I’d mess up within a higher-responsibility role due to my poor memory, motor skills or eccentric behaviours). In a way it makes me imagine just how difficult it must be for people with more profound autism (i.e. not great).

    To me, telling people that autism “is just another wiring of the brain” is helping no-one, especially the people with the condition or those looking after them. I’d even say people are losing out on the help they could be getting because society was misled into thinking they’re alright. Autistic individuals need proper funding by the government and also the tailor-made help they need, not to be told they’re fine.

    As it happens, I am now very fortunate to have found a woman I love and we got married recently. This has turned my life around in a very positive way and my life is more diverse and full now. This wasn’t a ‘given’ though: Life it could have easily taken another path. And despite the overall positive scenario having played out, we still have countless arguments, many of which I attribute to my condition and I feel our relationship is perpetually on the rocks. I also wonder if I’ll ever find a career which matches my set of skills or keep the friends I have.

    I don’t like living with Asperger Syndrome, I never have, I never will and I really hate it when people think I like it. Most of the people I know with autism don’t want this impediment in their lives.

    So for the record, I can categorically say I look forward for a cure for autism. And I guarantee the day it comes, if and when it comes, people will be queuing for miles and dishing out life savings to be relieved of this condition.

  3. There needs to be a cure. Without it, people like me will forever be condemned to being cold, loner outcasts. I’d rather die than be that way, so please, stop blocking any research into a cure.

    1. Who said I was blocking research? If someone is looking for a cure for autism, I certainly don’t intend to impede their efforts, nor could I if I wanted to anyway. I respect your right to your view, and hope you can respect my right to mine.

  4. Yes, Ken. We do need a cure for Aspergers. I am an Aspergers sufferer who has many intellectual gifts. I would give them all up in a moment to be able to form binds with other human beings and have someone tell me they love me. That is something that, in my 57 years on this planet, has never happened. Who cares what “gifts” you have if you are always desperately sad and lonely. Maybe you don’t feel that way, but a lot of us do. Don’t decide for all of us whether or not we need a cure.

    1. Author

      I do not presume to decide for all of us, and I realize there are many who feel as you do. I also realize there are those who are happy the way they are. In fact, there’s a group on Facebook called, “I have autism and I don’t want to be cured.” Which one is right? Both. Each group has a right to the way they feel. I was simply speaking for myself, and I realize not everyone will share by view, and that’s okay. Best wishes to you.

  5. Thank you for stating what should be obvious to people. Autistic folks have lots of gifts. I am a happy autistic!

  6. I wondered this so many times. I take it very strongly that some people think the spectrum should be cured, because I feel that aspergers is part of my identity, and how my life and I would be quite different without it. Well, everyone is somewhere on the spectrum anyway, it makes us unique.

  7. My husband (stepdad ) doesn’t except that my son has aspbergers he say I just cuddle him. He’s now 18 on the verge of not graduating do to his ability of not being able to do English essays. He is now in a English recovery program and has 2 days to finish. So he can walk in graduation. He has a scholarship waiting for him in music which he aspires in. I don’t think he gets the big picture. That he has to graduate are he doesn’t go to college. HEIP!!!

  8. I have aspergers and I really want to be cured. I can’t stand the social awkwardness, the poor coordination, the anxiety and depression. I also know through the Internet that there are lots of others with aspergers and ASD who share my opinion. I don’t care how much you think I should accept myself’ it probably won’t change my opinion.

    It’s perfectly fine that many people with aspergers are happy with themselves but I personally am not. Thus I strongly believe there should be research into finding a cure for the people who want to be.

    I was diagnosed at in middle school and am currently in my early 20’s. Even if I accepted my AS right now; it still wouldn’t be worth the 10+ years of suffering.

    1. Yes, and you can count me among those who “really want to be cured”. The constant anxiety, loneliness, being thought of as being “weird”, shunned, made fun of, joked about – ugh! I just want it GONE!

    2. Tom, there are definitely those who share your opinion. And you know what? I’m not out to change it. Rather, my goal is to offer hope to those who are looking for it, using myself as an example. If you feel differently, I respect that. There are definitely things I don’t like about myself, but I continue to work on those and strive to improve myself as a person every day. Best wishes to you.

  9. Thank you for writing this beautiful, insightful essay. I have not been tested for Asperger’s myself, but I suspect I do have it. We have finally gotten a diagnosis from Voc-Rehab for my daughter, who was referred there as a college freshman THIS YEAR. We have not gotten an official diagnosis as yet from Voc-Rehab, since they told me they paid for it….we hope to hear something next week. Regardless, in the years it has been since her problems started, she has been through so much hell, particularly with school. She is brilliant, creative, funny, loving, and so kind. And she has suffered. Schools in the south, where she has received all her education don’t do what they should or can to help kids that are gifted and have other special needs. As a culture, the US still finds any kind of difference in wiring in a person’s brain to be a terrible thing, and clearly the person’s fault. This is nonsense. Every “Aspie” I have known is a precious jewel, with so much to offer, and with such special gifts. Without them, the world would be a darker, less creative place for all of us. As the late, great Fred Rogers said, “I like you just the way you are.” And this is so for me, and for those I meet, regardless of their “wiring.” Bravo for you, my friend. I like you just the way you are.

  10. If Aspergers was ‘cured’ I would be deprived of some of the most wonderful, creative and passionate patients and friends that I am blessed to be connected with.
    My life would be duller, less fulfilled and less inspired by the courage and resilience individuals on the autism spectrum have shown me.
    Want to be wowed?
    Want to be inspired?
    Want to love what you do?
    Work to reduce social discrimination against individuals on the spectrum and consider their gifts.
    Want to explode the myth that individuals on the spectrum cannot empathize, love, be compassionate, parent well, love well, contribute to the quality of our lives? Meet someone on the spectrum! It’s called a spectrum because we’re all on it, no right or wrong, just differences to be celebrated, peace (and who really cares about that)

    1. “If Aspergers was ‘cured’ I would be deprived of some of the most wonderful, creative and passionate patients and friends that I am blessed to be connected with.”

      How do THEY feel about having Asperger’s Syndrome though? Have you ever asked them?

      There are no “gifts” that automatically come with having Asperger’s Syndrome. Our alleged mathematical prowess is largely mythical, and most people also understand that those society generally considers to be “creative” and “passionate” also tend to suffer from mental illness and wind up committing suicide. I think it was Hemingway who said that he had never in his life met a genius who was also happy, or even content with life. We was right.

      1. Peter, what you say may be true for you. That doesn’t mean that it is true for everyone on the spectrum. I know of more than a few people with Asperger’s who are talented in art, music, etcet. You may not have mathematical prowess either, but that doesn’t mean others on the spectrum don’t. Asperger’s is different for everyone who has it, and while I don’t expect anyone on the spectrum to be exactly like me, I don’t think it’s fair to paint all of us with the same broad brush.

        Are the gifts we have in spite of, or because of Asperger’s Syndrome? That is open to debate. I’ve met several on the spectrum who consider their Asperger’s, and even autism, to be a gift, not a curse, and I am one of them. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you have no right to judge those who disagree with you.

        1. Yes, people are entitled to their opinions. But really people who have autism are the ones who are more entitled to have such opinions, they are they ones who have the condition after all.

          And I don’t think Peter was forcing his opinion onto anyone, just making a valid point about many of the myths that need to be dispelled about AS, namely the increased intellectual capacities.

  11. I like your blog and agree with all you say – but how long has it taken you to arrive at your positive feelings about having Aspergers’? I’ve worked with many kids who suffer badly at school, particularly as they become adolescent, and find it really hard to cope with some of the social challenges of trying to be one of a group and relate to their peers. I will try to use what you say to encourage them but I don’t think we should minimise the problems either. The neuro-typical world can be an uncomfortable place.

    1. Arriving at my positive feelings about Asperger’s has been a very gradual process. I always knew I was different and had trouble fitting in, much like the kids you work with, most likely. I tried to be more and more like my classmates, but all it did sometimes was set me apart even further, because I would try to be something I wasn’t. I realized that sometimes people fit in for reasons that may be beyond the Aspie’s control. For instance, someone may fit in because they’re a better athlete, have more money, or may just be considered better looking. When I was in my early 20’s I kept reliving my high school days and trying to figure out why I wasn’t more popular–I called it “The popularity puzzle.” I finally came to the conclusion that I may have not always succeeded by others’ standards, but I had talents, abilities and successes in my own right. And no, you shouldn’t minimize the problems the face, because they are there, and they are real. And yes, the neuro-typical world can be VERY uncomfortable, especially when you try to succeed by “neurotupical” standards. Now, my classmates knew I was different, but they also knew I had talents and abilities they did not, such as doing math in my head. I’d advise the kids you work with to find out their special talent and try to appreciate themselves as they are, and not judge themselves by others’ standards. Einstein once said, “Everybody’s a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.” Aspies are like fish in a world of birds–they’ll never be able to climb a tree, but they can swim and glide through water like nobody’s business. My mother used the “fish and birds” analogy when I was younger, but it took me a long time to be able to appreciate it. Hopefully this has helped you somewhat. If there other questions please let me know. ☺ -Ken Kellum

      1. I like your “bird/fish” analogy, because it accurately reflects the limitations of those who have A.S. when compared to the “birds” (i.e. the N.T.’s). Whilst they get to be free, fly and see the world from a much wider perspective, we are stuck in our fish-bowls, hoping that the person who feeds us (i.e. the State) doesn’t get tired of doing so.

    2. Yes Freja and this is what those who have AS need to understand, and a criticism from those who suffer from it. That is, a lack of empathy from others’ perspectives. There are those who want to be more social and normal, to fit in, to speak their minds, to multitask, to have relationships of sorts. But they cannot do so because of no cure, or shouting down those who want it. Don’t tell those who have it who don’t want it to simply do so. This post is from a sufferer of AS.

  12. I love what you have so perfectly expressed! Our biggest challenges are living among members of a society made up of people who are afraid of differences that they don’t understand. Another marginalized culture. It’s time to educate!

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