Media Mix, Aug. 12, 2012

Hans Asperger, 1940

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about a recent trial in Osaka that ended with a man diagnosed with Asperger syndrome being sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison for killing his sister. Though I touched on the idea that people who have AS are capable of functioning “normally” in society, I didn’t talk about the way some AS individuals have been covered in the media for their so-called savant tendencies. This aspect of the condition could be considered as limiting as the idea that AS individuals are social incompetents, since AS covers such a broad spectrum of behaviors. Coincidentally, the same week that the ruling was handed down in Osaka, Aera ran two stories about “high-functioning ” AS individuals. One of them mentions that the University of Tokyo “supports” such students, who are very good at “studying” but sometimes have difficulties carrying out research, which requires more of a social component. In fact, some of the university’s students were actually diagnosed with AS while they were attending. They find they are having difficulty “adjusting to school life” and seek help at the student health center, where tests are carried out. According to one expert, AS individuals excel at academic pursuits “but can’t read between the lines” when interacting with other students and faculty. They also tend to be poor at managing their time and find it hard to “be flexible” in their daily routines. This latter situation seems to be the most common difficulty for AS people, who tend to like routine. The other Aera article profiles a couple with AS. Both are successfully employed and have published books about their relationship. He doesn’t understand the concept of nuance, which means she has to be very careful what she says to him lest he take everything she says literally. For instance, during an argument she may, as any wife would, give in and just say, “OK, do what you want.” Then he will do exactly that. He once went out and bought a car on a whim, because that’s what he wanted to do at that moment. As for the wife, she finds it difficult to interact with anyone other than her husband, and in a sense they complete each other. He’s invariably positive but forgetful. She’s wary of the larger world but focused on getting things done. Actually, that sounds like a lot of marriages I know, including my own.

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