10 Clichés about Asperger’s syndrome

Welcome to Suivez le Zèbre, the first blog dedicated to neurodiversity in France. Here you will find information about Giftedness (High Learning Potential), hypersensitivity, autism spectrum disorders (including Asperger’s syndrome), DYS disorders and ADHD.

A reminder about Asperger’s syndrome and ASD in general

Since 2013, healthcare professionals no longer officially use the term Asperger’s but autism. However, it is still firmly anchored in everyday language. As our site is aimed at the general public, you’ll find the term Asperger’s in our various articles.

Asperger’s syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder on the autism spectrum with several characteristics:

  • Communication difficulties
  • Difficulty socializing
  • An attachment to routines
  • A special sensitivity

Having difficulty with their communication skills, people with Asperger’sare still poorly understood by many people. There are a number of preconceived ideas and clichés that misunderstand the reality of Asperger’s syndrome, often confusing difficulties in communicating with an absence or refusal to socialize.
Thinking that people with Asperger’s don’t like to cuddle, can’t be in a relationship or that they can learn to concentrate are preconceived ideas that need to be corrected.

So, let’s go back over what an Asperger’s person is NOT in 10 points.

10 clichés about Asperger’s sufferers

1- They have learning delays

A common cliché among Asperger’s children is that they are behind other students in their learning. It’s a common misconception, but it’s based on the reality that Asperger’s children need special attention in the classroom.


Another cliché is that Asperger’s children must necessarily be in special schools, but Asperger’s syndrome is a broad spectrum and students can develop perfectly well in a public elementary school.

The challenge is above all to be able to receive attentive support so as not to be on the margins of the rest of the students.

2 – They have language delays

The preconceived notion that Asperger’s sufferers have a language delay comes from the same issues as the cliché about learning delay. The Asperger’shave difficulties with communication but not with expression.
This is particularly true when it comes to learning a foreign language: Asperger’s children learn at the same pace as any other student. It may also be due to confusion with dyslexia or dysortography.

3 – They are asocial and emotionless.

This stereotype comes from a misunderstanding of the mentality of Asperger’s sufferers: they have difficulty in apprehending non-verbal signals, and therefore in understanding and using them. People with Asperger’s therefore have difficulty express their emotions which can be falsely perceived as an absence of emotion.
Above all, these difficulties can lead to isolation and disinterest in social interaction.

4 – They live in their bubbles

The Asperger’s pay close attention to detail, and have atypical perception which, coupled with social difficulties, can lead to dropping out. Hence the impression that Asperger’s people don’t listen or pay attention, when in fact their attention is more easily disturbed by external stimuli.

5 – They have extraordinary abilities

A cliché that is mainly due to representations in films and TV series is that Asperger’s people have photographic memory skills or incredible mathematical ability.
It is true that Asperger’shave a perception of detail that can be conducive to this kind of facility. But all these characters remain special cases and, above all, fictional, not at all a representation of Asperger’s syndrome in its vast majority.

6 – They’re geniuses

This is another cliché of Asperger’s characters in fiction. People with Asperger’s often have specific interests, obsessions with certain subjects that fascinate them to the point that some of these fixations never tire them.
This obviously leads Asperger’s people to become experts in specific fields, but it’s by no means a guarantee of genius.

To remember

Representations in fiction of Asperger’s and atypical people in general are important as a mean for neurotypical people to better understand and apprehend the different forms of neurodiversity.
It makes neurodiversity more common in everyday life.

Just don’t fall into the trap of considering characters as representative of the entire Asperger community.

7 – Asperger’s sufferers do not tolerate physical contact

Living with Asperger’s syndrome implies a particular sensitiveness and often an inability to tolerate contact with certain materials. Not being able to stand physical contact is just one example, and certainly not a general rule.
It can also be due to an attack of sensory hypersensitivity on the part of an Asperger’s person, in which case many textures, including physical contact, can become unpleasant.

8 – Everyone is a little bit Asperger’s

Having certain behaviors that are similar to those of Asperger’s is extremely common.
The problem with this stereotype is when it serves to minimize the difficulty that Asperger’s syndrome can represent. Not everyone can find the right words, and can sometimes be sensitive to light or may need to isolate themselves when under pressure, but living with Asperger’s syndrome means having many of these behaviors at once, with an intensity and frequency that greatly affects daily life.
Telling an Asperger’s person that everyone is a little distracted, but that they need to concentrate, is to think that they’re not already making an effort to pay attention.

9 – “It shows”

Asperger’s syndromehas no influence on physical appearance. The most plausible version would be that if you regularly come into contact with a person, and see their behaviours and habits , you could assume that they’re on the autistic spectrum and potentially Asperger’s, although this could very well correspond toanother form of neurodivergence which shows up in a similar way.

10 – Asperger’s syndrome is a disease

This is perhaps the most outdated cliché about Asperger syndromeFortunately, it’s becoming less and less common, but it still exists for some people.
It’s important to remember that Asperger’s syndrome is not a psychiatric illness or affliction; it’s a neurodevelopmental disorder and therefore not treatable. It’s a syndrome that represents a handicap. What can be done is to accompany people so that they can better understand their own functioning, and support them so that they can live with their condition.

A final word

This list of clichés is by not exhaustive, and there are unfortunately many other preconceptions surrounding ASD and Asperger’s syndrome.
The most important thing to remember is that Asperger’s syndrome is a spectrum of individuals who are all unique, and that living with an Asperger’s person means having more or less of these behaviors, with more or lessintensity , and that they are all more or less apparent.
A person doesn’t have to look Asperger’s to be respected as such.

You can also find more information, resources and tools on Gifted in Mel POINASbook. With a lot of humor, Mel tells the story of the discovery of her giftedness and the routines she put in place to finally find her place!

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