Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lack of Self-Consciousness

Neurotypical people often have a very healthy sense of self-cousciousness. This helps us to socially "fit in" to society, knowing that we shouldn't talk too loud, we shouldn't run around naked, we shouldn't make politically incorrect statements, etc. Socially, this makes life much easier for us. We can go about our daily lives with a certain sense that we will not offend anyone or embarrass ourselves if we merely adjust to each circumstance in which we find ourselves.

People with Asperger's syndrome often lack the self-consciousness that neurotypicals feel, or they come by this self-consciousness by years of effort and practice. After having experienced the fact that one should not tell a peer that they are fat because you've told ten different peers they are fat, and each time you have lost that friend because they considered your statement as rude rather than as a statement of fact, eventually you learn that maybe telling someone they are fat is not the best way to keep a friend.

The flip side of this is that it can be very healthy to lack self-consciousness. Many neurotypicals care far too much what others think, and therefore they do not develop a good, healthy sense of self. They measure themselves by other's outlooks, they hold themselves back because other's opinions are too important. If a genius listened every time some other "genius" told him that his experimentation was faulty, that his reasoning was off, that his theory would never amount to anything, then we would have a serious lack of scientific accomplishments in this world. The fact that Asperger's people don't really care about another's opinion of their work may be the very reason why they can accomplish great things, while us neurotypicals hem and haw and fuss over many things we have no control over, and then accomplish nothing.

This lack of self-consciousness can be rough when one is young, in that a child may not realize what they are doing is weird-looking or out of the norm. My son LOVES to sing. He's good, too. But singing Green Day music in the middle of Walmart or in school on the playground may not be the most socially appropriate thing to do. And yet, having said that, I love that he's not self-conscious. He does some very charming things that, ultimately, as he grows, other people may find charming as well, if I don't mentally "beat" the lack of self-consciousness out of him!

Yesterday we went to Boy Scouts. I'm the den leader, and we have three boys other than Will. As all the boys sat down, and we began the meeting, Will comments somewhat loudly -- "Here we all are, four best friends sitting together!" In my head, I'm thinking that none of the other three boys would have made such a statement, and for that reason, this may come off as weird. But on the other hand, all I could think was that the statement was charming, and what may not be cool right now, just possibly might be cool when he's sixteen -- he may be pegged as the constantly cheerful guy, always thinking that everyone is his friend. I've seen neurotypical kids like this, friends of my older son, and everyone seems to go with "their" flow -- they go along with this cheerful guy's vision of life. It may be a little off, a little different, but hey, it's better than most people's vision!



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