Aspies: if I know it, everyone knows it

One of the most difficult things for a young Aspie to grasp is that not everyone has access to the same information, nor is everyone taught the same rules for everything.  Even a mature Aspie, who is aware and tries to be mindful of it, can easily fall into this ‘trap’ and leave out bits of information that are ‘obvious’…

Let me back up a little:

Aspies, especially young ones, have difficulty understanding that not everyone reasons from the same baseline, has access to exactly the same information, using the same ‘rules’ as they do. 

It is hard to understand that ‘available’ information would be denied or inaccessible to others.  The corollary also holds true:  many young Aspies have a hard time understanding that information beyond what they know may be available to others…as in, that they do not have all the available information.

Predictably, this may lead to confusion – and frustration, misunderstandings, resentment, self-doubt…. 

I remember reading that one of the very early childhood tests for Aspergers is to take a candy box and ask the child what is inside.  The child will answer ‘candy’.  Then, the therapist (person administering the test) opens the candy box to reveal that there is a crayon inside instead of candy.  Now – this is the tricky bit – if the therapist were to ask the child at this point:  ‘If your mom came in and I asked her where the crayon is, where do you think she’d start looking for it?’

While many children would understand ‘the joke’ (it’s not really a joke, as it only satisfies the ‘unexpected’ or ‘secret knowledge’ aspect, which alone is insufficient to constitute a joke, but many ‘neurotypicals’, especially children, often mistake it for one),  the Aspie kids expected their mom to go directly towards the candy box to find the crayon

This is an illustration of the Aspie ‘if I know this, then everyone knows this’ blindspot.  It is becauseof this very inability of young Aspies to differentiate between ‘I know’ and ‘everyone knows’ that many ‘specialists’ do not consider us capable of ‘higher abstract reasoning’. 

Predictably, I think them stupid (this was the mildest word I could bring myself to use) for this patronizing, self-centered presumption:  Aspies are capable of extremely abstract reasoning!  Plus, most Aspies do learn this differentiation – perhaps using a different part of the brain than ‘average’ people, but we do learn it.  Perhaps we learn it at a higher age, and some of us learn it more easily than others.  Perhaps some of us learn it at an intellectual level, but still have a difficulty applying it at a mundane, practical lever… but this is NOT an indication of an inability to self-conceptualize, to ‘differentiate’ between ‘the self’ and ‘others’, as many misguided ‘specialists’ condescendingly and erroneously attempt to suggest!

So, having (hopefully) established that this ‘blindspot’ is not what many ‘experts’ pretend it is, it is still very important for Aspies and for people interacting with Aspies to be aware of this.

Many times, people think Aspies ‘arrogant’ for presuming that everyone ‘ought to’ hold the same views.  The corollary is that the Aspie may view the failure of other people to gather the same information, follow the same reasoning process (at this has ‘definite rules’) and arrive at the same conclusion to be a sign of inferior intelligence in other people.  After all, the Aspie followed this process without any difficulty – why couldn’t everyone else?  Or, perhaps more accurately, why wouldn’t everyone else do the same? 

It is not an attempt at being ‘haughty’ or putting other people down – the Aspie may simply not understand why other people would not follow the rules of reasoning to arrive at the same conclusion as they had.  So, either the person has chosen not to follow the rules of reasoning – and Aspies like to stick to their rules – or that person is unable to follow the process….  You can see how that could cause the Aspie to ‘appear haughty’.

It may alienate peers, care-providers or educators and make them not want to help the Aspie.  After all, they are trying to help this person, and getting this attitude in return! It may make the Aspie appear ‘arrogant’ and to ‘lack empathy’ – something that has also often been erroneously asserted about us by ‘specialists’ who do more harm than good  by misunderstanding their observations of Aspies and than basing great, sweeping theories on these misunderstandings.  If you ask me, they have failed to follow the reasoning process correctly!

I am not saying that adult Aspies should be excused for not properly compensating for this known aspect of ‘Aspieness’.  However, when kids are young, it would be unreasonable to expect them to have developed coping mechanisms to deal with this, as they may be too young to even understand that this is happening, or that it is something they should try to compensate for….  So, understanding the root of this attitude is important in order to not discourage people from helping – and also in teaching the young Aspie what is happening and how to compensate for it.

If the Aspie is not taught (or does not learn on their own) this lesson, they will never understand why it is that their ‘reasoning’ is ‘always out of step’ with everyone else’s.  This is not a healthy way to grow up. 

Either the Aspie will ‘learn’ that they are an ‘idiot’ whose ‘reasoning’ cannot be trusted.  After all, everyone else came to a different conclusion – and either the Aspie thinks, or someone close to them pointedly tells them that ‘it is higly unlikely that the Aspie is right and the rest of the world is wrong’.  In this case they will spend the rest of their life always doubting themselves and thinking their ‘reasoning’ skills to be faulty and untrustworthy. 

Or it might set up an expectation that the ‘rest of the world’ cannot be trusted and one must hide their opinions from it.  After all, every time you tell people your opinions, you are told you are being rude and then are ostracized.  Either way, speaking your mind causes people to be angry at you – so you learn not to.

Or, it may breed a complete contempt for the rest of the world in the young Aspie.  Or something similarly self-isolating…

Either way, it is not going to lead to the development of a  ‘healthy’ sense of ‘self’ for the young Aspie.  I do not know what the ideal solution to this is – or what the best ‘compensating behaviour’ would be, as these tend to differ from one Aspie to another.  The right age at which the Aspie is ready to deal with it may also differ greatly.   But, the ‘frustration levels’ of both the Aspie and the Aspie’s caretakers, educators and friends may all be reduced if this ‘blindspot’ is understood and addressed.