Label this and Say What?! Building a Strengths-Based Descriptive Model for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome

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Say What?! Building a Strengths-Based Descriptive Model for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome

So, what’s in a word? The language and the words we use have power. Power to think about something in a certain way. It is time for a global revolution in the way we think about Asperger Syndrome. I believe it is time to move from a “deficit-based” model to a strengths-based one, which in addition to weaknesses, includes and assesses and describes people based on their strengths, skills, abilities, gifts and/or talents. Individuals with Autism have what we refer to as “spikey profiles” and a different developmental profile, meaning that often they may be behind in one developmental area, but ahead in another. In my clinical work, I have met people of all ages with weaknesses, yes, but also a stunning array of diverse abilities, talents and gifts, which has been overlooked. The deficit-approach has ignored strengths and contributed to the rampant identity and self-esteem issues that are seen in individuals with Asperger Syndrome. I’ve also met many people, including professionals who believe or have been led to believe, that individuals with Asperger Syndrome cannot contribute to society and/or work. This could not be further from the truth. I believe deficit-based diagnostic criteria and deficit-based approaches are partly responsible for this. It’s time for a strengths-based language, approach and positive strengths-based outlook for individuals with Asperger Syndrome, of all ages, sub-types and levels. The following is a work-in-progress, based on the descriptions relayed to me in clinical practice. I offer an alternative description after the bolded word “OR” . This list will be updated as time permits.

Too sensitive or too caring OR Emotionally Empathic, Sensitive

Selfish OR Independent

In his/her own world OR Becoming an expert in his/her special interest

Odd, weird, freaky OR Unique

Bi-polar OR Feels emotions intensely/deeply, An “empath”

Disorder OR A neurological condition he/she is born with

Co-morbid OR Co-existing (a part of a condition)

Anti-social, hermit-like OR Gifted in working with animals and/or children and/or nature

Unable to work in groups OR Excellent one-on-one or presenting to a group

Bossy OR Director/Leadership Skills/Spirited (Early intervention helps here!)

Clingy OR Affectionate

Compulsive OR Efficient and Attention to Detail

Conceited or arrogant OR Confident and Values Self

Crabby or irritable OR Communicate Needs

Dawdles OR Easygoing and Mindful

Defiant OR Strong Beliefs and Courageous

Demanding OR Assertive, Determination, Independent

Doodles OR Creative

Hyper, boisterous OR Active, enthusiastic, lvoes to move

Dramatic OR Emotionally Aware and Emotionally Expressive

Fearful or anxious OR Thoughtful, Cautious, Careful, Highly Sensitive

Freaks our, hides under tables OR Hypersensitive to sounds, lighting, smell, and sight

Talks too much OR has an extensive vocabulary, communicative

Finicky Eater OR Gourmet and Discriminating Tastes

Foolish OR Funloving

Obsessions OR Expert in an area

A brooder OR Serious

Disruptive OR Eager

Dreamy OR Imaginative

Explosive OR Dramatic

Forceful OR Determined

Giddy, Silly OR Good-humoured, joyful

Highly strung OR Enthusiastic

Impatient OR Passionate

Intense OR Focused

Loud OR Expressive

Moody OR Highly Sensitive

Not participating OR Observer

Picky OR Selective

Stubborn OR Peristent

Unfocused OR Curious

Foolish OR Funloving

Withdrawn OR Introspective

Fusses about food/clothes OR Specific Tastes and keen sense of self

Goofy OR Joyful and Entertaining, Great sense of humour

Impulsive OR Spontaneous

Loud OR Exuberant, confident and expressive

Hyperactive OR Energetic, full-of-life, creative

Naughty OR Independent and Exploring Boundaries

Nosey OR Curious Inquisitive Mind

Not Focusing OR Processing a variety of information

Quiet, Shy OR Thoughtful and Reflective Thinker

Rigid OR High Sense of order

Shy OR Selective about who they Value and trust, Reflective

Silly OR A Good Sense of Humour

Sneaky OR Inventive and Creative

Stubborn OR Determined and Persistent

Tattletale or Dobber OR High Seeker of Truth and Justice

Lacks empathy OR Possesses great emotional empathy, feels too intensely and experiences physical or emotional manifestations of other people’s energy, leading to meltdown or shutdown

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I believe that individuals with Asperger Syndrome have many Superpowers. The difference between bossiness and leadership skills is in early intervention (EI). EI makes a world of difference in supporting children/teens into being successful adults. Caveat: I am not saying that individuals challenges are ignored. I am saying that their strengths and talents need to be included in their profile.

Tania Marshall©. All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.