According to the Autism Quotient (AQ) scale, which goes from 1 to 50, 16 is your typical neurotypical, and you likely have autism if you score above a 32. 26-31 is the “Asperger’s” range. I have taken the AQ test a few times, and I score around 35. My early speaking, though, means I have Asperger’s rather than autism (though the DSM-5 codes it all as autism). If you have an AQ of 1-25, you do not have autism.
Since the majority of people are low AQ, they are the ones who get to define good and bad, normal and abnormal, special and deficient. But let me provide you with another perspective.
To me, people with low AQ are really deficient in the general ways in which they think. Sure, I understand there are a number of strengths that come along with having a low AQ—it’s easier to be social, due to the existence of social instincts weak or missing in us with high AQ; it’s easier and natural to look people in the eye; it’s easier to change your mind; etc.—but let’s be honest about the fact that there are a number of clear deficiencies in low AQ thinking.
- People with low AQ waste a lot of time and breath on small talk.
They rarely have anything interesting to say. Perhaps this is because low AQ people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about things and trying to figure things out. Two or three data points, and we have a conclusion! Hardly. We have the first of a dozen errors and false leads. This is fine in the physical sciences, where experimentation will prove you wrong, but it’s proven disastrous in the social sciences. In the meantime, a high AQ person will have looked at a hundred data points before coming to a conclusion—but you can go to the bank with it.
- As a result of the above, low AQ people have a tendency to be really certain about things when they have very little to go on.
A correlation of this is that they seem to think controlling complex processes is possible. High AQ people are never completely certain of anything, but when we do express certainty, it’s because we have researched the topic in great depth. At the same time, that certainty does not extend to a belief that we can control complex processes. It is part of our understanding to understand that that is impossible. But this is only true among those who study complex processes. Sadly, those not obsessed with this topic continue to believe nonsense about someone, somewhere, at least, being able to control them.
- Low AQ people are obsessed with superficialities.
There are so many things that do not matter in the least that low AQ people obsess over. Many mountains are made of many, many molehills. Outcomes don’t seem to matter compared to fitting a number of criteria while doing what you’re doing. For example, when it comes to teaching, what is more important? Students learning? Or my teaching style? I would consider outcomes more important than how I look doing it, but that is apparently not what matters most to low AQ people—at least, based on their actions. And I tend to look at people’s actions. Indeed, I tend to look at outcomes over intentions. But good intentions seem good enough for most low AQ people. I, rather, care that intentions and outcomes match.
- Low AQ people are too obsessed with hierarchy.
The worst are those who most protest hierarchy. They are the same people who support the growth of bureaucracy. And I really don’t understand what the obsession is with bureaucracy. It’s nothing more than the institutionalization of responsibility-avoidance. It’s primary function is to prevent anyone getting any work done.
- Hypocrisy is a standard way of thinking and behaving for low AQ people.
Does everyone really have to be a hypocrite for there to be strong social bonds? I suppose one does if one gets offended at any sort of criticism rather than taking criticism as an opportunity to grow. Taking offense seems to be the favored pastime of low AQ people of late, too. Not much offends me.
My point in writing this post is to point out that autism should not be understood as a deficiency that happens to have some gifts associated with it. Rather, autism is, in many ways, a different—and often opposite—style of thinking from low AQ people’s thinking. Those styles are genetically encoded and environmentally affected, and each can, to a limited degree, learn the strengths of the other. But people with high AQs are in many ways no more deficient than are people with low AQs—the deficiencies are merely different, just as the abilities are different. This hardly means there aren’t high AQ people who have severe disabilities, of course. But in contemporary American society, many of our differences are made disabilities. And it’s important to understand both that and the fact that many of our strengths are your weaknesses. But this only becomes clear if you view things from our point of view.