Professor Tony Attwood on Aspergers Anonymous™, April 2016
I think that the Aspergers Anonymous™ assessment guide is simple but also very perceptive in identifying the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome. I think this is an excellent document. What it does is go through 20 key points. Obviously it’s not the definitive diagnostic process, but it’s a good sceening tool that will indicate those who will warrant and benefit from a thorough diagnostic assessment. What a clinician does is take each of those 20 items, adds a few more and then goes through them in much more depth. But this assessment guide makes for a very legitimate referral. I think the questions are very simple and very straightforward. There aren’t any pyschological terms that you’ve got to explain. So I think many people could understand exactly what the question is asking about and you have a simple yes or no. It is simple, easy and effective.
I’m a Professor and I suppose I have a fair bit of knowledge. However my greatest knowledge has come from those who have Asperger’s Syndrome and their families, not from research articles or conferences and the greatest wisdom and experience is in the families and their advice has greater credibility and practicality than some of the clinicians and academics advice. The Aspergers Anonymous™ groups have many functions – there’s a level of emotional support and a sense of belonging but also access to wisdom that you don’t get from any textbook. In terms of the Aspergers Anonymous™ program for acceptance and positive thinking, I think those with Asperger’s Syndrome need to look on the brightside, otherwise there’s a tendency to focus and dwell on the negatives, it seems to be a characteristic and if I had a tablet to give optimism, I would design that for those with Asperger’s. It means that they will often need to change their perception of situations and their own self worth and their own value. That is before any event, during it and also after it because they can do what I call a post mortem on it and be very self critical. So it’s very important that somebody assists them in being objective rather than subjective.
I think that Aspergers Anonymous™ should hold meetings as often as is needed and sometimes you get offshoots that will meet on separate days because they have common issues or they all want to go and see the latest science fiction movie. So there will be subgroups that will form and friendships that will develop and I feel that the benefit of the meetings is not just in terms of wisdom but it’s also the development of friendships they’re going to make.
I think the parents of people with Asperger’s Syndrome are more practical and realistic than professionals and they know what’s reasonable in any situation. So I think that the advice that comes from a parent has that authority to it and that a professional who may not know Asperger’s Syndrome from within a family setting may have expectations that are too high or not be able to explain it in everyday language. Sometimes professionals hide behind their terminology which parents don’t do and so the parents speak sense.
In terms of the Spiritual program offered by Aspergers Anonymous™ – first of all I think people with AS are actually very Spiritual people. It depends on where it goes and what they do, but there is both a Spiritual essence and how aspects of Spirituality can help that needs to be recognised. Sometimes psychologists are very practical people and because in Spirituality you can’t put numbers and data to it, they don’t accept it. Yet for Humans and in life, Spirituaity can make the difference between life & death!
If Aspergers Anonymous™ is going to be effective, you’re going to have to be independent. Governments want to control and if they fund you, they will control you and Aspergers Anonymous™ needs to be independent of that. You need to be very objective and able to criticise Government agencies without fear of them withdrawing the funds.
In my experience, the bullying of people with Asperger’s Syndrome by other people is responsible for causing up to 25% of all alcoholics and drug addicts. The problems for the person with Asperger’s Syndrome are so great that the person will try to find a solution and a temporary solution that is not a solution is alcohol and drugs. So I would see that the fellowship of Aspergers Anonymous™ and the support and the wisdom will strangely enough, act as an antidote to inappropriate strategies such as alcohol and drug dependency.
I encourage people with AS and their families to join Aspergers Anonymous™, because they’re good and they will do you good – so come along!
Professor Tony Attwood
MSc, PhD, AFBPsS, MCCP
Clinical Psychologist, Author, Keynote Speaker