Aspergers – OMG – They’re Breeding!

In category Gifted & Aspergers, Notes, Thoughts and Musings

There was an article published back in 2001 in Wired, The Geek Syndrome
which describes a greater incidence of Asperger’s Syndrome in Silicon Valley.
There have been studies and articles since which also note the higher incidence within this type of population in other parts of the world.

What is really interesting is the theory put forward to explain this on page 5…

In previous eras, even those who recognized early that autism might have a genetic underpinning considered it a disorder that only moved diagonally down branches of a family tree. Direct inheritance was almost out of the question, because autistic people rarely had children. The profoundly affected spent their lives in institutions, and those with Asperger’s syndrome tended to be loners. They were the strange uncle who droned on in a tuneless voice, tending his private logs of baseball statistics or military arcana; the cousin who never married, celibate by choice, fussy about the arrangement of her things, who spoke in a lexicon mined reading dictionaries cover to cover.


High tech hot spots like the Valley, and Route 128 outside of Boston, are a curious oxymoron: They’re fraternal associations of loners. In these places, if you’re a geek living in the high-functioning regions of the spectrum, your chances of meeting someone who shares your perseverating obsession (think Linux or Star Trek) are greatly expanded. As more women enter the IT workplace, guys who might never have had a prayer of finding a kindred spirit suddenly discover that she’s hacking Perl scripts in the next cubicle…

One provocative hypothesis that might account for the rise of spectrum disorders in technically adept communities like Silicon Valley, some geneticists speculate, is an increase in assortative mating.

That’s right — these odd people are getting together and breeding, creating more odd children. I wonder if it would be socially acceptable to discuss that possibility about any other section of the population.

I would accept that there is some genetics involved. There is general acceptance that intelligence is part nature and part nurture. But given that you have intelligent parents who are of an “Aspergic” disposition, the nurture is quite likely to be quite different too. Do these parents talk differently to each other and to their children? Do they encourage intense interests? Do they have rich vocabularies? Do they think that it is acceptable for someone (even a young child) to sometimes be so interested in their pursuits that they shouldn’t be interrupted for more mundane matters?

What could be illuminating to explore is how the difference in the culture within the family clashes with the culture they meet when they access services like childcare and schools – but that would be a Pandora’s box. By placing the issue within the framework of  psychologists and Aspergers Syndrome, the cause of the problem (yes, blame) is placed squarely with the deviant individuals and so there is no need to examine the accepted norms of other participants and the social institutions.

If you place the issue within a framework of differing cultures and values between groups within our society, especially at a time of great social and industrial change, you begin to see a very different interpretation of the issue.  Are you brave enough to go there?

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