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starkid
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19 Dec 2016, 10:54 pm

One of the clinical traits of AS is concrete thinking.

On the other hand, people with Asperger's Syndrome are stereotyped as being good with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, which require abstract thinking.

These two perspectives of AS seem inconsistent. Presumably, the clinical perspective (concrete thinking) is correct. Why do you think AS is associated with STEM skills, and how can these two perspectives be reconciled?


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Grammar Geek
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19 Dec 2016, 10:58 pm

I've always wondered this too. I'm terrible with technology, but it seems like every other aspie is great with it.



starkid
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19 Dec 2016, 11:07 pm

I've come up with a few possibilities:

1. The AS people with the good STEM skills are more mildly affected, so they have better abstract thinking skills and are more likely to make it through college and into STEM careers.

Since they are functioning more typically in society, they are the people with AS that society is most familiar with, and society forms their opinions of AS based on them moreso than the larger AS community.

However, such people would also be less likely to be diagnosed because of their ability to function typically, so they would also be less visible to society as people with Asperger's and less likely to influence opinions about Asperger's.

2. AS people succeed at STEM largely through rote memorization, so their STEM skills actually are consistent with the concrete thinking trait.

3. The AS people with good STEM skills also have above-average intelligence, which allows them to intellectually overcome the barriers to abstract thinking caused by AS.

4. Like everyone with Asperger's, the AS people with good STEM skills have some traits and not others: they simply lack the concrete thinking tendency.


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Darmok
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19 Dec 2016, 11:24 pm

starkid wrote:
Presumably, the clinical perspective (concrete thinking) is correct.


I wouldn't presume that at all. (And I have an advanced background in science.) I think current clinical understanding is a "first pass" at a complex problem, and likely to be wrong in many respects.

It may be that, out of the universe of aspie people with varied interests, the subset that happens to be interested in science tends to be more successful, because their traits line up with the subject. This makes them appear to be a defined group, as opposed to aspies with other interests or skills, who don't conspicuously form a group because their traits don't line up as well with their work/careers -- they just blend in with the general population.


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League_Girl
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20 Dec 2016, 12:39 am

I was very concrete and I was never good at pattern recognition and poor at pattern spotting because it's all abstract and I don't even know what I am supposed to look for. I hear the brain automatically sees the patterns because my husband told me because that is what happened with him when he took an online IQ test and scored high on it. I had a hard time in science because it was too abstract and so was math when I got to middle school and then I start heating about aspies being abstract thinkers when I got to high school when I had been told they are very concrete. Perhaps this was the severe part of me despite being very mild.


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League_Girl
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20 Dec 2016, 12:43 am

starkid wrote:
I've come up with a few possibilities:

However, such people would also be less likely to be diagnosed because of their ability to function typically, so they would also be less visible to society as people with Asperger's and less likely to influence opinions about Asperger's.


They wouldn't have AS by definition if it doesn't impair them nor make it hard for them to function. I have always figured those who are abstract aren't affected in that area.


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starkid
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20 Dec 2016, 1:05 am

League_Girl wrote:
starkid wrote:
I've come up with a few possibilities:

However, such people would also be less likely to be diagnosed because of their ability to function typically, so they would also be less visible to society as people with Asperger's and less likely to influence opinions about Asperger's.


They wouldn't have AS by definition if it doesn't impair them nor make it hard for them to function. I have always figured those who are abstract aren't affected in that area.

Yes, but I didn't mean that they wouldn't be impaired at all, just that they would be functioning well enough to make it through school and hold a job so that their impairments would probably be overlooked.


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traven
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20 Dec 2016, 3:25 am

maths....&that is easy to understand, languages is no fun, learning by heart...as you call it but not logical
i got so bored with latin, and the wars and politics of it i didn't want to do that,

i dunno, maybe males are more focused and its more accepted
i should've gone the biology/agriculture-stem but i put my socio-political foot in the door and got nothing at all
i couldn't validate the project europe, that was the bottom
and it fell out



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20 Dec 2016, 3:39 am

this aspie lacks the STEM genes. :alien:



Marybird
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20 Dec 2016, 7:52 am

I think the problem is not with abstract thinking but with understanding abstract language.
here is a link to a very interesting thread on that topic.
http://wrongplanet.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=222662



strings
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20 Dec 2016, 8:43 am

Speaking as one whose career has been in the STEM area, I think my tendencies towards concrete thinking and abstract thinking are somewhat "compartmentalised." That is to say, in areas of human and social interactions I display all the traditional ASD traits of awkwardness, taking people too literally, and so on. These social areas are outside my comfort zone. On the other hand, once I am buried in my research and calculations, I feel much more comfortable and I can think more freely and abstractly.

So I think it is possible to be concrete and stilted in one's thinking in the "normal" everyday world of social interaction, and yet to become freer and more abstract in one's thinking once one is inside one's comfort zone, which in my case at least is really one of my "special interests."



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20 Dec 2016, 10:17 am

I would be very atypical as person with Asperger syndrome. I learn strongly toward language-based subjects. I am only average at math, I know nothing about diagnosing computer problems and I struggled in chemistry, having to work my rear end off to get a C. I do like medical-related subjects but, again, that is reading and study based. I regret that I wasn't better at math, because medical topics really fascinate me.



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20 Dec 2016, 10:19 am

strings wrote:
Speaking as one whose career has been in the STEM area, I think my tendencies towards concrete thinking and abstract thinking are somewhat "compartmentalised." That is to say, in areas of human and social interactions I display all the traditional ASD traits of awkwardness, taking people too literally, and so on. These social areas are outside my comfort zone. On the other hand, once I am buried in my research and calculations, I feel much more comfortable and I can think more freely and abstractly.

So I think it is possible to be concrete and stilted in one's thinking in the "normal" everyday world of social interaction, and yet to become freer and more abstract in one's thinking once one is inside one's comfort zone, which in my case at least is really one of my "special interests."


I agree. If I am in a social environment, it is much harder for me to access my abstract "tools" in my brain. Much like a fish out of water, I flounder about just trying to survive the event until it is over. That is where I am most affected. However, when I can get back to my lab or study, it becomes a much different story altogether. All of my abstract "tools" are there for me to work with and I become free to be myself again. I do have a few close friends who I can brainstorm off of (and still use my abstract side), but that is simply not the case with most NT people.



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20 Dec 2016, 2:29 pm

I don't think that I have a big problem with abstract thinking, and I really enjoy and am good at STEM subjects. It probably helps that I have an interest in STEM topics.


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20 Dec 2016, 2:32 pm

I've always been horrible at all mathematics and while I enjoy science (especially biology), I'm not great at it. I've always done very well in History, English, and Health. My mother says it is because I am good at learning and memorizing facts and remembering them. I have heard that memorizing facts and being able to repeat them is common for people with AS.

I am pretty good with technology, however. I majored in Computer Information for a bit before deciding it wasn't right for me.


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20 Dec 2016, 3:21 pm

They're abstract, but not in a touchy-feely affective-empathy people-y way. Not in the same way as trying to guess someone's emotions or figure out sarcasm and metaphors.

They're abstract in a logical way.

And other than medicine, they're not all that people-y. Understanding what you are doing still matters more than playing politics while you do it. At least, if you're working with a good employer.

That said, I suck at math. I can do the stereotypical thing about being able to make long strings of arithmetical calculations in my head, but once you get past addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and simple single-variable equations, I'm completely useless. I'm a high-verbal, for some weird reason (probably because I'm a girl, and was hyperlexic as a kid). I tend to do better at putting words together, or "bonehead STEM" like simple machines or carpentry or canning or identifying plants.


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