If There Were a Cure For Asperger’s Syndrome

Many diseases during our lifetime have been, if not eradicated completely, at least greatly minimized. These include smallpox and polio, among others. But will there ever be a cure for Asperger Syndrome? For that matter, does there need to be?

school icons on the blackboardRemember that A.S. isn’t a defect so much as a difference: That is, the Aspy brain is wired somewhat differently than that of the so-called “neurotypical.” While those differences do cause problems in a neuro-typical world at times, they can also be very beneficial if channeled and directed properly. For example, Einstein probably had A.S., but in spite of, or perhaps because of that, he went on to fill his resume with accomplishments that would give anyone cause for envy. Would you say he needs to be “cured”?

If I weren’t an Aspy, I’m not sure I’d be able to do math in my head or play music by ear. I’m not sure I’d be able to relate to animals the way I do. Also, I doubt I would have the memory I do either. To this day, if my family has a mathematics question, or if my brother is trying to figure out who sang a certain song on the radio, I’m the first one they consult. This might not be the case if I were “neuro-typical.”

A few years ago, I tracked down a former co-worker and sent him an email. This friend, an advertising executive, wrote back and told me how he was sitting in a business meeting with facts and figures flying, and he thought about how nice it would be to have my math ability. My friend has had a much more successful career in advertising than I did, but he still recognizes that I have abilities he could use.

The point is this: If I were “cured” of being an “Aspy,” I might function better in the world, have an easier time detecting non-verbal social cues, etc. But I might well be robbed of the very abilities that make life so much fun at times.

Think of what the world might be missing if Einstein were “cured” of what made him different. Or Isaac Newton. The world might be a much different place, and not necessarily for the better. No, there may never be a “cure” for A.S. And for that, we should be grateful.

By Ken Kellam

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Ken Kellam III was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in his late 30's, and has worked with Autism Treatment Center of Texas since 2003. He is currently the administrative assistant to the clinical director. He also helps facilitate three different self-advocate groups, and in the Spring of 2015 was presented with the "Angel Award" by the National Autism Association of North Texas for the works he has done with these groups. He has also done public speaking on the subject of autism/Asperger syndrome, and has spoken to various educational and parental groups. When not involved with autism, Ken has led the singing at the same church since 1988, and has also been the fill-in preacher at this same church. In 2006 he was called on to sing the National Anthem at the Autism Society of America's national convention in Dallas, and performed the same song at ATC's rodeo fundraiser. He also enjoys writing, and formerly wrote articles for a website dedicated to reality television. In 2011 he got married for the first time, and his wife Rachel works for ATC in Adult Services. Ken graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in 1987 with a Bachelor's in Mass Communications, and once worked as a radio traffic reporter, interactive announcer and writer, and news producer in Dallas. He views Asperger's as a difference, not a defect, and has come to appreciate the positive aspect's of Asperger's.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “If There Were a Cure For Asperger’s Syndrome

  1. I love what you have so perfectly expressed! Our biggest challenges are living among members of a society made up of people who are afraid of differences that they don’t understand. Another marginalized culture. It’s time to educate!

  2. I like your blog and agree with all you say – but how long has it taken you to arrive at your positive feelings about having Aspergers’? I’ve worked with many kids who suffer badly at school, particularly as they become adolescent, and find it really hard to cope with some of the social challenges of trying to be one of a group and relate to their peers. I will try to use what you say to encourage them but I don’t think we should minimise the problems either. The neuro-typical world can be an uncomfortable place.

    • Arriving at my positive feelings about Asperger’s has been a very gradual process. I always knew I was different and had trouble fitting in, much like the kids you work with, most likely. I tried to be more and more like my classmates, but all it did sometimes was set me apart even further, because I would try to be something I wasn’t. I realized that sometimes people fit in for reasons that may be beyond the Aspie’s control. For instance, someone may fit in because they’re a better athlete, have more money, or may just be considered better looking. When I was in my early 20’s I kept reliving my high school days and trying to figure out why I wasn’t more popular–I called it “The popularity puzzle.” I finally came to the conclusion that I may have not always succeeded by others’ standards, but I had talents, abilities and successes in my own right. And no, you shouldn’t minimize the problems the face, because they are there, and they are real. And yes, the neuro-typical world can be VERY uncomfortable, especially when you try to succeed by “neurotupical” standards. Now, my classmates knew I was different, but they also knew I had talents and abilities they did not, such as doing math in my head. I’d advise the kids you work with to find out their special talent and try to appreciate themselves as they are, and not judge themselves by others’ standards. Einstein once said, “Everybody’s a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.” Aspies are like fish in a world of birds–they’ll never be able to climb a tree, but they can swim and glide through water like nobody’s business. My mother used the “fish and birds” analogy when I was younger, but it took me a long time to be able to appreciate it. Hopefully this has helped you somewhat. If there other questions please let me know. ☺ -Ken Kellum kkellam@atcoftexas.org

    • Yes Freja and this is what those who have AS need to understand, and a criticism from those who suffer from it. That is, a lack of empathy from others’ perspectives. There are those who want to be more social and normal, to fit in, to speak their minds, to multitask, to have relationships of sorts. But they cannot do so because of no cure, or shouting down those who want it. Don’t tell those who have it who don’t want it to simply do so. This post is from a sufferer of AS.

  3. If Aspergers was ‘cured’ I would be deprived of some of the most wonderful, creative and passionate patients and friends that I am blessed to be connected with.
    My life would be duller, less fulfilled and less inspired by the courage and resilience individuals on the autism spectrum have shown me.
    Want to be wowed?
    Want to be inspired?
    Want to love what you do?
    Work to reduce social discrimination against individuals on the spectrum and consider their gifts.
    Want to explode the myth that individuals on the spectrum cannot empathize, love, be compassionate, parent well, love well, contribute to the quality of our lives? Meet someone on the spectrum! It’s called a spectrum because we’re all on it, no right or wrong, just differences to be celebrated, peace (and who really cares about that)

  4. Thank you for writing this beautiful, insightful essay. I have not been tested for Asperger’s myself, but I suspect I do have it. We have finally gotten a diagnosis from Voc-Rehab for my daughter, who was referred there as a college freshman THIS YEAR. We have not gotten an official diagnosis as yet from Voc-Rehab, since they told me they paid for it….we hope to hear something next week. Regardless, in the years it has been since her problems started, she has been through so much hell, particularly with school. She is brilliant, creative, funny, loving, and so kind. And she has suffered. Schools in the south, where she has received all her education don’t do what they should or can to help kids that are gifted and have other special needs. As a culture, the US still finds any kind of difference in wiring in a person’s brain to be a terrible thing, and clearly the person’s fault. This is nonsense. Every “Aspie” I have known is a precious jewel, with so much to offer, and with such special gifts. Without them, the world would be a darker, less creative place for all of us. As the late, great Fred Rogers said, “I like you just the way you are.” And this is so for me, and for those I meet, regardless of their “wiring.” Bravo for you, my friend. I like you just the way you are.

  5. I have aspergers and I really want to be cured. I can’t stand the social awkwardness, the poor coordination, the anxiety and depression. I also know through the Internet that there are lots of others with aspergers and ASD who share my opinion. I don’t care how much you think I should accept myself’ it probably won’t change my opinion.

    It’s perfectly fine that many people with aspergers are happy with themselves but I personally am not. Thus I strongly believe there should be research into finding a cure for the people who want to be.

    I was diagnosed at in middle school and am currently in my early 20’s. Even if I accepted my AS right now; it still wouldn’t be worth the 10+ years of suffering.

    • Tom, there are definitely those who share your opinion. And you know what? I’m not out to change it. Rather, my goal is to offer hope to those who are looking for it, using myself as an example. If you feel differently, I respect that. There are definitely things I don’t like about myself, but I continue to work on those and strive to improve myself as a person every day. Best wishes to you.