This post - which as of this writing dates from five years ago - was attracting offensive and racist commentary so I have removed it.
John Elder Robison
My son attends an inclusion program in NYC for Aspergians. There are 6 Aspergians in the program and 3 are black. BUT I was under the same impression as you and expected all the kids to be white.
Is there really a "genetic" difference between the races? I learned in college that this is a fallacy.
Africa received less neanderthal DNA:
You ask if there's a genetic difference between the races . . . there are many. For example, darker skin comes about because of a genetic difference. Red haired people and blond haired people look different because of a genetic difference. I think what you refer to is more an anti-racist teaching, which is not the drift of my essay at all.
My first question asks: Is my audience at all representative of the distribution of Asperger's in the US population?
If the answer is yes, then it's valid to ask the second question, which is: Why aren't there more black Aspergians?
If the answer is no, there is an alternate question: Where are the black Aspergians?
I am black and have aspergers (born 1958), as does my son (1988). I'm convinced that my father and his mother also had aspergers.
I think the issue is that we are rarely diagnosed. People offered all kinds of explanations for my son's behaviour when he was a kid, and no one said "asperger's." Before I had my IQ tested in grade school, teachers treated me meanly, because I never talked, I ignored them, I refused to do what they asked (speak in front of the class), was extremely clumsy, but always got 100% on my tests. Once they saw my IQ, they spent all their time kissing my feet. I knew they were hypocrites.
I'm glad that my son wasn't diagnosed as a kid. He is now in law school, and I doubt if that would have happened with a childhood diagnosis. Instead of a diagnosis, we were just viewed as very smart, but extremely quirky.
Yes, there are plenty of black aspies, but since the popular fad seems to be late and posthumous diagnosis, I will name a few:
John Coltrane, Thelonius monk, Miles Davis, MMichael Jackson tell me when to stop.
These are just the musicians and i haven't even started on the rappers yet.
Oh, then there's me. Since you are an aspie as well, I
'll assume that you actualyy wanted an answer to that question and that you didn't just put this out there as one of the "thngs that make you go hmmm." I am a 30 year[old concert and jazz pianist and producer who came to a gradual diagnosis. I also happen to be blind which makes things even more complicated since it seems to be really hard to tell if asperger's is compounded with something else.
i started to get the hint around the age of 13 when I began to notice that I I stuck out of every group I tried to fit in to. Even when I attended a high school for the arts, the same pattern emerged/ I would stand heads and shoulders above a lot of my classmates when I would just try to meet the standard or simply learn what was expected of me.
I didn't think they took their studies seriously enough, which I couldn't understand because we were at an art school. It wasn't as if we were attending some zone school with chronically unmotivated and uninspired student body.
I don't think there are any less black aspies than any other race or culture; they're just not noticed until they're either dead or famous/infamous.
Honestly do you even know what Aspergers is? You are pulling things out of your butt. Michael Jackson for example was a very emotional person. People with Aspergers are emotionally cold on the other hand. Also Aspergers is very rare yet your dropping all these names. Black people in general seem more ADHD oriented. They tend to be more outgoing, hyperactive, emotional and impulsive. A big trait in jazz is improvisation. Guess what? People with Aspergers are terrible at improvisation. They like everything planned out. They like structure. They are rigid people. Black people on the other hand tend to hate all this. White classical music is more Asperger-ish. Those composers didn't improvise. They planned everything and wrote it out on sheet music. It was more rigid. Most blacks would hate doing music this way. Blacks are also more on the extroverted side whereas people with Aspergers are very introverted. Also people with Aspergers tend to be good at math, engineering and science. There are a lack of blacks in these fields and blacks have very low scores in these areas. Blacks are more art oriented. Makes sense because as I said blacks seem more prone to ADHD and people with ADHD seem to prefer the arts. Math, science and engineering is too rigid and rigorous for them. Too much structure. They prefer more freedom. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
I suppose it's possible that black people simply don't have a high rate of Aspergers. I hope we're not missing people due to racism. ISTR black people in the UK are more likely than white people to get diagnosed with schizophrenia, but the diagnosis is not always correct.
A wonderful pondering article. Do more blacks have ADD instead,maybe. Sincerely-David
Definitely. I see more ADHD traits among blacks.
May be of interest - http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126981.700-east-meets-west-how-the-brain-unites-us...
I'm Indian, living in Singapore and mom to an Aspie kid. I believe that culture plays a big role in how well Aspies are integrated. Growing up in the 70s in rural India, I can see how easy it would have been for my son to 'fit in' in that culture. It was a community that prized intellectual skills, adherance to rules, respect for authority, a lot of emphasis on non peer interaction (we always played with kids who were older or younger than us, generally older children were in charge of younger kids.If any child felt excluded, an older friend or family member would naturally intervene and provide the support and protection that was needed. In teenage, the sexes were generally segregated, and romantic interests were frowned upon - a situation that happily eliminates any stress or felings of inadequacy in anybody with Aspergers. Marriages were arranged by the family and roles were clear cut - as long as the man was a good provider women could complain little. Many of the emotional needs of women were met not by the spouse, but by other relatives as well as members of the community. Economic needs were always the priority and the community prized skills and resources that met these needs.I'm not extolling this culture, but merely pointing at an example on how cultures affect integration.
We exist in the same portion as other ethnic groups (homo sapiens sapiens is the only hominid "race" currently in existence). However, African-American culture tends to shy away from psychological labels and such. I think we're just better integrated into our communities and accepted as being a bit eccentric but that's just who we are. In face the only time my Asperger's becomes an issue is when I'm in sustained social settings with non-ethnic minorities. Most my friends in college were Asian because we all had the same ideologies as far as being there to learn and our socialization revolved around studying/learning. Whereas my white roommates were more into including the parties, clubbing, etc. and often found me bizarre for not being social and would often lecture me about how I need to spend more time having fun with others and they honestly would get offended when I explained my ideal of fun was different from theirs.
So yes we exist (African-american aspies) but traditionally I think when we stay within our own communities we don't feel like outsides as we're just accepted/tolerated as a "little off but harmless"; thus we don't feel a need to connect with others who are on the spectrum or even spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that we aren't NT.
I really think this is a beautiful comment because I understand where you are coming from. I myself am African-American and everyone who is "different" for one reason or another in my friends and family we just accept them for who they are. It could have to do with the fact that as a culture (and considering the history of the United States), we have always felt the need to stick together and to help ourselves. You can even see the difference in pop culture, for example in the movie Pride, starring Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac (RIP), one of the kids Reggie is an adolescent with some sort of disability, however the other kids are willing to play with him and Reggie looks out for him. He is even chosen to be anchor for the swim team at the state championships. How often do you see in other movies Caucasian children with disabilities playing with other kids as opposed to being picked on?
I was going to suggest the culture explanation, that black Aspergians just integrate better so they feel welcome and have no need to search for other Aspergians.
but what if its possible that Aspergers developed in the human race after they left Africa? Black people are the first race, or so it is believed by some. That means that Aspergers could have developed only after humans left Africa, so its obvious that Africans would not have Aspergians since it did not develop with them, but after, and elsewhere.
The recent discovery that the genomes of non-African Home Sapiens today contain around 1–4% of sequence inherited from Neanderthals could explain the fact that there are less black Aspergians. As reported in Nature:
"Pääbo and his team had nearly completed the Neanderthal genome by early 2009, about four years after the sequencing effort began. But, to carry out their analysis, the researchers raced to sequence five genomes of people from diverse modern populations in Europe, Asia and Africa. By comparing these to the Neanderthal genome, they found 78 protein-altering sequence changes that seem to have arisen since the divergence from Neanderthals several hundred thousand years ago, plus a handful of other genomic regions that show signs of positive selection in modern humans. These are linked to sperm motility, wound healing, skin function, genetic transcription control and cognitive development. The team also found that only the modern African genomes lacked segments of Neanderthal ancestry, indicating that interbreeding between the two groups probably occurred after humans migrated out of Africa."
This is a fascinating post and thoughtful comments. I'm a little confused about the connection between autism and aspergers.
Our youngest son was just diagnosed with autism although we won't know where on the spectrum he is for some time. I had read that males, and in particular white males were many times more likely be diagonosed. Is this inaccurate?
There are so many unknown variables it must be hard to tell which ones are red herrings.
I've also just read about children of tech. workers being more likely to have autism. The more I learn about autistic traits, some of which can be positives depending on career choices I see (or rather have looked) for possible traits in our family.( I'm an artist honest to a fault, sensitive to light/sound /detail and happy to be in my own world. My husband's a computer wizard who was thought to be "retarded" in kindergarten but turned out to have a genius IQ ) My son's OT jokes that perhaps we are all on the spectrum at some point.
Great story you got here. I'd like to read a bit more about that matter.
It takes a true aspie to ask this question. Ithank you for this. Most of what goes on in America provides little if any invitation to the African American Community. Most of America assumes that they have all the answers for our culture and anything about us without even talking to us or sharing education. We Black Aspies are here and very aware that many of our children are NOT given the diagnosis of Aspergers. They are often labeled with other things besides aspergers. I for one slipped through the cracks. . Most of their gifts and talents and art are Not cultivated (no art supplies are bought no private studio to mange ones musical ability or mathmatics in public school does not exceed Algebra2. Parents, teachers and doctors are all at fault! They merge in with their peer social norms whether its go to college (if in a working class area) or sell drugs (if in a poorer area) either choice will face both consequences that each brings. This is true in any racial group. (Blacks have more poor so more of our boys are doing what their friends do.) I agree Afro Amer have a unique bond more than all others to accept all the difference in all people ...so much so that we except the bullies destoying our neighborhoods cause everybody needs some place to belong right! A lack of info on what a child has, no diagnosis, no nurturing of the gifts yet illuminating the negatives and yes by their teachers not knowing whats wrong with them. Also to help u who havent really known a black person in america:
There is an apple pie on a table for all human to eat. All groups take a bite but when the black group comes there is a sign that says this Excludes all Blacks, so they go away. Bannana Bread made and all groups take a bit. Now fewer Blacks come along (their is no sign so they get closer. Then red tape is put around them and they can come no further to take a bite. Then an Aspie Doctor bakes a Rainbow cake and all aspies have a slice and the one Black spokesman comes along and say "We are excluded from pie and then from bannana bread surely we have Aspergers. The Doc says, "Sorry we gave ur kind ADD and Schitzophenia now go and eat that!" They never seen a Black face again.
wow.... great explaination and so true
Your not excluded form the pie. Many of your people exclude themselves with there antisocial behavior.Too many blacks just have poor behavior that is why they are looked at skeptically. Look at statistics. I would say blacks in general are more prone to ADHD. Outgoing, hyperactive, impulsive, disobedient. I see this more in blacks and there culture.
Physicians and other clinicians do treat the black population differently from all other groups. They make different medical choices than they otherwise would when treating a black patient. Black culture is not understood amongst the medical community due to a pre-existing bias that has always existed in America. It's methods have evolved over the centuries, but the bias is still in favor of european culture. It is true through my own experiences that psychiatrists are quick to label African American patients as either ADD or Schizophrenic. My own experience has always been that they assume since you come from a "black neighborhood" that your problems have to do with economics, broken family dynamics or PTSD. They often fail to use objective judgement or clinical insight. I have seen seven psychiatrists over a period of 27 years and have been diagnosed with ADD, PTSD, Panic disorder, ADHD, and OCD. None of them ever ordered the necessary tests to evaluate for neurological disorders. Physicians had indicated that their was a neuoro-motor problem when I was 10, but did not go beyond a failed pronator-drift exam. When severe social impairment persisted well into my twenties my mother felt that there were some neurological deficits that needed to be addressed.
I do not believe that my experiences were based on what I call "true racism", but rather a collection of assumptions made about be due to race and demographics. After all, two of my failed psychiatrists were black and had the attitude "this a young black brotha from the streets!" Their final opinion about me in the end was that I was a "nerd from the wrong side of the tracks".
I now work in hospitals now, and have seen this cultural bias at play. Protocals are broken due to the medical staff not being comfortable around African Americans, so to the point where it affects their clinical judgment.
Maybe your thinking is biased? You need to get rid of that chip on your shoulder. Honestly ADHD and not Aspergers does seem more common among blacks. It's obvious. Blacks are more outgoing and impulsive. More disobedient and dislike structure. This is the complete opposite of Aspergers. Asians seem more Asperger-ish. Blacks are on the opposite side of the spectrum being more ADHD.
Also blacks have this really biased, conspiracy theory thinking. They need to shake off there persecution complex. For example if a black person went to a white psychiatrist who diagnosed him with ADHD then went to another who gave him a different diagnosis that black person is likely to think that the white psychiatrist gave him the wrong diagnosis on purpose because he is black when it was really an honest mistake. Or maybe the second psychiatrist diagnosis is wrong because psychology is more subjective. Blacks think anytime a white person does something wrong to them it's because of there skin color. Just like these blacks who think a white cop is arresting them only because they are black when really the black person committed a crime and the cop saw it. My god this delusional nutty thinking has to stop.
Thee submissions are amazing. So glad to have found this page!
I also have told my fiance many a time that black people with autism do not seem to come out a lot, or at least be aware/ care that they or their child may have AS in some form.
It is probably because like you said, blacks do not treat their children like crap by habit,which means rushing to the first quack to get their child labeled is not a priority.Families tend to be closer, more socially oriented. While it seems that a social culture that does not like labeling (white people love labels because we have a higher threshold for loneliness and we tend to enjoy categorizing things)would be a problem for AS, I have seen that it can have a positive effect. I have seen ADD and autism in many black children, but it seems they rarely get past the ADD diagnosis. There is no real harm in it since the children typically live normal, happy lives which is a result of not being pitied and held back like other white children.
Also, being black has had a strengthening effect on their population being that they are a minority, so it seems that autism would be nothing compared to what some blacks have to put up with simply being a minority. From my perspective, a black family will put up with certain autism traits that a white family would be turned off by, while still expecting their kid to behave and go by certain rules, whereas white parents oftentimes choose to feel sorry for their different kid and allow them to act gross, eat with their mouth open, call people fat, etc, like Temple Grandin was saying and they tend to get a diagnosis faster. Treating people differently usually backfires and the black population in America knows that.
I agree...Diagnosis is delayed due to cultural sterotyping.
I had taken my daughter to children's hospital for a reevaluation and they instead put us in a room with no toys and a one way mirror (to observe) no Dr. interview her or us and left us alone for roughly 2 1/2 hours with me asking the nurse where the Dr. was...Turns out they made assumptions about why we were there and was observing us. Turned out they assumed I was a disfunctional parent and was observing US for family issues..No one Dr. asked us why were there until I spoke to the complaint dept and showed them tests results from a previous Dr.s and specialists. They rescheduled the appointment... But I never forgot the sterotyping oh a black mom...must be beating her child let's observe. Instead oh and Autism reevaulation let's test the child...
There are more and more black people on YouTube making videos about their lives with autism alongside other races. Do a little searching and you will see. Don't miss the Autistic Werewolf! He speaks at the college in his area to teach young people about autism and is a very amazing man.
CleverGenevieve is a very beautiful girl who will touch your heart. She even has a video of her marriage. Her and the Autistic Werewolf have almost a silver tint to them and their eyes are glowing in the center. When I see AS in other cultures, it is as clear to me as if they were my culture-white. Really, AS IS a culture, replacing all other cultures.
We have yet to meet another. If you are interested in talking with me, email me at email@example.com
The fact is that there are genetic differences in the races.
As mentioned in an earlier post, non-Black races have 4% neanderthal genes. This fact alone can explain the lower incidence of high-functioning aspies.
The simple fact is that Blacks have a lower IQ than the other races.
Asians are at about 108, Whites are 100, non-White Hispanics are 87, American Blacks are 85 and African Blacks are at 70.
That American Blacks have an IQ between African Blacks and Whites suggests that inter-marrying with Whites increased their IQ.
Supposing that autism (and increased intelligence) was introduced by the neandethal genes, this might also explain why American Blacks have a higher intelligence and a rate of Autism than African Blacks.
I agree...Diagnosis is delayed due to cultural sterotyping.
I had taken my daughter to children's hospital for a reevaluation and they instead put us in a room with no toys and a one way mirror (to observe) no Dr. interview her or us and left us alone for roughly 2 1/2 hours with me asking the nurse where the Dr. was...Turns out they made assumptions about why we were there and was observing us.
Turned out they assumed I was a disfunctional parent and was observing US for family issues..Not one Dr. asked us why were there until I spoke to the complaint dept and showed them tests results from a previous Dr.s and specialists.
They rescheduled the appointment... But I never forgot the sterotyping oh a black mom...must be beating her child let's observe. Instead of oh an Autism reevaulation let's test the child...
I read the article and was intriqued. However, I see some barriers to finding out just what is the prevelance of Aspergers in minority populations. I would hope that it is lower. But the author hit the nail on the head with the word minority. It's also diffucult to establish prevelance by just meeting people; and of the 88 countries in the blog, how many were populated by mostly those of of Afircan decent? Yes, the population is smaller; and I agree with the comparison of the level of healthcare for both Hispanic and African Americans. Howerver,common sense may dictate that most people try to get their kids healthcare either by public or private means. Then again, if the provider records no diagnosis or does not make this information avaialble, then there's not much chance of building a data base. I would contend that in order to really establish the prevelance of Aspergers in minorities, a global study must be initiated.
I am black, female and diagnosed with A.S. recently. I struggle with all of the same things as what White aspies complain about: social awkwardness, never dating/sex, misunderstands of communication, special interests, etc. I found this article interesting because I was doing my own online research to find other 'Black Aspies' and found nothing, really. The most obvious reason there seems to be less Black than White Aspies is because we are less likely to seek mental health treatment. I'm in my early 30s and was only diagnosed this year after seeing a therapist for over 4 years! In general unacceptable mental health status is mostly shunned in the Black communities (American) so those people that have mental difficulties feel too embarrassed to seek help or may not even know they have a medical issue that qualifies as 'mentally ill.' It's my opinion, this can be combated through education, the more education Black folks become the more likely will find out there's names and TREATMENTS for some of our conditions. For the longest time I didn't know what was "wrong" with me, now I do :)
I am in the same boat with you. I am 47 and was just diagnosed last year. What a weight was lifted off my shoulders as I finally understood me and felt like I no longer had to apologize to everyone around me for not being their view of normal. For so long I knew something was different about me, but because I was so smart people would just brush it off.
Another issue that I think affects our diagnosis is as a whole a reluctance or fear of doctors. There are so many different reasons for this from money/insurance to the Tuskegee experiment. Growing up in the 60's and 70's my mom did not have the money to take me, was not going to lose a day off of work to sit with me at a doctor's office and did not want me labeled by the school system and society as something being wrong with me. So like many with Aspergers I shut down, withdrew and stayed only to myself to avoid dealing with others. Even today I avoid all true relationships if possible and rarely leave the apt except for work or emergencies.
With Aspergers not being listed until the early 80's in the DSM it still would not have helped me in school. But thankfully now as I told my therapist I have hope to live a better second half of my life than I did my first.
Hi there. What was your diagnosis process like? I'm a 27 year old black woman,, and have only been seeking diagnosis for a little over a year. I realized that I have AS about a year and a half ago, but wasn't able to seek out a doctor because I didn't have insurance. I now have a new job with great insurance, and have been trying to take advantage of it while I can. I contacted a therapist who specializes in adults with AS, but she doesn't take my insurance and I'm not sure that she actually gives a diagnosis, but just provides guidance. She told me that since there isn't a criteria for diagnosing adults yet, it may be difficult for me to find someone to do so, and it left me a little discouraged. But if it took you four years to become diagnosed, then perhaps I'm being a little impatient. I'm very certain that I have it, but would like to have the validation of a professional so that I can continue to move forward and receive proper help for my issues, but the more I read about adults becoming diagnosed, the more discouraged I become.
I made a post about this on the Autism forum Wrong Planet regarding black women, and another member led me here. (http://www.wrongplanet.net/postp4363038.html&highlight=#4363038)
I'm not so sure about genetics, something worth looking into, maybe. But I truly feel that stereotypes are a huge factor, as others here have stated. Unfortunately, I never had the kind of acceptance and support that other black people who have commented here had. I was teased and picked on by my family members because they didn't understand me. The black kids at school made fun of me because the way I spoke sounded too "white" to them. So, I don't know that community support is entirely the reason we aren't recognized. I could be wrong, but it's just based on my experiences.
In my post, I talk about how some characteristics of AS are also common stereotypes of black kids with behavioral problems. I remember a teacher of mine in 4th grade who was black, and I got in trouble for something. She said she wasn't going to tell my mother about it because I'm a "...black child who doesn't know better". So these stereotypes come from both ends. Even my mother, who picked on me for "talking white", told me to sit with white and asian kids in school because they paid attention more and were smarter. So any behavioral problems I had (hard-headed, isolation, not talking to people I was expected to talk to, "laziness", correcting my mother or talking back, etc.)were probably viewed as normal to a certain extent. Like others here said, I was also smart and a good student, so that would outweigh those problems a lot of the time.
This and just a general lack of resources in low income communities is probably the biggest contributor. There is also an immense amount of pride within black culture when it comes to psychological issues. My mom has taken my sister and I to see therapists when were children only once (for separate issues), and both times she found a reason for us to stop going. She herself has developed problems as a result of how she grew up, and she never sought help for it and refuses to. Personally, I wish I could have known when I was younger. I have always felt different in some way, and some things I just learned how to hide from people better. I was basically left to try and figure out my problems on my own, and kept making big mistakes. I believe if I had known, parts of my life would have been much different.
A lot of talk about discrimination, greater acceptance for differences, and not being given diagnostics. However, this doesn't explain why African Americans doesn't like to do Asperger's self-tests on the Internet. We would expect 12% of the US participants to be African Americans, and we see 1-3%. Too me, this indicates that black Aspergians are also close to non-existant information seekers on the web. This has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination, racism or doctors that don't want to diagnose, but has everything to say about African Americans not feeling different enough to suspect they might have Asperger's. Additional evidence comes from WP threads seeking people of African descent, and always ending up with a poor result. This also indicates that African American Aspergians are close to non-existant information seekers in the autistic community.
I think that has more to do with not knowing that it's aspergers that needs to be researched. I've always researched things where ever i could find information, but i had never even heard of aspergers until my roommate told me he had it and i looked it up to see exactly what it was. Once i realized it fit the criteria, i found the online quizzes and forums and continued research. Before then, it had never been an option to me. I researched lots of personality disorders and different types of depression, never coming across AS in the process.
Im not intending to say that people are purposely discriminating against blacks and that's why a diagnosis isn't reached (though i dont believe it's unreasonable to think so), i just thinly that those stereotypes are so ingrained in our society that it would make an accurate diagnosis more difficult.
I have been doing alot of research about Asperger's Syndrome in the recent weeks...I suspect I may have it - and I'm black; a 30 year old woman. In doing all my searching, discovering, and learning, I just asked this question today: "Hey? Can I have it if I'm black?" Part of me got excited that I might not have to worry about having it, and then I got scared again that I still may have to find out what's going on with me...I jumped online again and found this great article. I really do believe there is stigma and racism affecting black populations in North America, and worldwide, in that many do not fairly receive the same care, education, and service in many of life's situations. I do believe black children are being mis-diagnosed, and in some cases, perhaps even families are discouraged from testing (this could be a cultural thing, or rooted in the stigma and racism subscribed to by others). In the meantime, I have found my old report cards from elementary school. As I read through my grades primary and 1 teachers' comments...bells are going off. Today, I suffer from severe depression, social anxiety that just keeps getting worse, and I'm constantly afraid of being awkward with people to the point of avoiding my friends. I cringe when the phone rings and panic in storms. And the feelings of despair over not being able to pursue my passions and interests consume me daily. New interests exhaust me as they keep me sleepless and cause me to lecture and relentlessly pursue them with bursts of energy. I get angry and have "melt-downs" often. My search for constant perfection often gets me stuck and I leave things unfinished out of frustration, or I get depressed and become disenchanted with things I was once interested in. I know in my heart that I am different in some way...Asperger's seems like the answer. I hope I will not be judged first by the color of my skin, age, or gender, and recieve a proper diagnoses...if not Asperger's, then what is this hell I'm going through?...God please help me.
Thank you for the insight, and for asking such a bold question, that needed to be asked.
This is an interesting thread. I am a Black male, 42, and I've recently discovered these online quizzes for Asperger's, and score in the medium-to-high range. As a child, I learned to read at the age of two (possibly before) and was one of the "gifted" students in school. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia by the time I was about ten, and my younger brother and I were eventually placed in foster care, as our mother's ability to raise us deteriorated.
I was always seen as a nerd and a geek, unable to always 100% navigate the intricate social norms of Black working-class teenagers of the 80s. But I got good grades and got a scholarship to one of the top private high schools in the city (90% high-income suburban White students with 99% acceptance rate into major universities). The pressure to navigate social norms sharply diminished, but my break from other Black kids who had fewer educational opportunities was more or less solidified.
I grew up, got a bachelor's, married, divorced and now my son is a teenager. I'm a graphic designer now (albeit at the periphery of the industry and somewhat underemployed), and I function "OK" at work, but I have a low tolerance for what I perceive as BS and have quit a couple of jobs in the past just because a certain situation struck me as unacceptable. I do not make friends easily and do no socializing outside of the occasional lunch with co-workers. Most of my free time is spent running errands, sleeping or online. I have been temporarily homeless at times, and have literally bounced around the country the last 15 years or so trying to find the right city to live in, to balance my desire to be a successful designer in a perpetually and stubbornly tough economy with proximity to my son.
I've never been diagnosed with any mental or neurological disorder, but the patterns of my life point way too much towards having at least a mild form of Asperger's.
I have been in enough homeless shelters to tell you: I would agree 100% that many African Americans who are diagnosed with some kind of mental illness, or who are not functioning in regular society because of perceived mental illness, might be better served with an Asperger's diagnosis. Doing this might actually take some of our homeless off the streets.
Integrated my ass! I was an effing OUTCAST. Still am. No one ever saw a reason for me to seek any sort of diagnosis, I was merely labled 'simple','funny' or 'touched' and it was left at that.
I think that it may have something to do with the fact that the majority of the black community (in America, I can't really speak for other countries) has a stigma against mental health labels, especially when they are necessarily not a threat to anyone's safety or health. Instead, to most of the adults in our community (family, friends, teachers, etc. included) we're a little different at best, "eccentric" at worst. High IQ is fairly common with AS and more than anything, from my perspective, no teacher wants to say that there may be something "wrong" with the little boy/girl who is bullied and can't seem to make any friends but is just so smart and so well-spoken. They certainly don't want to deal with the possible fall out with the parents of said child. I learned about Asperger's when I was 14 years old, and it literally took me years to convince my mother that getting a diagnosis might not be a bad idea (I'm seventeen now).
Very interesting discussion. The first thing I thought as I read the article was: THis is written by a Black person. No, the author, unless I missed something, never mention their own race, but the language style said it all: The author speaks about Black people as people, and does so fearlessly. But then it occurred to me - a Black NT man sitting here next to my white Aspi husband- that an Aspi of any race could have written this article because it follows reasoning without all the cultural clutter that I have come to associate with a mainstream white mentality.
With that said, it's pretty clear now in the years since this article was first posted, that implicit racial bias impacts the clinician/patient relationship. Yeah, as many others have written here in various forms, the dominant white culture might label Black Aspis as anti-social (e.g. ADD) because it fits their existing implicit biases (e.g. PTSD, chronic poverty, low IQ). It confirms what those with a mainstream white mentality already suspect about Blacks in general. Studies show that the same behavior witnessed with white kids might warrant further investigation, perhaps even spurred by their parents keen to discover why their kid in not "normal."
So, yes, culture influences this all around. I do think that many Black cultures value individuality and respect for individuality, AND understand, as others here have mentioned, that treating someone differently is not the solution- that it is the group who must grow to learn acceptance. In fact, if you look at the African concept of uBuntu, it becomes even more clear: We depend on one's eccentricity in order for us to learn about our own humanity. Perhaps the Black experience in America has only intensified a cultural trait to learn to respect difference because we know, more than any other group in America, that fitting in (assimilation) is a sort of suicide. (BTW, this equally applies to all those young Black middle-class boys who try to fit into commercialized Hip-Hop culture simply because it's the only template they see for a young Black man to access any social power).
This article was posted in 2009 and it's clear, again as others have suggested here, that social media will level the ground, and so we do now see plenty more Blacks coming out about Aspergers and Autism in general.
I am a black man with Aspergers and wasn't diagnosed until I was 21. To be honest with you it is very difficult in the African American society to even talk about Aspergers. Due to ignorance a great deal of people are insensitive and also believe it doesn't even exist. I would assume the answer to your question is that there i a great deal of ignorance in the black community regarding mental issues. I can't go to clubs, i say crazy things all the time. my entire life i was harassed and fought all the time because i was considered different or weird. My teachers even hated me for answering to much in class. My parents thought i had a mental deficiency. In fact i am completely lonely in the black community regarding my Aspergers. I have a very difficult time making African American friends, I can't really o to bar b ques or cookouts, because when too many people come i get really anxious. This is just part of the list of issues int he black community when it comes to dealing with different people. I would think they don't know in the black community. At least in the south.
I'm a black female who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 11. We exist.
Yes, we're around
Submitted by Anonymous on December 12, 2011 - 5:30am.
This Guy has it down. I imagine him and his son are on very high end of the spectrum. I'm a student studying SpEd and I tutor a student who is black and has Aspergers. I totally think it is a culture thing he attends a mostly Caucasian upper-middle class high school and is pointed out immediately. I also think that black minorities are mislabeled and overrepresented in SpEd education, so two points there: there should be a lot more inclusion, getting students out of flltime ESE rooms; and if students are being mislabeled their services are a waste and their needs are not being met probably making them act out further sending them deeper into the SpEd system. My job as a special educator is to put ourselves out of business and have education.
I am a 47 year old (Dutch/Irish/American Indian) male who was recently diagnosed with severe AS (strangely enough after my 8yo son was diagnosed).
I have had a life long fascination with all things prehistoric. One of the things about AS that stood out to me was that the symptoms are not "counter survival", that is they don't seem to prejudice an individuals chance of survival in a "natural" environment, such as one that may have occurred say 50,000 years ago. Indeed, I suspect that some of the "symptoms" would give an individual a distinct survival advantage. Such things as being able to notice small details that "non aspies" often miss, amassing large amounts of detailed information (listing) about specific subjects, being able to concentrate on certain subjects for long, continuous amounts of time. It seems to me that these attributes would be incredibly advantageous to a hunter/gatherer i.e. observing/cataloging animal/plant/seasonal behaviour, observing cause and effect (allowing for better design and manufacture of traps, weapons, tools etc.) to name a few.
With respect to the oft noted AS issues of perceived inappropriate behaviour, the missing of social cues, being unable to read the finer points of facial/vocal expression, being overly literal, this would make sense in the context of an ancestral Hominid who MAY not have had need, or indeed capabilities of the sophisticated facial/vocal/cultural/language capabilities of modern Homo Sapiens. Under these circumstances they would be NON issues.
I have been told that we are not mentally ill, although many of us (understandably) develop depression and anxiety, but simply that our brains are "wired" differently. Could this different wiring be the result of a genetic throwback to, if not our Neanderthal brethren, an earlier hominid?
Oh...for the record, I am short, bow legged, have a larger than average rib cage and am abnormally strong for my size! ;)
I'm a multi-racial male 1/2 african american who was suspected with aspergers. I really began to do research after my mentor suspected that I had the condition. As far as IQ is concerned, I tested slightly above average however I have had an intense interest in nuclear science and I have been studying it since i was 9 years old. I really found myself to be a hands on learner and I really enjoyed working with things and tinkering rather than dealing with people. I can be sociable however I can only really connect with people. I just finished my first year of college and I have really been able to find out why I enjoy nuclear engineering and why I enjoy visualizing specific events. I have managed well in college and my local news paper even wrote an article about me. http://www.thenubianmessage.com/2012/09/19/article-co-authored-by-n-c-state-freshman-to-be...
I am kind of wondering if black culture (based on my very small and undoubtably biased sample, near Washington DC) tends to train more sociability into Aspies. In my biased sample, it seems that if two people happen to catch each other's eyes, black culture finds it rude to not offer a verbal greeting, and further finds it rude to avoid looking the other in the eye when in close proximity or in passing. (White culture seems to tolerate just glancing away, and/or avoiding eye contact. [From the biased viewpoint of a white Aspie...]) Lack of eye contact seems to be a common issue with Asperger's. I am wondering if this cultural retraining could be significant enough to better "socialize" Aspies within that culture.
In my biased sample, it's possible that any difference in "sociability" is basically due to seeing oneself as part of a particular minority. [Speculation] I think I mean this in the sense that people in general function with a community size of a few hundred people, so may try to identify, among the people they see, some recognizable subset that would constitute that approximate number (because "everyone" is too overwhelming, and "only the people I know" is insecurely small). Similar in behavior to the minority of females within technical disciplines/workspaces. [From the biased viewpoint of an older white female working with computers.]
Hi there. I am a 51 year old black woman who self-diagnosed last week. When I initially spoke to the Dr. She seemed nervous about the email I sent. I spoke to 3 people before getting an appointment. I do wonder how many black people my Dr. has actually diagnosed as Aspy? Is it ok to ask that? I feel the same as Nickadee, impatient. The Dr. told me that unless I could gather all my school records together and give them to him, I could not be diagnosed. Well, let me just call up and have them dust off the microfiche and see what I can do. It seems unbelievably archaic in this day and age to have to re invent the wheel to get a diagnosis? The reason you don't see more black Aspies has to do with this kind of treatment.
I am soo glad to stumble across this forum. I am a RN and mother of a 5 year old little boy, of whom everything about him points to Aspergers. I adore my son with my entire vitality, he is hilarious, he has no concept of personal space, social context, facial expressions, humor or lying. He is extremely intelligent, reads 3- 6 grade books and has been doing so for a year now. He is extremely concrete, and logical and the most genuine child you ever want to meet. He does not normally make eye contact and due to my continuous prodding, he finally responds to expressions in others appropriately.
First thing that I think of is this, as an urban, professional black woman, I do not want my Black Male Child Labeled. I noticed something was different about my son while he was just a baby, although he laughed and smiled, he didn't respond to the typical happy face, sad face, angry face that you play with babies. I had to teach him to react. I've also had to teach him not to obsess and to vary his routine, this was very frustrating at first. For us, I work with my son continuously so that he only appears like a quiet and thinking, nerdy child. I force him to diverisify and to deal with it. Reality has it, that life is not fair, we don't always get what we want, but, we must learn to cope and we live on. I do not believe in allowing him to fall back on his inabilities as a crutch or as an excuse... he must be able to respond to people appropriately so that he does not become a target. I am sorry, I do not believe that as a black man, that he will have the ability to be "weak" not socially, not emotionally. I pray that my decision to not have him "tested" or "diagnosed" will fair well for him. I do believe that there is something wrong with every last one of us, which accounts for the spice, the variety of life, in people and in culture.
Lastly, I also still believe that racism is still alive, I also believe that bias plays a role in why more of our children are diagnosed with ADHD than Aspergers. This is really sad, but I truly feel that being Black and Male leaves two strikes against my son to begin with. I will not allow him to not be integrated into society, to not be invisible, I feel that for him, it will be a third strike. That is my fear and I wonder if others in our community have feared the same.
Now for those of you that only found out that you were a Black Aspie, I'd like to know what it was like for you growing up?
John Elder Robison is the author of Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's, and Be Different, Adventures of a Free-range Aspergian.
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