#Autism A failure to recognize!


I have both ADHD and Aspergers.

This is not uncommon.

According to Dr. Russell Barkely

  • Up to 60% of Autistic people have some form of ADHD
  • Up to 20% of people with ADHD have some form of Autism

So last year, I came across a You tube clip of ADHD expert Dr. Russell Barkley (Board Certified Clinical Neuro-psychologist and Scientist) explaining how in his opinion, ADHD had been misnamed.

He stated that: ‘ADHD is a developmental disorder of self-regulation, not inattention’

He then went on to illustrate this point with the following analogy.

‘To refer to ADHD as inattention is to refer to Autism as hand flapping and speaking funny – they are the most obvious symptoms of a failure to develop the ability to relate to others as special objects, as human and that is what Autism really is underneath – the rest of it is just the most superficial set of symptoms’

I was initially quite shocked when I heard this, but at the same time, something resonated within me.

Today I will reveal why.



Before I begin I want to qualify the remainder of this post and indeed the opening paragraph.

This post is not intended to be a generalization of Autistic people or the Autistic experience and none should be inferred.

I intend no value judgement in anything that I write here today and again none should be inferred.

This post is entirely and exclusively an explanation as to why I felt both shock and resonance with the statement above and why I continue to do so.

I have wrestled for some time with this for 2 reasons.

  • I was concerned that this subject might unintentionally cause some to feel offended
    • I hope my introduction makes it clear that is not my intention
  • I was concerned with the judgement that might result from me taking ownership of the statement above
    • I have concluded that this message is more important than my ‘popularity’
    • That I would be delinquent in my responsibility if I remained silent

In the end I decided that I needed to feel the fear, Man up and do it anyway.


Baring my soul

The reason that I felt a resonance with the statement above is that in my case it is true!

After reflecting on this for nearly a year, it has become appallingly clear to me that I have failed to develop the ability to consistently relate to others as special objects, as Humans.

  • I do have the ability to empathize, sympathize and show compassion
  • But much of the time, this is driven by mechanical intellect
  • He or she is doing/saying this or that, so he or she is probably feeling/thinking this or that
  • So the appropriate response is this thing or that thing

You will note that I have qualified the statement made by Dr. Russell Barkley with the word consistently because in my case there are times when I do relate very powerfully, immediately, instinctively and selflessly to others, as special objects, but these are the exceptions.

If I’m tired, I often/usually don’t make the effort to relate to the feelings/situations of others.

  • It’s not a value judgement, it’s just that my fatigue seems like the bigger priority

If I’m ‘busy’ I often/usually don’t make the effort to suspend my thought process to give some quality time to the other person.

  • That’s not a value judgement either
  • It’s just that what I am immersed in at the time seems so much more crucially important that nothing, barring a genuine emergency, is capable of capturing and retaining my attention

and I will freely admit, this saddens me deeply, with not even my family enjoying immunity.


Another aspect of this inability to consistently relate to others is a general lack of interest in others (outside of my family)

I used to think this was entirely a function of being gifted, before learning that I have Aspergers.

  • Characteristics of Intellectual Giftedness overlap considerably with Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Those with both conditions, like me, are known as Twice Exceptional
  • Twice Exceptional characteristics are more or less a perfect match to My psychological profile
  • and will be the subject of an upcoming post


My general disinterest in people is the result of a complex tapestry of psychological abilities and experiences.

However, I do know that Intellectual Giftedness by itself does not necessarily predispose someone general disinterest in people.

As a young man, I took a formal (invigilated) IQ test with a friend of mine.

We got identical scores, but he isn’t Autistic.

Today he presides over a multinational company and whenever we meet I (think I) see a glimpse of what I might have been, if I wasn’t Autistic.

He converses effortlessly with everyone he comes into contact with.

  • from the meekest to the mightiest

His social skills are highly developed.

  • He shows no noticeable craving for intellectual nourishment in social settings
  • and he clearly enjoys socializing
  • But at the same time, he is happy to wax philosophically with me

This doesn’t necessarily mean that intellect doesn’t play a part in my disinterest in socializing and people in general.

  • I seem to have a strong social override, when the conversation has an intellectual element

But it does demonstrate that Intellectual Giftedness in of itself, does not necessarily condemn a person to lifelong social isolation.


The Horror

The reason I felt shock was that it horrified me and it still does because that description of Autism succinctly describes the essence of my autistic experience and far more accurately than the usual sugar coated phrase ‘socially impaired’

Socially impaired?

If only!


This is just my opinion of the nature of my autistic experience.

  • I intend no generalization, at any level
  • I am making no judgement of those prefer the term ‘socially impaired’

But, to paraphrase quote Dr. Barkley:

‘Social impairment’ hardly captures what is going wrong, developmentally, with me.


Dr. Barkley doesn’t seem to attach any moral judgement to autism either.

  • note his words ‘failure to develop the ability’
  • this is not a choice
  • any more than failure to develop the ability to see is a choice for a blind person

Indeed one of his core ADHD advocacy messages is that ADHD should be:

  • ‘removed from the realm of moral judgement and brought into the realm of compassion’



It’s not your fault

I have no idea how widespread this personal struggle is within the Autism community.

I have never heard/read anything like this, before or since hearing it from Dr. Barkley.

But it would be arrogant of me, as well as naive, to think that I am the only one.

That is why I have decided to go public with this.

So if you are someone who can relate to this, has suffered, agonized over your inability to consistently relate to others (perhaps even your family) as special objects, as human, I want you to know 2 things:

  • You are not alone
  • It is NOT your fault


I am going to conclude with the You tube clip which sparked this:

It’s just a couple of minutes long and will put his statement into full and clear context.



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