And tech bigwigs Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates – who seem more at ease interacting with computers than humans – have also been labelled ‘Aspies’.Who knows if any of these men actually have Asperger’s – but in the face of behaviour where certain emotional synapses seem not to have quite ‘connected’, it’s the word on everyone’s lips.
In other words, women are just far better at pretending to be normal.
While a boy with Asperger’s will present as ‘agitated, clumsy and immature’, says Attwood, an AS girl will be far better at covering her condition through imitation.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Britain’s leading authority on autism, argues that all autism is, in fact, just varying degrees of ‘having an extreme male brain’, which emphasises systemising over empathising (an extreme female brain would do the opposite, and a ‘balanced brain’ would do both equally).
So much credence has been given to his point of view that it now has its own official name: the Extreme Male Brain (EMB) theory of autism.
I spent the entire weekend eagerly waiting for news of if and when the long-awaited proposal was going to transpire, but on his return, my husband just said: ‘Sorry, I forgot to ask.’ once the case.
Online forums such as Mumsnet are bursting with threads from exasperated wives lamenting that their DH (darling husband) stays up all night reading programming books, or when he is stressed, says one disgruntled spouse, lying in bed eating pretzels (and it has to be a particular kind of pretzel) in silence.So should the partners of AS sufferers wring their hands in despair? This realisation that so many men have some form of AS – something they can’t control and did not choose – goes a long way towards explaining the stereotypical Mars-Venus dichotomy between sensitive, feelings-oriented women and tuned-out, facts-oriented men, and should come as a great relief. ‘I felt liberated,’ says my friend Tess of the moment she realised, after reading up about Asperger’s and how many men it affects, that her husband Peter wasn’t just being rude when he failed to realise he was meant to look up from the television when friends they’d invited round turned up for lunch. I accept that now, so I subtly let him know what I want him to do, whether it be helping around the house or trying to tune in to a conversation, and most of the time he then does it.’The writer Toby Young, though he remains officially undiagnosed, is convinced that he has AS, as is his wife Caroline, who likens him to Homer Simpson and has come to see his ‘total disregard for social etiquette’ – he recently failed to see what was wrong with trying to re-sell a cheese sandwich his child didn’t want to eat to other customers in a café – as ‘more innocence than arrogance’.Good news, ladies – we don’t need to feel angry when he doesn’t ‘sense’ that we’ve had a bad day and shoo us off to have a hot bath while he gets the supper ready. And while my ex-husband definitely does not have AS, there were times in our marriage when I did puzzle over his detached behaviour: such as when he went off on a golf weekend with a friend who was on the brink of becoming engaged to a long-term girlfriend.‘An avid observer of human behaviour’, she will learn what to do or say, how to copy others and so go unnoticed; unlike the AS boy, she will ‘apologise and appease’. Her social awkwardness has been evident since she shot to fame in Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, but she has tried to fit into the ‘normal’ world – smiling for photo shoots, making TV appearances.She recently described her AS diagnosis as ‘a relief’. Attwood says that working so hard to ‘avoid social error’, and so slip through the diagnostic net, is emotionally exhausting for AS women, and can lead to extreme stress and anxiety.She also urges him to say when he needs something he is not getting from her. On the bright side, AS women adjust quite easily to motherhood – as babies and small children thrive on a strict routine, and so do Aspies!