Monday, 11 January 2010

Focus: an Asperger’s Syndrome Lesson

I enjoyed catching up with friends and family over the Christmas and New Year break. One particularly enjoyable lunch was with a young man who has Asperger’s syndrome – he brought his parents and we enjoyed what turned out to be the last of the season’s festive lunches. Because we were not a large party, we were able to give a little more time and space to talking about his interests and passions: it was instructive.

Although people with Asperger’s struggle with social skills, they are often highly focused and interested in how things work; Einstein, Mozart and Marie Curie apparently had Asperger’s. Engineering of different kinds can be a good career choice. In this case, programming turned out to be a particular favourite, and a shared interest in eating vegetarian (although he was totally unimpressed by my consumption of fish), all of which provided plenty of opportunity for conversation.

He is particularly fond of computer games, which was discovered when the only computer game in the house was found. However, unlike many boys his age who favour a trial and error approach to finding out how things work, he took time to study the controls and rules before starting out. It didn’t take long, and he was much more proficient for it. I think to him it was obvious, but to me it was impressive. Despite having at one time earned my living by writing technical documentation, reading the manual is still a last resort as far as I am concerned.

This focus and determination to do something well was highlighted in Super Hero blog of Emma Wimhurst – mother of William who has just made it to the county cricket team. Young William sounds like a well-rounded youngster who just happens to be very focused and determined to achieve his goals, and Emma is inspiring in how she writes with pride and some admiration about his cricket achievements. She neatly sums up William’s approach with four pointers:
  • Define your objective
  • Focus on your goal
  • Avoid distractions
  • Refuse to fail
In reading a little about Asperger’s I see that those with the syndrome are able to focus perhaps more solidly even though they have many other challenges. For those of us who weren’t dealt any obvious difficult cards, it is chastening to think how often we waste our abilities through lack of focus. It seems it takes a lesson in focus from two youngsters to make us appreciate what can be achieved when we focus.


  1. Dear Caroline,

    Thank you so much for including my son William and his achievements in your blog. He will be very proud. I enjoyed reading about Aspergers syndrome - I have come across several children in my life with Aspergers, and your article succintly confirms that every situation has its positives and a "label" is no reason not to achieve.....

  2. Emma - William can be rightly proud of what he has achieved. I hope it will be an early lesson to him that he can achieve what at first seems out of his grasp through practice, focus and discipline. It's a lesson many of us learn too late in life!

    The more I read about Asperger's syndrome, the more interesting it is. Research is now suggesting that many people we "label" as geniuses may have suffered from Asperger's.

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