Fear of the Unknown

January 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

3 down, 362 posts to go.

Nat and I went to a friend’s house for a New Years Eve party. This particular friend has a brother with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Shamefully I will admit that the few times I have been around him I’ve shied away from conversation. Not because I don’t care about him but because I didn’t know anything about Asperger’s and just wasn’t sure what I should say.

However on this particular evening of  celebration I was engaged in quite an interesting conversation with him. I should preface this story with a very vague/general background of Asperger’s Syndrome. Here is WebMd’s version:

Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder, is a type of pervasive development disorder (PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.

Although Asperger’s syndrome is similar in some ways to autism — another, more severe type of PDD — there are some important differences. Children with Asperger’s syndrome typically function better than do those with autism. In addition, children with Asperger’s syndrome generally have normal intelligence and near-normal language development, although they may develop problems communicating as they get older.”

That’s it in a nutshell I suppose. Obviously the symptoms vary due to circumstance and severity but that gives you an idea of what I was unaware of. It’s hard for him to socialize with others and it was hard for me, at first, to socialize with him…

As we began to talk more in depth I began to see him in different light – a light I should have seen him in to begin with. He is very smart. Grammatically speaking he could be even more well spoken than I am. He asked lots of deep, moving questions. He listened when I spoke and asked questions related to the very core of what I just said – something not many people without social handicaps even do.

But we’ll get back to the question he asked me… something I’ve been rolling around in my mind since I woke up this morning and thought of it. He, quite seriously, asked me “Why do people fear what they don’t understand?”.

What a question. A question to which I still have no definite answer. We just do.

Of course what he was asking me was related to him and more definitely why people don’t engage him in conversation – why people are afraid to speak with him – and most likely why he is unable to connect with people the way he sees others connecting with each other.

The thing is that until I looked it up and knew a little bit more about what he was living with even I was unsure, wary and didn’t give him the respect or attention he deserves as a person and as a friend. At the very least his question was humbling.

We could all do with a little perspective in this area. Why do we fear what we don’t understand? Why not just take the time to learn about it and then there’s nothing to be afraid of? Easier said than done but hey – practice makes perfect.

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