Can Asperger’s Syndrome or related conditions include neurological differences and qualities that enhance creativity?
A page on the Asperger’s Association of New England site – What is Asperger Syndrome? – declares “There is strong evidence that such superstars as Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, code-breaker Alan Turing, and musician Glen Gould, among many others, all had Asperger Syndrome. Today, too, there are adults with AS who are successful as professors, lawyers, physicians, artists, authors, and educators.”
The Asperger’s Syndrome page on webmd.com says “Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math.”
Although it is classified among the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), like many people I think a better label for conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is neurological or learning ‘difference’ – because, for one thing, what is “normal” anyway? Also, a number of experts note there is a very real problem of diagnosing such characteristics; see my post Misdiagnosis of gifted adults: Pathologized and stigmatized.
The photo is Mary and Jerry Newport, both ‘Aspies’ (people with Asperger’s), who wrote “Mozart and the Whale: An Asperger’s Love Story” (made into a movie). [The photo is from the site Top 5 Amazing Savants.]
In the book, Mary writes about having “explosions of creativity” and admiring Van Gogh as an artist with whom she may have shared a similar “brain wiring.”
Before continuing, here is a short video: What Is Asperger’s Syndrome? with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
An article about John and Mary brings up a number of aspects of their personalities and lives.
For example, Mary “has been prone to sensory overload all of her life” and as a child, “often responded to stress, loud noises or strong smells by spinning in circles or rocking.”
[That sounds like possibly an intense form of the sensory overwhelm that many highly sensitive (HS) people can experience. But I have not looked into any connection between HS and AS.]
The article continues:
“Her methods are unusual. She draws without looking at the page, allowing her hand to follow its own course. Only later, she says, does she find hidden images that she had no idea she was creating.
“She composes by waving a pencil in circles over a score sheet until a sensation tells her where to put each note. She says she has no idea how it will sound until she programs the score into her keyboard and plays.”
[Mary had a non-speaking role as a blue-tinted Bolian on the television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”]
David Quaschnick, an Emmy-award-winning makeup artist who worked with her for “Star Trek,” describes her as “a very creative artist” whose art and music is “intensely creative.” She doesn’t have any formal training in art, but she somehow has a natural understanding of depth and focus,” he said. “Her music is the same way. It comes from pure creativity.”
But, the article adds, “her art didn’t always draw such praise. In the late 1980s, relatives and friends who were convinced Mary was doing ‘the devil’s work’ persuaded her to burn her art and music – and to undergo an exorcism. The next few years were punctuated by deep depressions and two nervous breakdowns.
“In 1993, a UCLA psychologist finally helped her make sense of the painful turns her life had taken. The psychologist told her she had ‘autism/Asperger syndrome’ and referred her to Jerry’s self-help group.”
From Against the Odds: a Love Story by Kim Kowsky, The Los Angeles Times October 23, 1995.
Continued in Part 2
Also see full article: Asperger’s and Creativity – PDF on Scribd.