One of the troubles these days is that Asperger Syndrome has been folded in the label ‘autism spectrum disorder’ along with Kanner’s autism (which is often low-functioning autism.) Since Aspies often have high intelligence and are very verbal and may have ambitions to be writers, they don’t have much in common with a person who has Kanner’s autism, is believed to have a low IQ, and never learns to speak.
I remember an experience of my own with the diagnosis changed. I told the lady at the Michigan food distribution that I had an ‘autism spectrum disorder’ and she presumed I would be unable to sign my own name on a form. She was probably looking about for my ‘caregiver.’ As a person cursed with a Mensa-level IQ, I didn’t like that. My intelligence is one of the few possibly-good things about me and I am testy when people presume I don’t have any.
To write an Aspie character you need to learn more about actual people with Asperger Syndrome from good sources. It’s not the same as having ‘autism’ and, contrary to news reports, it’s nothing like being a sociopath. The organism Autism Speaks, oriented towards parents of young children with autism, isn’t very helpful in learning about people with Asperger Syndrome. Even the diagnosis lists on good web sites don’t actually give you a good picture for character creation.
A few years ago I found a children’s book called ‘All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome’ by Kathy Hoopman. Yeah, it’s a kid’s book, but I liked it enough to bring it to a session with my then-therapist and we spend a few sessions going through the few pages and comparing it to my life. (It’s a great book for Aspies or their parents to give to significant people to explain the condition because it’s a quick read and has cute cat pictures. Get this book!)
I was not diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome until adult life— in school I was diagnosed as being a lazy troublemaker, or shy, or sad, or needing to go to a therapist. I associate my Aspie status with my being bullied by kids in school, humiliating experiences of misunderstanding by teachers, loving books, and massive fandom for TV shows like Star Trek and Dark Shadows.
It’s not untypical for an Aspie like me, who moved from city to city in childhood, that I grew up with zero friends after a certain age. But once I got internet access as a adult, I had a few online friends, initially from my blog and later from Facebook (which I joined to gain more readers for my blog.) I even have friends with Asperger Syndrome, officially diagnosed and self-diagnosed. I’m in a couple of Facebook groups for Aspies, and so I’ve learned that different Aspies have different ideas of what is ‘typical’ for Aspies. Also, I’m not sure that the online Aspies are actually sharing all the gory details of their real lives— though many of us share too much!
When writing an Aspie, even if you are an Aspie, you have to trim back some of your knowledge when creating a character. You can mainly pattern your Aspie character after two or three real-world Aspies that you know or have read about. Take a trait from one and a trait from another. Some Aspies have real-world friends, others don’t. Some lack most social skills, others have more such skills. And sometimes an Aspie person just seems to have contradictory traits. I myself am afraid to initiate phone calls and find it stressful. I can’t even call some family members that seem to care about me, I’m afraid to disturb them. Yet I phone my mother (who’s in her 90s) every single day (we both seem to be ‘addicted’ to that contact.)
I believe our Aspie characters have to serve a greater purpose in our fiction than virtue-signalling support for the ‘differently-able.’ They should have an important role in the story or not exist at all. It’s probably better to pick a character that you already suspect must exist in the story and give him Asperger Syndrome. Pick the set of symptoms for that character that still allows him to do the things you need him to do in the story. For example, if your Aspie is a receptionist for your hard-boiled private detective, she will probably need minimal phone skills much of the time. If your Aspie character will have to talk to a lot of other people, he should somewhat able to talk to other people, though it may be difficult for him.
So good luck in creating your Aspie characters! If you do it well— or do it poorly but tell a good story— I may count myself as one of your readers some day.