Friday, April 8, 2011

Define Maturity!

It is frustrating how often people with Asperger's syndrome are labeled "immature" because of their social difficulties. Throughout my childhood and much of my adulthood, my maturity was criticized by parents, teachers, and peers:

  • Making a silly comment at an inappropriate moment: immature
  • Not wanting to dress like the other girls: immature
  • Preferring animated films to live-action films: immature
  • Getting upset over something that wouldn't upset most people: immature
  • Talking too much: immature

And so on. 

To be fair, I was still undiagnosed during my childhood, but these days many books for parents describe children with AS as immature.

Time for some consciousness raising: Imagine if a child with Down syndrome were labeled immature for having difficulties in reading and math. Imagine the uproar from their parents: "How dare they use that word to describe my child? He can't help it if he has problems in reading and math!"

Why, then, do we have this double standard in defining maturity? Simple: society, aware of it or not, puts a disproportionate amount of stock in social "maturity" over intellectual "maturity." We say that kids with Down syndrome are, to use a euphemism, "intellectually challenged." Or we say that they have learning problems. How often do you hear a person with AS being labelled socially challenged or socially delayed? How often, on the other hand, do you hear someone say that a kid with AS is "intellectually more mature" rather than "intellectually advanced?" Don't all speak at once.

For the same reason that it is offensive to call someone with Down syndrome (intellectually) immature, it is offensive to call someone with AS (socially/emotionally) immature. I think calling someone with AS "immature" is as loaded as calling someone with DS "stupid." These adjectives are harsh, blunt criticisms leveled at a person who has difficulties with certain skills that most people acquire naturally. It is detrimental to their self-esteem.

Why is the socially awkward teen with AS who locks himself in his room for hours and creates a new complex computer program labelled immature while a highly social teen with DS who is still struggling with basic math is not? Now, you know why. Think about it. 

And think about what you say.

1 comment:

  1. I heartily agree with you that unfortunately social maturity has the upper hand in society. It seems like people don't know how to appreciate the different forms of maturity (like intellectual and moral maturity), and it's really a pity.