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In my writing I have a few characters with aspergers. However, they live in the late 1100s. They are siblings, and their father is relatively wealthy, but not nobility. The three have moderate to severe aspergers, that mostly manifests as a high degree of introvertedness, an incredibly strong sense of right and wrong, a slight obsession with one subject, and a tendency towards bluntness, regardless of status or situation. How might this be explained and perceived at the time? What about for his older sister?

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closed as too broad by user535733, rek, JohnWDailey, Mołot, bilbo_pingouin Dec 14 '18 at 6:47

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    $\begingroup$ Asperger's? From the name of Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician who was the first to identify the syndrome. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 14 '18 at 2:05
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    $\begingroup$ @what are you trying to accomplish btw? You just want an explanation of thier unusuall behavior? $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 14 '18 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure I see the Worldbuilding angle here. Also not sure how you want the 'science-based' tag applied, since this seems an historical question instead of a research citation question. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Dec 14 '18 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ Nothing unusal perhaps, I too seriously think that if I came across someone with aspergers without knowing he/she has that, I'd say I'll either ignore him/her or talk to him/her, just like other persons. $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 14 '18 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ @user535733 its not even a historical question but I think its a phychology question... but the point of worldbuilding is indeed missing. $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 14 '18 at 2:34
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The men would probably be regarded primarily as a bit eccentric. This would be well before the ages of standardized diagnostic criteria and categorization based on these traits, and as Aspies they'd have average or above average language development, meaning they wouldn't be flagged in the same way that a nonverbal autistic would. As reasonably wealthy men but not nobility, I expect they would probably be merchant's sons and would be involved in that business. If their special interest and slight obsessiveness was aligned with business interests I expect they would be seen as shrewd businessmen and their social difficulties and bluntness largely ignored as "just their way." If their special interest did not align, I would expect they would come into conflict with the family's goals and see chastisement for having their heads in the clouds and ignoring the important things for [x] thing instead. Either way they would probably be more in charge of bean counting things and less called upon to deal with any negotiations, as they could get in some serious hot water by being blunt to a noble, etc. Their strong sense of justice could also be an issue if they are cheated by someone, especially a nobleman, and don't let it go. However, their wealth and comparatively maskable characteristics would blunt a lot of the effects of being non-normative, and NT normativity was not nearly as powerful a force in the 1100s, so they'd probably do okay. It would likely be explained as just personality traits vs. as part of some condition or as possession. Humors may be involved at the most "medical" explanation, with possibly some attempts to "balance" the humors.

The older sister would have more difficulties. Things such as bluntness and introversion would be qualities which would make her less marriageable at the time, which would be a problem for a wealthy woman, and she might see a need for a higher dowry as a result. Given Aspie tendencies to question social norms and normative gender roles of the time, I see her as fairly likely to chafe in her expected role, and not to be happy about the injustice of it all. She would be much more likely to see friction with those around her and to struggle with the consequences of being non-normative, and more likely to have her behaviors demonized or medicalized in as much as medicalization exists at the time. However, there was still more flexibility in such things than in, say, the Victorian Era, and I wouldn't expect to see her confined in an attic or anything, but I would expect that she might see odd 'treatments' or exorcisms prescribed to try to normalize her. (Something which, sadly, is entirely too relatable nearly 1000 years later.)

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    $\begingroup$ TLDR they are nothing special, they are just humans... $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 14 '18 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ There is a big potential problem - getting them to keep their mouths shut about the nobility. "an incredibly strong sense of right and wrong, ... and a tendency towards bluntness, regardless of status or situation" is a great way to run hard up against the whims of whoever is ruling. And if the sense of right and wrong just happen to conflict with the religious doctrine (Catholicism in the case of 1100's Europe), well, I suggest you read up on the Albigensian Crusade (1209 - 1229). Heresy lies in the eye of the beholder. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Dec 14 '18 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. the girl discover pseudonyms, and the world gets its scientific techno guy sped up by a few centuries, domino effects stopped the last few crusades, and I have to somehow wrangle this back into normalcy by 1500 $\endgroup$ – Tanzanite Dragoness Dec 16 '18 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ This is a great awnser. I needed a simple idea of the ramifications of someone with those personality traits, and this awnser provided that. $\endgroup$ – Tanzanite Dragoness Dec 16 '18 at 9:29
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Your children would probably be great candidates for monastic orders

Monastries were not as popular in the 1100s as movies might make you think, but if people showed a strong sense of academic skill, particularly in maths or writing, they would have ended up coming to the attention of a priest at some point, who would have in turn suggested that these children be entrusted to God for development of their 'gifts'.

Universities were a long way off (at least in their current incarnation - Oxford was a seat of some learning from 1096 onwards) and many people who were not of the nobility who were 'educated' were educated at a monastery. Children who were precocious enough to learn to read or do their father's accounts would have been ideal candidates for the learning that a monastery of the time would have provided.

Their introversion wouldn't be an issue there, and bluntness would be 'trained' (read as whipped or beaten) out of them. Their sense of right and wrong would have been focused on God and the interpretation of scripture.

Ironically, such a fate (while depriving them of a normal life as it would have been understood back then) would have resulted in them being revered in the wider community and respected for their abilities to read and manage funds. They would be scribes, accountants (or what passed for them back then) and other pursuits, utterly trusted because of their vows.

In short, a monastic order may well have been a great way to harness their precociousness and focus them on tasks that would have been of material benefit in a larger society.

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Don't give into the temptation to impose 21st century understanding and compassion on 10th century peoples. How would it be perceived? Not as a disease, or a disorder, or a condition deserving of understanding and compassion. You're talking about a people who thought (at best) that if something was shaped like a human organ it obviously would help that organ including cure it of conditions.

  • Wealth, than as now, is a great cover-up. Wealthy people are forgiven their eccentricities. If the children are socially functional (which you seem to describe) then their behavior would be accepted without question with the exception of an eye-roll when they were out of sight.

  • The sister wouldn't see anything out of the ordinary. She would have grown up with it and would perceive it as normal family life. Missing 1,000 years of community education, she would have nothing (nothing at all) to compare her brother's behavior to that might suggest something odd. Remember: wealthy children in the middle ages didn't play "with the masses."

  • Our modern society educates and socializes children so much more thoroughly and so much earlier than the children of the 10th century (even the wealthy) that noticing behavioral complications like Asperger's is "simple." It's more accurate to say it the other way around: children in the 10th century (the middle of the dark ages!) were not educated and not socialized anything at all like children today. Only the most extreme cases of Asperger's (or anything else) would have been noticed or cared about.

Frankly, this sounds like you're trying to crowbar a social issue into a story ("I want to raise awareness about Asperger's and use a medieval story as the vehicle!"). In other words, you're putting the cart before the horse. Considering how poorly Asperger's and similar issues are understood by the general population today, if you wrote your story with an accurate reflection of how people of that day and age would view the behaviors (behaviors they didn't understand at all), your average modern reader wouldn't even understand what you were trying to preach. And if you try to make it clear, you'll ruin the context of your story such that people won't want to read it. Food for thought.

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    $\begingroup$ That last paragraph is especially telling in terms of context. I think the formal term for it is 'Progressive Historical Revisionism'. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Dec 14 '18 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ I am not. I was looking for suggestions for how to not get them in too much trouble, yet have a possible explanation for their mother to hand out. I am not planning to use the point directly at all, it was a background point that came after I realized that the shape of the characters in my head would cause problems, but I liked them too much to change. Most of my characters are neuro-atypical in some way, mostly because they stem from me, and I have six different things that society foolishly calls disorders or problems. $\endgroup$ – Tanzanite Dragoness Dec 16 '18 at 9:23
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In medieval times people with mental illness were usually seen as touched by demons or worse. If they're meant to be the good guys you could have people say they were touched by an angel who was in such a rush he forgot half the blessing. If you wanted to make it a little funny.

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  • $\begingroup$ Citation for your claim? $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 14 '18 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't it common knowledge? $\endgroup$ – Joe Smith Dec 16 '18 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeSmith inaccurate common knowledge. $\endgroup$ – Tanzanite Dragoness Dec 18 '18 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ You seem never to have met an Asperger. They don't strike others as being mentally ill in any way, they just struggle hard to fit into society. They are not the people who are demonized, just the people who nobody is friends with. They are not the people who are actively disliked (unless they manage to anger someone severely with their bluntness), they are just the people whom nobody seems to love. Don't get me wrong, living as an Asperger is hard, but they are not the typical candidate to be labeled as evil. $\endgroup$ – cmaster Dec 24 '18 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't mean evil. I meant blessed in a weird way. $\endgroup$ – Joe Smith Dec 27 '18 at 3:42

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