It is clear that people with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) or any other disorder on the autism spectrum, do not lack emotions. However, the concrete nature of attachments they might have (i.e. to objects rather than to people) often seems curious, or even can be cause of concern, to people who do not share their perspective ("Neurotypicals" or NTs).
Marty, a subscriber to AUTINET FORUM (July 1999), herself with Asperger's Syndrome, explains this very clearly in terms of what a psychologist might call an inability to empathise (or be aware of another's feelings) or, in a more concrete sense, a "lack of appreciation of social cues" as Gillberg says.
When I asked Marty for permission to publish this on the Web, she added that 'It is as if that social ESP that you NT people seem to have is just "shut off" in AS people'.
Her description also, I believe, explains why diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome (or High Functioning autism) is actually helpful for the individual.
Over to Marty ...
I have a theory about why people with Asperger's Syndrome obsess over objects, packrat, talks to inanimate objects (yes, I still do all that at 42 years old).
I think it is for me that I have such a hard time understanding the emotions of others. I totally miss out on the social cues of others, and the best I can do to understand why people are doing things is to guess. It is almost as if I were speaking to a mannequin, for all the emotional feedback I seem to pick up from others. I think that is why I like inanimate objects, is that I get just as much out of them (at times) as I do out of other people.
Now that I know I am this way, my life is going to be very different, I think. Before when I spoke to someone and did not quite understand what they meant, or why they said something, I would brush it off, thinking that no one must understand what that person said. Or if I did think others understood and I did not, I was too embarassed to admit it. I would do anything to avoid appearing dumb. Well, I have now told all the people I have "come out" to, to expect some stupid questions. If I do not understand why a person says something, I will now ask a family member or friend what they meant.
In many ways, I now feel like a child starting over learning how to live. This is now like a new life to me. I am slowly learning how to drop my facade and learn to live like the person I really am.
I am sorry I have no suggestions for those of you with AS kids who do this, but I do want you to know that even some AS adults do things like that, and it is "normal" for us.
A native of the planet Asperger.
Like all Web pages, it should be dynamic - your ideas and suggestions are most welcome.