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kindred spirits

"most community fans assume abed has asperger’s syndrome. many of the signs are there: his inability to pick up on others’ feelings, his tendency to relate more to film and tv than to actual people, his obsessive analyzing and categorizing of events. from the beginning, [community creator and writer dan harmon] didn’t want to specify the character’s pathology, but out of curiosity he eventually started looking into asperger’s.

'so, in a very naive way—and i’ve never told anybody this before—i started researching the disorder,' harmon says. 'i started looking up these symptoms, just to know what they are. and the more i looked them up, the more familiar they started to seem. then i started taking these internet tests.' the tests came up positive.

when he began writing community, harmon thought the character he related to most was [jeff] winger, who had 'all the defense mechanisms that i acquired,' harmon says. but the more online tests for asperger’s he took, the more he began to wonder if he was just as similar to abed. it had never occurred to him before, he says, because he has always been so oversensitive.

eventually, harmon met with a doctor and came to understand that symptoms of the disorder lie on a spectrum, and that in fact there is a place on it for people with inappropriate emotional reactions and deep empathy. harmon now sees that he may fit somewhere on that spectrum, though figuring out exactly where could take years.

when he created a tv character who relates to the world through television, harmon didn’t realize that he was, in a sense, inserting himself into his show. ever since he recognized this, writing in abed’s voice has gotten much easier; all harmon has to do, he says, is “open up my memory.” and he has learned to understand himself a bit better, including why—like abed—he sometimes unintentionally hurts those around him.

at the end of [the episode] 'film studies', abed offers jeff an apology/explanation for the [my dinner with andre] stunt. he wasn’t trying to manipulate or fool him. instead, he’d picked a movie about two distant friends because it was the only way he could convey to jeff how he felt about their own friendship. abed, like the guy who created him, was simply trying to connect."


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
That's really interesting. Sometimes I wish I'd been born after they figured all this out, so that I might have been diagnosed and helped as a kid, instead of having teachers argue over whether I belonged in Gifted or belonged in the "Special Kids" room.
Oct. 11th, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
yeah, that would've been nice. in fact, i kinda wish i'd been born after they figured out a cure -- it doesn't get much easier.
Oct. 11th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
I really, really just want to believe that our brains are just wired differently! However, I know that having social deficits is very maladaptive in our current society.

I don't think there is a cure, but I think with massive and early intervention a little kid's brain can be taught to memorize what other people seem to be born with. Adults can still learn these behaviors if they're good at memorizing. It wasn't until I did really intensive speech and occupational therapy with my own son that I too started to recognize this "body language" that had totally passed me by all these years. I had to be taught once the therapists realized I was incapable of continuing the therapies at home and teaching my son since I had no clue what they were about. I felt really stupid, too, once I realized how I'd been behaving all these years. Watching home videos of me from ten years ago is like watching another person. I had little to none facial expressions and a really flat affect to my voice. At the time, though, I didn't think anything was wrong with me. I only knew that people didn't like to be around me and that guys thought I was weird after they got to know me, unless they were "weird", too.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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