Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Gifted Individuals with Asperger's: A Discourse Exploration of 'Being an Aspie'

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posted on 2021-11-09, 19:42 authored by Wong, Camellia

People labelled as both 'gifted' and as having Asperger's Syndrome are a social paradox. Asperger's is often associated with impairment and disability, and a dualistic 'opposite' of giftedness on a learning ability spectrum. This study explored life experiences of adults who self-identified as 'aspies' (a casual term used by people who are proud to have Asperger's as an identity) and who were also identified as being gifted in the widest sense. A literature review discovered few studies on the topic, and, of those found, most employed traditional medical explanations of the condition or 'syndrome'. This study adopted qualitative participatory methodology using interviews. Three men and one woman who identified as aspies participated in semi-structured interviews that were video recorded in order to better understand their communication strategies. A type of discourse analysis based on Foucault's use of discourse (Parker, 1992) was used to analyse their worldviews about Asperger's, giftedness and abilities. The analysis revealed an interplay of medical and other related discourses surrounding Asperger's as impairment, with a lesser emphasis on discourses of giftedness. Participants often felt marginalised due to stereotypes about 'incompetence' regarding people with Asperger's; a view seen as denigrating their talents. The main finding was that aspie identities were not always strong due to a conflicting need to 'fit in' and accommodate to 'normal' society. Their talents sometimes benefited their attempts at 'pretending to be normal'; however this depended on whether the skill was regarded by society as worthy. Decisions to be proud aspies and resist social norms, sometimes had consequences of isolation, confusion, being misunderstood or judged as disabled. Whilst participants preferred to be accepted as aspies with talented skills, they found this social positioning often contradictory. The thesis ends with a suggestion that future research could adopt more participatory focuses, to enable more insight into ways that people labelled as having Asperger's and with giftedness discursively describe their worlds and concepts of ability.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Education

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Studies


Claiborne, Lise