Does Spock have Aspergers?

It dawned on me over the weekend. I’d let Father’s Day slip by without publishing anything here about autism and fatherhood. Shame on me!

One father I rely on for insight on this topic is Matthew Baldwin. Baldwin runs the blog Defective Yeti. The blog features posts on politics, writing, movies and the like. After Baldwin’s son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Defective Yeti started publishing posts about autism, too. I’ve referred to Defective Yeti in an Easter Seals autism blog post before, and when I started searching on Sunday for something father-related, I was confident Baldwin had written something interesting I could link to belatedly about his relationship with his son. Sure enough, Matthew Baldwin does not disappoint. In a Defective Yeti post about a month ago, Baldwin links readers to an op-ed piece he wrote for The Morning News last month about the new Star Trek movie.

As I watched this film last Saturday and Mr. Spock walked onto the bridge with his stiff demeanor and his formal language, my initial reaction was: “Oh man, that guy is so Asperger’s.”

Baldwin goes on to point out that Spock’s difference from the rest of the crew is central to his character. The difference is largely mental, Baldwin says, and that’s part of the cachet.

He is a man of two worlds, and cherishes the dual nature of his heritage. Unlike Data (the android in Star Trek: The Next Generation who was forever pining to “be more human”), Spock is perfectly comfortable with who he is — not a bad message to send to kids whose neurological state is classified as a “disorder.”

Baldwin describes the way Spock views and analyzes the world in a different way than the rest of the crew. Though Spock’s insight helps the crew face challenges, he is criticized for being impassive and labeled an “unfeeling automaton.”

So too have those with ASD been habitually misunderstood, their reluctance to socialize mistaken for aloofness, their difficulty making eye contact interpreted as signs of deviousness. Emotions run deep in half-Vulcans and persons with autism alike, even if they are not always apparent to the untrained eye.

At the end of his op-ed piece, Baldwin acknowledges that some people with autism might not appreciate being compared to movie aliens. Still, Baldwin says, Spock gives him hope for his son’s future.

All I can say is that, as the father of an autistic son and a lifelong member of the Trek-curious club, the new film filled me with hope. Watching Kirk and Spock — two men with vastly different worldviews — form a friendship based on mutual trust and admiration, I found myself thinking, “that’s the future I want my child to grow up in.

Hope you dads out there had a happy Father’s Day last Sunday, and that you enjoy many, many more in the future. Live long and prosper.


 

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  1. abarr Says:

    I am grateful for this post. I have a toy store in Austin, Texas that sells toys to special needs children. We hear of and see many children with autism on a daily basis, but it is the adults with autism that have given me hope and inspiration. With understanding and therapy, many kids with autism can grow up to be quite amazing adults who not only hold down jobs, but also live independently from their families.


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