The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music notes: Mozart had Asperger’s, says expert, Beethoven maybe

December 29, 2009
25 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I just received an interesting answer to questions about music and Asperger’s Syndrome that I dealt with in my review of music critic Tim Page’s memoir “Parallel Play: Growing Up With Undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.”

My original post was on Nov. 17 and the comments included one from Tim Page himself (right).

Here is another response that, because of its length and detail and later date, deserves a posting of its own.

Let me know what you think:

Hey Jake,

I believe I can answer a lot of your questions regarding genius and Asperger’s Syndrome.

I am a 51-year-old psychologist who was diagnosed with A.S. when I was 46, and I have come to make it my “special interest.” I conduct two Adult with Asperger’s groups in Minnesota. I have a blog in the Autism hangout website and I am an expert in the “ask the expert” (on the subject of Autism).

I think if one is high functioning with their Asperger’s, they will likely avoid being diagnosed as a child and go into adulthood, as I and countless Aspies have. One doesn’t just receive a diagnosis of A.S.; it is a discovery. Because to be successful with the diagnosis, one has to incorporate the characteristics of A.S. into their identity. However, we all know that we are “different” from early in our life.

There is no doubt that creativity plays a major role in our lives, as we don’t just think outside the box — we live outside the box. Therefore we are always thinking about novel ways to do things that neurotypical people have established as standard procedure.

There isn’t any medication for the diagnosis nor is there a direct treatment not cure for A.S. But the so-called co-morbid diagnosis like anxiety, depression and obsession is likely treated with medication. We have executive functioning issues so we, like ADHD individuals, have difficulty staying on task and focused.

I focus on Theory of Mind and discovering the significance of A.S. to one’s identity as goals in therapy.

The blogs that I write are designed to help the general public understand how it affects a person on a daily basis and forms the unique and creative characteristics that we have. One thing I cannot tolerate is for us on the Autism spectrum to be considered a mystery or symbolized as a missing puzzle-piece.

We are not some mysterious, enigmatic creatures; we are human beings who are as appreciated as much as one wishes to appreciate us. The problem usually comes when people try to change us into behaving like a neurotypical person. We are differently-abled, not disabled.

My upcoming book is titled “USER MANUAL” and is a book of journal inscriptions to help people know how to effectively interact with us. It is due for publication in mid-2010.

Lastly, I cannot say much about Beethoven’s possibility as being on the ASD, as I have only begun to study his life and mannerisms.

But I can say with much confidence that Mozart was one of us, from everything that has been said about him and how he was portrayed in the movie “Amadeus,” in particular his manner of composing. To use a billiard ball as a timing devise to compose the notes is such a example of eccentric repetition that it is hard to imagine a NT person would do that.

Oh yeah, one more thing. An Aspie usually likes to write — so many of the ones I know love to write — but it is very difficult for us to structure our own work well. There is a tremendous need for a trusted editor who might have an insight to what creative vein we might be taking.

I enjoyed your review and keep up the good work. Feel free to read my work and correspond with me.

Paul Johnson


Posted in Classical music

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