Argumentation, Autism, and the Serenity Prayer

According to several dictionaries argumentation is the study of effective reasoning manifested by how a person presents justifications for or against something being discussed. During discussion we make statements that assert our beliefs. This type of verbal negotiation or communication occurs all of the time. For neurotypical individuals argumentation is a natural activity, done reflexively.

Although communication deficits are a defining symptom of autism, many autistic individuals have no problems pronouncing words or following a conversation. For these individuals communication deficits are primarily evident in a social setting wherein connotation and value judgment may be missed and body language or vocal tones may be misunderstood. It is therefore unsurprising to find multiple references in the internet to argumentation deficits in autistic individuals. On one blog site it is claimed that being argumentative is a sign that a person could have Asperger ( ). One of the supporting clauses to that blog, as to why this may be the case, bears further discussion:

“The irony I find is that many arguments I have found myself in, have come about by myself not being able to communicate effectively in the first place, and subsequently being misunderstood. I cannot tell you the number of times I have agreed with the other person, but I have over-complicated the conversation, and they end up thinking I was disagreeing with them” (taken from ). Feeling misunderstood, the person may prolong a discussion by repeating over and over the points he/she was trying to make.

Let’s analyze the paragraph: The basic idea makes reference to arguments in a discussion. The setting whether informal, among friends, or of a professional nature, is not disclosed. There was a disagreement that mattered, the same was nontrivial and although some type of resolution was desired, no assent was obtained from the other party. We have no idea how the disagreement began nor of the arguments or facts used to verify any of the assertions.

In this instance the conclusion that people thought he/she was disagreeing with them does not readily derives from the premises; rather, this is his/her perceived outcome. It is a testimonial based on his/her opinion. What is clear is that in the blogger’s case, argumentation was fraught with misunderstandings. These misunderstanding could be due to any of multiple reasons. There may have been dubious arguments, or alternatively,those that were made failed to negate those made by the other person. In addition, maybe the justifications to the propositions were uncertain or maybe nonverbal clues created implicit assumptions not understood by our blogger.

The outcome to an argument is not always certain. However, rather than accepting the probability of an uncertain outcome our autistic blogger accepts certainty. There is no attempt to justify the argument but rather to justify the preconceived notions about himself or herself. In doing so, several feelings are conveyed in the short paragraph. One preconceived notion was the perceived lack of argumentation skills. The other preconceived notion was the rather depressing thought that they were second best, again. He/she never walked away from the argument as multiple concerns provided for enduring ruminations that permeated his/her life and needed to be expressed in blog form. The autistic individual did not believe that there was the possibility of reconciling views. The bottom line, or inferred message, was that he/she was “guilty” of conveying an incorrect idea or conclusion to an argument.

Arguments arise because there are differences of opinion. Our blogger may have been correct but the to and fro motion of the discourse, the exchange of information or dialectic, may have been the problem. In this exchange, the ASD individual sees himself/herself as lying at an extreme, probably outside of the norm. Another possibility is that the outcome of the argument probably reflects the self-punitive nature of the involved individual or a mood disorder. I would be primarily concerned about a low grade chronic depression (dysthimia for those interested) that, in effect, is often reflected as personality traits.

I would have reminded the blogger that usually in order to arrive at a fruitful resolution the argument needs to have been a cooperative enterprise, not an adversarial one (note: this does not always happen, ask marriage counselors!). Much to his/her credit our blogger seems to have had the modesty and restrain in knowing that they could be wrong and implicitly asking for courage to change things that can be made better.

The Serenity Prayer

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time.


2 Respuestas a “Argumentation, Autism, and the Serenity Prayer

  1. That would have certainly been a spin on the blog. However, I received several referrals that made me think of a personality trait. You can probably visit back to a discussion that I had when I wrote a blog about Andrew Wakefield. Otherwise most of the comments having to do with case histories come from spouses married to high functioning autistics/Aspergers. I wish they would comment here instead of Facebook. Hope everything is going well for you.

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