Clay Marzo and Asperger’s Syndrome

Clay Marzo is an elite, X Games gold medal winning surfer. Clay Marzo spends more time involved with objects and physical systems than with people. Clay Marzo communicates less than other people do. Clay Marzo tends to follow his own desires and beliefs rather than paying attention to, or being easily influenced by, others’ desires and beliefs. Clay Marzo shows relatively little interest in what the social group is doing, or being a part of it. Clay Marzo has strong, persistent interests. Clay Marzo is very accurate at perceiving the details of information. Clay Marzo notices and recalls things other people may not. Clay Marzo’s view of what is relevant and important in a situation may not coincide with others. Clay Marzo is fascinated by patterned material, be it visual, numeric, alphanumeric, or lists. Clay Marzo is fascinated by systems, be they simple, a little more complex, or abstract. Clay Marzo has a strong drive to collect categories of objects, or categories of information. Clay Marzo has a strong preference for experiences that are controllable rather than unpredictable.

Along with being I-want-to-punch-you-in-the-face-good-looking, Clay Marzo also has Aspeberger’s.

What you just read is Simon Boren-Cohen’s non-judgmental description of someone who has Aspebreger’s syndrome. Cohen argues that maybe Asperger’s shouldn’t even be considered a disability or a syndrome that it is actually just a normal continuation of the human personality. That only when you view life from a social perspective does Asperger’s appear to be a problem. As his non-judgmental description illustrates.

From an ESPN magazine article:

The condition allows Marzo to laser-focus on a single activity, turning his greatest challenge into his greatest asset. Most people get bored after an hour or two of the same activity. Not Marzo. When he surfs, he goes into a zone, focused and lost at the same time. He calls an eight-hour surf session, with no breaks for food or water, “the perfect day.” He’ll then spend eight more hours watching video of his session, replaying each wave, over and over.

If there was a drug (let’s call it a “Peyton”) to make any professional athlete be like that; they would take it.

So, why is Aspeger’s a disorder? People with Asperger’s have no irregular neurobiology development. Because people with Asperger’s are different. We have created rules for a social world and people with Asperger’s have difficult fitting into the rules of the social world that we created. But is that fair? As Simon Boren-Cohen explains:

I do not spend much, if any, time thinking about mathematics problems, but I spend quite a lot of time thinking about people. In contrast, the person in the next door office spends a lot of time thinking about mathematics problems, and hardly any thinking about people.  Yet I do not describe myself as having a disability in mathematics. I would instead say that I simply prefer to spend time thinking about people: they are more interesting to me. To call what  a person does little of a disability could be seen as unreasonable.

Very recently there was a “mental disorder” that is now viewed as “normal”. And we’ll talk about that later this week.

Here is the ESPN Magazine article about Clay.

Here is  a .pdf to “Is Asperger’s Syndrome necessarily a Disorder?” by Simon Boren-Cohen.

Here is a self-assessment test for Asperger’s


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