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Is It Asperger Syndrome?

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Updated April 23, 2014


Diagnosis: Asperger Syndrome

Do you find yourself confused in social situations? Are you passionately interested in a single topic? Is it tough for you to make and maintain eye contact? Then you, like many talented and intelligent adults, may be diagnosable with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger Syndrome is different from other disorders on the autism spectrum, in part, because it is often diagnosed in older children and adults as opposed to very young children. That's because Asperger Syndrome is a relatively mild form of ASD which does not include problems with basic language skills. Many people with Asperger Syndrome are very bright and capable. The issues that emerge for people diagnosed with Aspergers are related specifically to social and communication skills -- skills that only become signficant as people get older and need to negotiate complex social situations.

The History of Asperger Syndrome

Hans Asperger was a Viennese child psychologist who worked with a group of boys all of whom had similar developmental differences. While they were all intelligent, and had normal language skills, they also had a set of autism-like symptoms. He came up with a description and diagnostic criteria for a syndrome, which he named for himself.

As a result of the second world war, Asperger’s work disappeared for a number of years. When it reappeared in the late 1980’s, it garnered a good deal of interest. Today, Asperger’s Syndrome is in the news virtually every day.

What Does It Mean to Have Asperger Syndrome?

What does it mean to have Asperger’s Syndrome? Clearly, since so many successful people seem to have the diagnosis (Dan Ackroyd, for one, announced his diagnosis on the air -- and rumor has it that Bill Gates may also have Asperger’s) it is not a disability in the classic sense. In fact, some historians suggest that Einstein, Mozart, and Alan Turing (the inventor of the first electronic computer) may all have been diagnosable with Asperger’s.

What people with Asperger’s Syndrome do have in common is a set of characteristics that may make social interaction particularly difficult. Many “aspies” (a term that teens and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes use to refer to themselves) have been bullied or teased as children. They may be awkward with the opposite sex. And they may have a tough time maneuvering through complex social cues at school, at work, or elsewhere.

The Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service(CLASS), an organization in the United Kingdom that works with adults with Asperger's has developed a simple ten question checklist to help with a preliminary self-diagnosis. If you answered “yes” to some or most of these questions, you may decide to find out more.

  • I find social situations confusing.

  • I find it hard to make small talk.

  • I did not enjoy imaginative story-writing at school.

  • I am good at picking up details and facts.

  • I find it hard to work out what other people are thinking and feeling.

  • I can focus on certain things for very long periods.

  • People often say I was rude even when this was not intended.

  • I have unusually strong, narrow interests.

  • I do certain things in an inflexible, repetitive way.

  • I have always had difficulty making friends.

If you do answer “yes” to many of these questions relative to yourself or a loved one, you may have uncovered an undiagnosed case of Asperger’s Syndrome. For some teens and adults, this is a tremendous relief: it puts a name on a set of issues that has troubled them throughout their lives. And it also opens the door to support, treatment, and community.

But there is no obligation to do anything at all about Asperger’s Syndrome. In fact, many adults feel that being an “aspie” is a point of pride. They are unique, often successful individuals who are simply … themselves!

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