|What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome, named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterized by severe difficulties in social interaction, limited interests, and repetitive behavior patterns.
In 2013, Asperger Syndrome was removed as a separate category in the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). It is now diagnosed as part of a broader category called Autism Spectrum Disorders. 9th Planet uses both terms Aspergers and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in its teaching materials.
What does Asperger Syndrome look like?
- Limited nonverbal communication - not making eye contact, or using awkward body postures and gestures
- A preoccupation with one or two specific, narrow subjects
- Difficulty making friends
- Repetitive behaviors, such as hand flapping or facial tics
- Inflexibility dealing with change
Most children with Asperger are diagnosed during the elementary school years because the social symptoms become more obvious as they begin school. As the incidence of autism and autism awareness increases, many programs are being developed for younger children.
Adolescence is one of the most painful periods of life for young people with Asperger, because social interactions at that age are more complex and require more subtle social skills. And programs for older students and young adults are sorely lacking.
It is important to note that an Asperger diagnosis does not include intellectual disability or delayed language development. Aspies, by definition, have average to above-average intelligence.
Practice can help aspies learn how to interact more successfully in social situations. Aspies can, with training, learn the social rules that socially-minded neurotypicals absorb intuitively.
Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-famous animal scientist and the subject of a recent HBO biography, believes that her disorder is an asset. She once referred to NASA as a sheltered workshop for people with autism and Asperger Syndrome. She believes that people on the autism spectrum are the great innovators, and "if the world was left to you socialites, nothing would get done and we would still be in caves talking to each other."
Austism Spectrum Disorders in the U.S.
Approximately 1 in 88 U.S. children ages 3 17 are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) involving social skill deficits. Studies report the prevalence of ASD is increasing.
As these children become young adults, their ability to find a job and function as engaged citizens is severely limited. This is due to the disability, but also to gaps in effective instructional and support services for those with an ASD diagnosis.
"It seems that for success in science or art a dash of autism is essential."
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