Asperger syndrome

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File:Hans Asperger.jpg
Asperger described his patients as "little professors".

Asperger syndrome (sometimes called Asperger's syndrome, AS, or the more common shorthand Asperger's), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of high-functioning autism. In very broad terms, individuals with Asperger's have normal or above average intellectual capacity, and atypical or less well developed social skills, often with emotional/social development or integration happening later than usual as a result.

The term "Asperger's syndrome" was coined by Lorna Wing in a 1981 medical paper. She named the syndrome after Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist and pediatrician.



A 1993 total population study carried out in Sweden found that, at a minimum, 3.6 per 1000 school-aged children definitely meet the criteria for Asperger syndrome. If merely suspected cases are included, the prevalence becomes approximately 7.1 per 1000 (Ehlers & Gillberg). Data for the adult population are not available.

Like other conditions classified as autism spectrum disorders, Asperger syndrome appears to be more prevalent among males than females, with males making up approximately 75-80 percent of diagnoses. Many clinicians believe that this may not reflect the actual incidence among females; well-known Asperger syndrome expert Tony Attwood suggests that females learn to better compensate for their impairments because of differences in socialization (Attwood, pp 151-2). Some preliminary evidence for this is found in the Ehlers & Gillberg study, which found a 4:1 male to female ratio in the people they thought definitely had Asperger's but a much less lopsided 2.3 to 1 ratio when merely suspected or otherwise borderline cases were included.

The overwhelming majority of available information on Asperger syndrome relates to children; there is currently more conjecture than hard evidence on how it affects adults. It is thought that most people with Asperger syndrome learn to cope with their symptoms later in life. However, there is no "cure" as such, and many, including prominent clinicians such as Attwood and many of those diagnosed with Asperger's, would strenuously argue that a cure is neither possible nor desirable (see "A gift and a curse" and "Culture", below). Organizations such as Cure Autism Now disagree; this remains a highly controversial area.


The most common and important characteristics of Asperger syndrome can be divided into several broad categories: social impairments, narrow but intense interests, and speech and language peculiarities. Other features are commonly associated with this syndrome but not always held to be necessary for diagnosis. This section reflects mainly Attwood, Gillberg, and Wing's thinking on the most important characteristics of Asperger; the DSM-IV criteria (see below) represent a slightly different view.

Social impairments

Although there is no single feature that all people with Asperger syndrome share, difficulties with social behavior are nearly universal and are perhaps the most important criteria that define the condition. People with Asperger syndrome lack the natural ability to see the subtexts of social interaction and also lack the ability to broadcast their own emotional state.

Non-autistics are able to gather a whole host of information about other people's cognitive and emotional states based on clues gleaned from the environment and the other person's facial expression and body language, but people with Asperger syndrome have an impairment in this ability, sometimes called mind-blindness. To be mind-blind is to find it difficult or even impossible to figure out things a person implies but does not say directly (more colloquially, to "read between the lines"). This is not because they cannot imagine the answer but because they cannot choose between the possibilities; the mind-blind person cannot reliably gather enough information to do so or does not know how to interpret the information he or she does gather.

Along with this difficulty in reading the nonverbal communication of others, most people with Asperger's have difficulty expressing their own emotional state via body language, facial expression, and nuance as most people do. Such people have emotional responses as strong as, or perhaps stronger than, those of most people, although what generates an emotional response might not always be the same; the difficulty is in expressing these feelings, although it sometimes comes across as lacking them. For example, many people with Asperger syndrome have difficulty with eye contact. Some make very little eye contact because they find it overwhelming, whereas others have unmodulated, staring eye contact that can cause discomfort to other people. Similarly, the use of gestures may be almost nonexistent or may seem exaggerated and differ from what would normally be considered appropriate for a situation.

It is worth noting that because it is classified as a spectrum disorder, some people with Asperger syndrome are nearly normal in their ability to read and use facial expressions and other subtle forms of communication. However, this ability does not come naturally to most people with Asperger syndrome. Such people must learn social skills intellectually, delaying social development.

Narrow, intense interests

Asperger syndrome can involve an intense and obsessive level of focus on things of interest. For example, one person might be obsessed with 1950s professional wrestling, another with national anthems of African dictatorships, and another with building models out of matchsticks. Particularly common interests are means of transport (such as trains), computers, and dinosaurs. Note that all of these last items are normal interests in ordinary children; the difference in Asperger children is the unusual intensity of their interest.

Sometimes these interests are lifelong; in other cases, they change at unpredictable intervals. In either case, there are normally one or two at any given time. In pursuit of these interests, the person with Asperger's often manifests extremely sophisticated reason, an almost obsessive focus, and great memory for apparently trivial facts (occasionally even eidetic memory). Hans Asperger called his young patients "little professors" because he thought his thirteen-year-old patients had as comprehensive and nuanced an understanding of their field of interest as university professors.

Some clinicians would not entirely agree with this description; for example, Wing and Gillberg both argue that there is often more rote memorization than real understanding of these areas of interest, despite occasional appearances to the contrary. However, such a limitation is not required for diagnosis, even under Gillberg's criteria.

People with Asperger syndrome often have little patience for things outside these areas of interest. During the school years, many are perceived as highly intelligent underachievers or overachievers, clearly capable of outperforming their peers in their field of interest yet persistently unmotivated to do regular homework assignments (sometimes even in their areas of interest). Others, in contrast, may be hypermotivated to outperform peers in school. This adds to the difficulties of diagnosing the syndrome. In more serious cases, the combination of social problems and intense interests can lead to unusual behavior, such as greeting a stranger by launching into a lengthy monologue about a special interest rather than introducing oneself in the socially-accepted way. However, in many cases adults can outgrow this impatience and lack of motivation and develop more tolerance to new activities and meeting new people.

Speech and language peculiarities

People with Asperger syndrome often are noted for having a highly pedantic way of speaking, using language far more formal and structured than the situation normally would be thought to call for. A five-year-old child with this condition may regularly speak in language that could easily have come from a university textbook, especially on her or his special area of interest.

Literal interpretation is another common but not universal hallmark of this condition. Attwood gives the example of a girl with Asperger syndrome who answered the telephone one day and was asked "Is Paul there?". Although the Paul in question was in the house, he was not in the room with her, so after looking around to ascertain this, she simply said "no" and hung up. The person on the other end had to call back and explain to her that he meant for her to find him and get him to pick up the telephone (Attwood, 78).

Many people with Asperger syndrome also make idiosyncratic use of words, including new coinages and unusual juxtapositions. This can develop into a rare gift for humor (especially puns, wordplay, doggerel, satire) or writing. Another potential source of humor is the eventual realization that their literal interpretations can be used to amuse others. Some are so proficient with written language as to qualify as hyperlexic. Tony Attwood refers to a particular child's skill at inventing expressions, e.g. "tidying down" (the opposite of tidying up) or "broken" (when referring to a baby brother who cannot walk or talk) (Attwood, 82).

Other characteristics

Those affected by Asperger's may also manifest a range of other sensory, developmental, and physiological anomalies. It is common (but there are exceptions) for children with Asperger's to evidence a marked delay in the development of fine motor skills. Some may display a distinctive waddling or mincing gait when they walk and may walk with their arms held out in an unusual manner. Compulsive finger, hand, or arm movements, such as flapping, are also observed with some people with AS: however again, there are many exceptions.

In general, orderly things appeal to people with Asperger's. Some researchers mention the imposition of rigid routines (on self or others) as a criterion for diagnosing this condition. It appears that changes to their routines cause inordinate levels of anxiety for at least some people with this condition (Attwood 100).

Some people with Asperger's suffer from varying degrees of sensory overload and may be pathologically sensitive to loud noises or strong smells or dislike being touched; for example, certain children with Asperger's exhibit a strong dislike of having their head touched or their hair disturbed. Sensory overload may exacerbate problems faced by such children at school, where levels of noise in the classroom can become intolerable for them. Some are also unable to block out certain repetitive stimuli, such as the constant ticking of a clock. Whereas most children stop registering this sound after a short time and can hear it only if they consciously listen for it, the child with Asperger's can become distracted, agitated, or even (in rare cases) violent if the sound is not removed.

There seems to be a strong correlation between those with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism (HFA) and the INTP type of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): description 1, description 2. Another theory states that Asperger's correlates to the INTJ personality type, whereas high functioning autism correlates to the INFJ personality type.

Living with Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome usually leads to problems in social interaction with peers. These can be severe, especially in childhood and adolescence; children with Asperger syndrome often are the target of bullying at school because of their idiosyncratic behavior, language, and interests and because of their lower or delayed ability to perceive and respond in socially expected ways to nonverbal cues, particularly in interpersonal conflict. A child or teen with Asperger syndrome often is puzzled as to the source of this mistreatment, unaware of what has been done "wrong". The social alienation of children with Asperger syndrome can be so intense that they create imaginary friends for companionship (although this is certainly not specific to Asperger syndrome because non-autistics may do the same). Even later in life, many people with Asperger's report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them.

Children with Asperger syndrome often display advanced abilities for their age in language, reading, mathematics, spatial skills, and/or music, sometimes into the "gifted" range, but this may be counterbalanced by appreciable delays in other developmental areas. This combination of traits can create problems with teachers and other authority figures. (It may be relevant here that one of the social conventions many people with AS ignore is respect for authority. Attwood notes a tendency to feel that everyone should be treated much the same regardless of what social position they occupy; the student with AS may not give respect to an authority figure until he or she feels it has been earned, an attitude many teachers either do not understand or take strong exception to.) Like many other gifted children, a child with Asperger’s might be regarded by teachers as a "problem child" or a "poor performer." The child’s extremely low tolerance for what they perceive to be mundane and mediocre tasks (such as typical homework assignments) can easily become frustrating; the teacher may well consider the child arrogant, spiteful, and insubordinate. Meanwhile, the child sits mutely, feeling frustrated and wronged and often having no idea how to express these feelings.

However, Asperger syndrome does not guarantee a miserable life. The intense focus and tendency to work things out logically, a characteristic of Asperger syndrome, often grants people with the syndrome a high level of ability in their fields of interest. When these special interests coincide with a materially or socially useful task, the person with Asperger's often can lead a profitable life. The child obsessed with naval architecture may grow up to be an accomplished shipwright, for instance.

On the other hand, many people with Asperger syndrome may experience inordinate levels of distress at having their routines disrupted or being denied the opportunity to express their special interests. For example, a child with Asperger syndrome may be a gifted writer for her age and may be happiest when spending class time working on her stories. The teacher may insist that the student instead pay attention to the lesson or work on assigned homework assignments. A non-autistic child in such circumstances may be mildly upset but probably would go along with the teacher. For a child with Asperger syndrome, on the other hand, such an experience can be extremely traumatic and leave the teacher and the rest of the class wondering why the normally withdrawn child is suddenly angry or upset seemingly out of proportion to the situation. Dismissing the child’s concerns at such a juncture – perhaps by characterizing the concerns as immature or disrespectful – can be a serious blow to the child’s self-esteem, which is often fragile already.

Although many people with Asperger's are not considered socially successful by common standards – and there are many who remain alone their entire lives – it is certainly possible for them to find understanding people with whom they can have close relationships. Many autistics have children, in which case their children may or may not have an autism spectrum disorder. Also, many people with Asperger syndrome recognize that there is a problem and try to adapt to living among people without the syndrome, even if they are unaware of the term "Asperger syndrome" itself or believe it does not apply to them. It is possible with training and self-discipline for a child with Asperger's to end up as an adult who, though still having Asperger's, is able to interact well with others. However, because of their delayed social development, it is not unusual for people with Asperger's to feel most comfortable with people younger than they are.

Significant others and family members of people with Asperger's are often more prone to depression than the general population because people with Asperger's may not spontaneously show affection and can be very literal and hard to communicate with in an emotional way. However, not showing affection (or not doing so in conventional societally-acceptable ways) does not necessarily mean that he or she does not feel it. Understanding this can lead the significant other to feel less rejected and be more understanding. There are usually ways to work around the problems, such as being more explicit about one's needs. For instance, when describing emotions, it can be helpful to be direct and to avoid vague terms such as "upset" when the emotion being described is anger. It is often effective to lay out in clear language what the problem is and to ask the partner with Asperger's to describe what emotions are being felt or ask why a certain emotion was being felt. It is very helpful if the family member or significant other reads as much as he or she can about Asperger’s syndrome and any comorbid disorders. In a minority of situations the opposite problem occurs; the person with Asperger's is unusually affectionate to significant others and misses or misinterprets signals from the other partner, causing the partner to get annoyed and leave the person with Asperger syndrome feeling depressed and alone.

Definitions and diagnostic criteria

Asperger syndrome is defined in section 299.80 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    1. Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction.
    2. Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.
    3. A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people).
    4. A lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
  2. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
    1. Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal in either intensity or focus.
    2. Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.
    3. Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting or complex whole-body movements).
    4. Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age two years, communicative phrases used by age three years).
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills or adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
  6. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Please read the DSM cautionary statement. The diagnostic criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual are criticized for being vague and subjective; a condition that one psychologist might define as a significant impairment might be defined by another psychologist as merely insignificant.

In A Guide to Asperger Syndrome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), Christopher Gillberg also criticizes the "no significant delay" clauses of the DSM, and to a lesser extent some of the others, and argues that the clauses represent a misunderstanding or oversimplification of the syndrome. He states that although there may well be significant delay in some areas of language development, it is often combined with exceptionally high functioning in other language-related areas, and he argues that this combination superficially resembles but is in reality very different from normal development in language and adaptive behavior.

Partly because of Asperger syndrome's recent appearance in the DSM and partly because of differences of opinion such as Gillberg's, at least three other, slightly different sets of diagnostic criteria are used in the field besides the DSM-IV definition. One is due to Gillberg himself and his wife and is also endorsed by Attwood; among other differences, this definition emphasizes the linguistic peculiarities, which go unmentioned in the DSM-IV criteria. Another definition is due to a team of Canadian researchers and is often called the Szatmari definition, after the first listed author of the paper in which these criteria first appeared. Both of these definitions were first published in 1989. The third is the ICD-10 definition; this one is similar to the DSM-IV version, and Gillberg criticizes it in much the same manner as he does the DSM-IV version.

Gillberg's criteria are as follows (All six criteria must be met for confirmation of diagnosis; however, self-diagnosis is not recommended):

  1. Severe impairment in reciprocal social interaction (at least two of the following)
    1. inability to interact with peers
    2. lack of desire to interact with peers
    3. lack of appreciation of social cues
    4. socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior
  2. All-absorbing narrow interest (at least one of the following)
    1. exclusion of other activities
    2. repetitive adherence
    3. more rote than meaning
  3. Imposition of routines and interests(at least one of the following)
    1. on self, in aspects of life
    2. on others
  4. Speech and language problems(at least three of the following)
    1. delayed development
    2. superficially perfect expressive language
    3. formal, pedantic language
    4. odd prosody, peculiar voice characteristics
    5. impairment of comprehension including misinterpretations of literal/implied meanings
  5. Non-verbal communication problems(at least one of the following)
    1. limited use of gestures
    2. clumsy/gauche body language
    3. limited facial expression
    4. inappropriate expression
    5. peculiar, stiff gaze
  6. Motor clumsiness: poor performance on neurodevelopmental examination

For ICD-10, the phrase Asperger's syndrome is synonymous with Autistic psychopathy and Schizoid disorder of childhood.

Relationship to autism

File:Asperger kl2.jpg
Asperger syndrome is named after Hans Asperger.

Experts generally agree that there is no single mental condition called autism. Rather, there is a spectrum of autistic disorders, with different forms of autism taking different positions on this spectrum. But in certain circles of the autism community, this concept of a spectrum is being questioned. If differences in development are purely a function of differences in skill acquisition, then attempting to distinguish between degrees of severity may be dangerously misleading. A person may be subjected to unrealistic expectations, or even denied life-saving services, based solely on very superficial observations made by others in the community.

In the 1940s, Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, working independently in the United States and Austria, identified essentially the same population, although Asperger's group was perhaps more "socially functional" than Kanner's as a whole. Some of Kanner's originally identified autistic children might today get an Asperger syndrome diagnosis, and vice versa. It is a mistake to say that a "Kanner autistic" is a child who sits and rocks and does not communicate. Kanner's study subjects were all along the spectrum.

Traditionally, Kannerian autism is characterized by significant cognitive and communicative deficiencies, including delays in or lack of language. Often it is clear that these people do not function normally. On the other hand, a person with Asperger's will not show delays in language. It is a more subtle disorder, and affected people often appear only to be eccentric.

Researchers are grappling with the problem of how to divide the spectrum. There are many potential divisions, such as autistics who speak versus those who do not, autistics with seizures versus those without, autistics with more "stereotypical behaviors" versus those with fewer, and so forth. Some researchers are trying to identify genes associated with these traits as a way to make logical groupings. Eventually, one may hear autistics described as being with or without the HOXA 1 gene, with or without changes to chromosome 15, etc.

File:Kanner kl2.jpg
Leo Kanner identified another form of autism around the same time as Hans Asperger.

Some clinicians believe that communicative or cognitive deficiencies are so essential to the concept of autism that they prefer to consider Asperger's a separate condition from autism. This opinion is a minority one. Uta Frith (an early researcher of Kannerian autism) has written that people with Asperger's seem to have more than a touch of autism to them. Others, such as Lorna Wing and Tony Attwood, share in Frith's assessment. Dr. Sally Ozonoff, of the University of California at Davis's MIND institute, argues that there should be no dividing line between "high-functioning" autism and Asperger's, and that the fact that some people do not start to produce speech until a later age is no reason to divide the two groups because they are identical in the way they need to be treated.

Possible causes and origins

The causes and origins of Asperger syndrome are an area of debate and controversy. Current thought among most stipulates that the causes of Asperger syndrome are the same as those of autism. Some disagree, arguing that Asperger syndrome and autism are caused by different things. All of this happens while the broader debate over whether Asperger's and other conditions (such as ADHD) are part of the so-called autism spectrum continues.

Among many competing models proposed to explain autistic behavior (and thus, as many believe, Asperger syndrome) are the underconnectivity theory, developed by cognitive scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh; the extreme male brain theory, by Simon Baron-Cohen; the pre-operational autism theory; and the social construct theory.

Some theories argue more strongly for Asperger syndrome than autism. It is sometimes argued that some particular theories play a bigger role in Asperger syndrome, such as the social construct theory. However, this is a controversial area.

The etiology of Asperger's Syndrome is unknown. However, as with autism, it is known that it is highly heritable. Many researchers speculate that environmental triggers could be involved. Some suspect environmental factors play a more significant role in classic autism.

A gift and a curse

With the increase of Asperger syndrome diagnoses, its image continues to shift from that of a disease to a more complex view of a syndrome with both advantages and disadvantages because there are adults diagnosed with Asperger syndrome or autism who have become quite successful in their fields, possibly as a direct result of intellectual gifts and above-average focus and motivation associated with the syndrome. For example, some prominent Asperger-diagnosed people include Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith, comedian/actor Dan Aykroyd, BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen, industrial rocker Gary Numan, and Craig Nicholls, frontman of the band The Vines.

Speculation about recognized people who may have Asperger syndrome

Main articles: List of autistic people & People speculated to have been autistic
File:Albert Einstein 1947.jpg
It has been speculated that Albert Einstein had what is now considered Asperger syndrome.

Recently, some researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen and Ioan James have speculated that well-known figures of the past, such as Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, had Asperger syndrome because they showed some Asperger's-related tendencies or behaviors, such as intense interest in one subject, or social problems. A chapter of the aforementioned Gillberg book is devoted to this subject, including a detailed case study of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein concluding that he met the criteria for the disorder. However, such posthumous diagnoses remain controversial.

The arguments for alleged autism spectrum disorders in famous people vary from person to person. Some claim that Albert Einstein (one of the most frequently cited as allegedly autistic) was a late speaker, was a loner as a child, had violent temper tantrums, repeated under his breath sentences he uttered, and needed his wives to act as parents when he was an adult, factors that are stereotypical of autistic people. Isaac Newton stuttered and was epileptic. Many of these suspected historical Asperger cases might have been quite mild, but some skeptics believe these people may have had a few autistic traits but not enough for an autism spectrum diagnosis. Finally, many critics of historical diagnosis claim it is simply not possible to diagnose the dead, so nothing can be said definitively regarding the Asperger status of historical figures.

All this speculation may simply be an attempt to create role models for autistics and to demonstrate that autistics can do constructive things and contribute to society. Autistic rights activists often use such speculative diagnoses to argue that it would be a loss to society if autism were cured. However, others in the autistic rights movement dislike these arguments because they think autistics should be able to value their uniqueness without the desire for a cure, regardless of whether people such as Einstein were autistic.

Shift away from view as a disease

The speculated social contributions of autistic people have contributed to the shift in the perception of autism spectrum disorders as complex syndromes rather than diseases that must be cured. Proponents of this view reject the notion that there is an 'ideal' brain configuration and that any deviation from the norm must be considered pathological. They demand tolerance for what they call their neurodiversity in much the same way lesbian and gay people have demanded tolerance for theirs. Views such as these are the basis for the autistic rights and autistic pride movements.

A Wired magazine article called "The Geek Syndrome" suggested that Asperger syndrome is more common in the Silicon Valley, a haven for computer scientists and mathematicians. It created an enduring notion popularized in the media and self-help books that "Geek Syndrome" equals Asperger syndrome and precipitated a rash of self-diagnoses in part because it was printed alongside Simon Baron-Cohen's 50-question Autism Spectrum Quotient Test. Like some people with Asperger syndrome, geeks may exhibit an extreme professional or casual interest in computers, science, engineering, and related fields and may be introverted or prioritize work over other aspects of life. However, no determination has yet been made of whether the "Geek Syndrome" personality type has a direct relation to autism or is simply a "variant normal" type that is not part of the autistic spectrum.

In addition, there is a controversial theory regarding science fiction fandom arguing that many of the distinctive traits of that subculture may be explained by the conjecture that a significant portion thereof has Asperger syndrome. Dr. Tony Attwood once speculated, not entirely in jest, that "Star Trek conventions are secret reunions for people with Asperger's Syndrome." [1]. However, the argument can be made that classifying Star Trek fans as Aspies or vice versa may be challengable as cultural prejudice.

Regardless, societal acceptance of Asperger or Asperger-like traits is still rare, as many people in the autistic spectrum will confirm.

Criticisms and controversies

Asperger syndrome as a social construct

Some people, including some people diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, argue that Asperger syndrome is a social construct and that, as a category claimed to have a clearly defined neurobiological basis, Asperger syndrome may be analogous to a host of other psychiatric labels such as ADHD, criticized by psychiatrists such as Peter Breggin and Sami Timimi; obsessive compulsive disorder; and clinical depression, much promoted by the mental health and pharmaceutical industries.

All the behavioral traits associated with Asperger syndrome occur to varying degrees in the general population. People diagnosed with Asperger syndrome vary widely in terms of intellectual, professional, and social performance, range of interests, loquacity, conformity, and hypersensitivity. Those who support the social construct theory state that no scientific proof exists of a link between severe Kanner's type autism and the geeky and slightly quirky attributes of so many in our society, and suggest that many of the typically "Aspergian" characteristics are merely on the introverted or socially less-capable end of the normality spectrum.

The "extreme male brain" theory

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of the Autism Research Centre has written a book arguing that Asperger syndrome is an extreme version of the way in which men's brains differ from those of women. He says that, in general, men are better at systematizing than women, and that women are better at empathizing than men (Baron-Cohen, 2003). Hans Asperger himself is quoted as saying that his patients have "an extreme version of the male form of intelligence." The concept of male versus female intelligence is controversial, however, and although as of 2005 the notion of biodeterminism is fashionable among psychological and sociological researchers, it remains speculative.

Another objection to this view is that although Asperger syndrome is more common among males than females, females with Asperger syndrome do not necessarily come across as particularly masculine personalities, and some of them can show an exceptional interest in allegedly "feminine" or "right-brained" activities such as art or dancing. Yet again, what is perceived as a "masculine personality" may not be what Baron-Cohen meant by male intelligence, and art or dancing may be considered feminine only by certain social conventions. That some perceive art and dancing to be feminine pursuits clearly does not mean that a patient's interest in them must be motivated or directed by a nonsystematic (presumably "female" in Baron-Cohen's work) brain structure.


Main article: autistic culture

Many people with Asperger syndrome generally refer to themselves in casual conversation as the more affectionate "aspie" or "aspy." Others prefer "Aspergian," "Asperger's autistic," or no name at all. Many who think there is no significant difference between Asperger syndrome and autism because of the spectrum-analogous variances in autism may prefer the term autie or just autistic as a more general term.

To refer to themselves as a group, many people with Asperger syndrome use the term neurodivergent, which comes from the fact that professionals consider Asperger syndrome a neurological disorder. To refer to people who are non-autistic, many use the term neurotypical (NT). In addition, people who seek a cure for autism sometimes are pejoratively called "curebies."

See also

  • General
  • Groups
  • Lists
  • TV programmes and films which have dealt with AS

Further reading


External links

  • In the media
  • Organizations
  • Asperger's Community An online resource and community for those with Asperger's Syndrome.
  • ASPECT Australia - 'Autism Spectrum Australia, for people on the autism spectrum and their families'
  • ASPEN Asperger Syndrome Education Network - 'New Jersey non-profit organization that provides education, support, and advocacy for families and individuals for people with Asperger's syndrome'
  • Autism Society of America - 'ASA is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and the professionals with whom they interact (one of the oldest and well-known organizations)'
  • GRASP, The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, Inc. - 'GRASP, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, is the largest organization in the world of adults diagnosed along the autism spectrum with either Asperger Syndrome, Autism, or PDD'
  • National Autistic Society, UK - 'The National Autistic Society exists to champion the rights and interests of all people with autism and to ensure that they and their families receive quality services appropriate to their needs'
  • Informational
  • Humor
  • Schools
  • Franklin Academy - 'Connecticut boarding school for students in grades 8-12 geared specifically for students with Asperger's syndrome and non-verbal learning disabilities'
  • Hampshire Country School - 'New Hampshire boarding school for middle school students specializing in students with ADHD and Asperger's syndrome that believes in "close interaction between students and faculty living together in a well-preserved rural environment"'

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