Asperger’s syndrome is categorized as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Kids with Asperger’s (for short) often have difficulties socially engaging with others and correctly reading non-verbal environmental cues. Some with Asperger’s report unique hobbies or patterns of behavior, such as being interested in an esoteric musical genres or remote galaxies in the universe. If you’re interested in how those born with this condition experience life, read on for some insight into their perception of the world.
Asperger Syndrome: Really Autism?
Neuroscientists have confirmed with brain scans that kids with Asperger’s retain many cognitive and linguistic abilities that kids with traditional autism do not. At times, however, odd prosody or an idiosyncratic use of language can accompany the condition. A less reported finding is that those with Asperger’s will often display physical clumsiness, restricted empathy and difficulty sustaining eye contact.
Roots of Asperger syndrome
Asperger’s was “discovered” by an Austrian pediatrician in the 1940s. Hans Asperger, after whom the condition is named, noted that some children displayed consistent difficulties with deciphering non-verbal cues, like hand gestures or lack of interest in the audience. Hans Asperger also noted that children with this condition were more physically maladroit on the playground and showed an inability to empathize with other children and their problems. That said, Asperger’s Syndrome took another forty years to take hold in the public consciousness and did not become canonized in the DSM until the early 1990s.
The exact causes of Asperger’s syndrome are currently unknown. Results from extensive brain imaging reveal no single commonality across all sufferers of the condition. That said, Asperger’s is treated by most psychologists as a pervasive developmental disorder. By doing so, psychologists can study and assess a constellation of symptoms and developmental abnormalities in lieu of pinpointing one all-encompassing etiological factor.
For instance, a psychologist would look for poor eye contact, an especially straight posture, problems with emotional reciprocity and out-of-place facial expressions instead of one behavioral giveaway. The “social awkwardness” of those diagnosed has been deemed “active but odd” by many psychologists. This denotes the fact that kids with Asperger syndrome very often want to fit in and feel included, but remain unsure of how to accomplish smooth social interaction. Kids often display trouble modulating the pitch and tone of their speech, and some even display echolalia, or the repetition of another’s speech.
The prevailing theory explicating Asperger’s among social psychologists is theory of mind (TOM). Theory of mind postulates, in part, that Asperger syndrome sufferers have trouble ascribing mental states to other people. In many respects, theory of mind is the lynchpin that explains an Asperger’s syndrome sufferers’ social difficulties.
Through further understanding the treatment options and mechanisms of this relatively newfound syndrome, psychologists can help kids with Asperger syndrome lead more fulfilling lives. That said, many with Asperger’s don’t feel any “different” from those without the condition, and many of the most intelligent and successful individuals in history likely would have been diagnosed with it. It’s not uncommon to hear someone find out their child or friend has this condition, yet they just assumed this person was “awkward.” So while they may have distinct experiences due to the condition, the way they perceive the world isn’t exactly “different” from how you or I do so.
From Josh Anderson…