Have you heard of Asperger’s Syndrome? Do you know what it is? A town? A restaurant? A clothing brand? Actually, it is none of the above; it is a social disorder. And believe it or not, it affects more people than you think, and I happen to be one of them. I’m also quite upset with the fact that almost no one knows about Asperger’s Syndrome.
Let’s start with the history behind Asperger’s Syndrome. Now, I bet one of you is wondering “Why is it named Asperger’s Syndrome?” Well, the answer is quite simple. Asperger’s Syndrome is named after the man who first noticed it in children, Austrian Doctor Hans Asperger. It all started about 60 years ago. According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Dr. Hans Asperger’s noticed similar symptoms among four children in 1944. These symptoms included limited interests, uncoordinated motor movements, and an overly formal way of talking. At first, Hans didn’t call it by its current name, Asperger’s Syndrome. Instead, he referred to it as “autistic psychopathy.” Hans wrote down his observations, but his findings were published later on in 1981 by another doctor. After this, AS became widely known, and was given its current name.
Now, before I tell you the effects of AS, it is important to know that you can’t get it from others. It’s not an illness. It is a type of autism.
The question that is now on most of your minds is, “How do you get Asperger’s Syndrome?” There is no clear answer. It is present since the day you are born. Asperger’s Syndrome is only found in 2 out of every 10,000 people. Scaled down, that’s 1 in every 5000 people. Not only is AS uncommon, but it is also not well known For instance, when I asked 27 kids around my age in my class in Middle School 172, the ratio of people who said yes to people who said no was one to two. Most people in the United States who have heard of AS are psychiatrists, psychologists, people who have AS, and people who know someone with AS. Unfortunately, AS can’t be cured, since it is psychological. AS is a part of something much bigger, the autistic spectrum.
It’s time to talk about the effects of AS. First and foremost, one reason AS kids have trouble socializing is because people who have AS are known to have strong, limited interests that are hard to let go of. This also means that flexibility, or going along with others, can be difficult, which results in group games becoming stressful and confusing. When AS people speak, they can end up speaking in an overly formal way, or in monotone. People with AS tend to take phrases, jokes, and metaphors literally. So phrases like “a Catch-22” situation”, “it isn’t over till the fat lady sings”, or “grasshopper mind” might not make sense. When we play games with others, we can be a bit bossy, because we have difficulty cooperating and taking turns. One thing you will also find among AS people is sensitivity to certain sights, sounds, and smells. Since we don’t know how to communicate non-verbally, we have limited gesture use and problems with communicating without talking. Finally, people with AS are more likely to succeed in the areas of science and technology than sports or fitness. The reason is because, when it comes to AS, something affects your body and results in uncoordinated motor movements, such as writing, walking, or dancing. However, among all the negative effects, there is but one positive effect, superior intelligence, thus resulting in it being easier to process some things, like facts and figures. But this comes at a price; it is more difficult to process emotions and tell the difference between friendliness and teasing.
Despite being related, AS and autism are different in a few ways. For starters, Autism is much more severe compared to AS. Another not so obvious difference is the number of people with the disorders. As you know, AS affects 2 in every 10,000 while Autism affects 2 out of every 1,000. Since AS is milder than Autism, people with AS are more likely to develop speech, while people with Autism aren’t as lucky, and may never develop such skills. These factors can sometimes help differentiate AS people from Autistic people.
AS affects more people than you think, even famous people,\ like comedian Dan Aykroyd and Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon. When it comes to math and science, we have mathematician Richard Borcherds and ethologist Dawn Prince-Hughes. As for other categories, we have Nobel Prize winner Vernon Smith and singer Gary Numan.