Asperger's syndrome is considered a form of high-functioning autism. The outlook for children with Asperger's tends to be much more positive than with many other forms of autism. Because much of Hans Asperger's work was lost in WWII, this autism spectrum disorder did not become widely known until the 1980s when Lorna Wing, a British researcher, published a paper called Asperger's syndrome: a clinical account.
Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and Mozart are among some of the intellectual giants that have been suspected to have had Asperger’s Syndrome. Some people also believe that Bill Gates, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, Galileo, Pablo Picasso, Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Mead and Aristotle are also in the club.Dr. Asperger believed these "little professors" had problems understanding other people. They tended to be overly logical and rigid, sometimes moralistic in their viewpoints. They had trouble understanding metaphors. As Dr. Asperger and others after him continued to study the syndrome, they were able to pinpoint other traits AS children have in common. Some are clumsy and uncoordinated. They have trouble with self-care and tasks like tying their shoes or buttoning. Others have problems controlling their voices. They speak too loudly or in whispers; they have unusual inflections or monotones. They tend to have unusual and inappropriate facial expressions as well as inappropriate reactions to social situations.
Many AS children have trouble with sensory integration. They may overreact to loud noises or bright lights. They may be overwhelmed by the inside of a Wal-Mart with all the people, displays, lights and stimulation. They may cope with the stress by repeating certain behaviors to soothe themselves. Self-soothing may include elaborate rituals or "rules," such as wearing a certain item of clothing all the time, always sleeping with their lucky blanket or always eating from the same restaurant.
However, the trait that causes AS children the most difficulty in life is their inability to pick up on other people's social cues and to respond appropriately. Unlike traditionally autistic people, AS children often are very interested in other people and want to make and keep friends, however, they have to learn social interactions on an intellectual level instead of just picking them up naturally the way others do. For example, when a friend is wearing an ugly new shirt but seems very happy about it, most people will lie and say how nice the shirt looks. An AS child may believe that the friend wants an honest answer to: "How do you like my shirt?" This as you can imagine does not win any friends. For this reason, AS children may constantly want feedback from the people in their lives. They may ask things such as, "Did I say something rude?" because they really do not know if they did or not.
In 1994 Asperger’s Syndrome became part of the official "Bible" of American medicine, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is the big reference book doctors keep on their desks when they diagnose mental disease.In order to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a person must show two of these problems:
"Marked impairment" regarding nonverbal social cues (doesn't make eye contact, doesn't understand others' body language, etc);
Failure to make friends;
Lack of appropriate social and emotional responses to others; or
Inability to spontaneously share enjoyment, interests and achievements with other people.
In addition, the person must show one of these behaviors:
An abnormal and intense interest in one subject;
Adherence to a strict set of rules, routines and rituals;
Repetition of certain mannerisms like hand flapping, hair twisting or even whole body movements
An obsession in the parts or mechanics of objects.
Asperger’s Syndrome is considered one of five "Pervasive Developmental Disorders" within the spectrum of autism. It is a lifelong condition and occurs in boys four times as often as girls. Because AS children are not mentally retarded, doctors usually do not diagnose them until they are in the early elementary school grades.