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Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism, a neurological difference that can be debilitating or simply make someone "quirky". Asperger's can affect individuals to varying degrees, though it always has an impact on a person's social life, communication style, thinking and behavior.
With the increasing societal awareness of autism spectrum disorders, larger numbers of people hear about Asperger's. Coming across a list of symptoms might trigger some to wonder if they could have it.
In short, are you just a little weird, or could you have Asperger's Syndrome?
What Is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome was first described by the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who obviously gave the syndrome its name. Asperger observed a small group of children who had trouble with social integration in 1944. These children seemed to be of normal intelligence, but had difficulty fitting in with their peers, were physically awkward, and lacked non-verbal communication skills. Asperger noted that these children either had disjointed or overly formal speaking styles, and that they had a strong interest in a particular topic — which dominated their conversations.
Asperger gave what he observed the awkward and definitely not politically correct term "autistic psychopathy". That name was replaced by the more forgiving "Asperger's Syndrome" in 1981 by an English doctor who published a series of case studies involving children with similar symptoms.
It was included in the World Health Organization's diagnostic manual, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), in 1992. Autism is a spectrum, and scientific studies have not been able to specifically differentiate Asperger's from high-functioning autism. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) therefore chooses to represent the different forms of autism under a single category, that of "autism spectrum disorders".
Asperger's is a neurological difference that impacts many areas of a person's life. At SteadyHealth, we don't want to discriminate against anyone for being different — and that is why I'm going to avoid negative language such as "disability", "disorder" and "syndrome". Many people diagnosed with Asperger's feel strongly about the use of positive language that indicates a difference without declaring them broken. Despite this, there is no doubt that Asperger's can make fitting in with the rest of society terribly difficult for some.
How many people have Asperger's? That's not actually quite clear at present. Studies show that as many as one in 88 eight-year old children have it, but no research has been done to establish the prevalence of Asperger's in adults. There is no treatment for Asperger's itself, but children who have it can often benefit from social skills therapies, speech therapy, physical therapy, behavior modification and other therapies. If you're an adult aspie, some therapy may also help you. Just the realization that "this is what you have" can be therapeutic, though!