“It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential.” — Quote by Hans Asperge
Named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who diagnosed it in the 1940s, it is characterized by poor social skills, difficulty in non-verbal communication as well as exhibiting interests & activities which are repetitive, intense or singularly focused. In many cases, children have been misdiagnosed as its symptoms overlap with those of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Attention deficit syndrome. Some of the famous people we know who have Asperger’s syndrome include the American actor Anthony Hopkins, British singer Susan Boyle who was 1st runner-up in Britain’s Got Talent in 2008 and American astronaut Lisa Nowak.
David and Amri Nambiar of New York state are a successful working couple, he as a lawyer and she as a writer. They live in a plush apartment in Manhattan and dote over their son, Little Marty. As he grew, they realized something is amiss. He would keep indulging in repetitive behavior such as playing with his favorite teddy bear over and over again. If he was made to part with certain objects, he would have a meltdown. Initially, they felt it was a passing phase and that he was just throwing a tantrum. With time they realized, he just did not seem to be the average child. He has Asperger’s syndrome was the diagnosis of the specialist doctor
Unlike David and Amri Nambiar who were clueless, here are some characteristics of a person with Aspergers to help you diagnose someone early and get remedial help:
Response to the 5 senses – This manifests itself in the form of hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sensations. Examples include reacting to strong light, shying away from particular smells or even smelling certain objects repeatedly.
Emotional Outbursts – People afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome tend to have emotional outbursts as they are unable to deal with changes in their daily life pattern or cope with emotional situations.
Repetitive behavior - A characteristic of this syndrome is repetitive behavior. This includes doing something in the same way daily such as opening doors or playing with a toy etc. At times this leads to confusion between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and AS leading to delayed treatment and misdiagnosis.
Social awkwardness – People with AS find social communication challenging such as indulging in small talk etc. They find social interactions difficult. This should not be confused with being shy.
No eye contact – Avoiding eye contact with others when talking is a characteristic of AS.
Strong verbal skills - Adults with AS have been known to have very good verbal skills. This leads to enhanced vocabulary in some people.
Clumsiness – Motor coordination becomes difficult with age. Tasks like walking or tying shoelaces etc get affected and become a challenge.
Low Non-verbal skills – People with Asperger’s syndrome are not able to pick up on-verbal cues from others. This could be hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language
As you can see, the above-mentioned characteristics of a person with Asperger’s syndrome is broad-based. Hopefully, they will help someone you know make the diagnosis with a loved one and get the special care they deserve.