2nd National Conference on
May 30 & 31, 2003
Click here for details
What is Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome (AS) is part of a continuum of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). People with AS seem to be unaware of the unwritten rules of social interaction, such as body language and facial expressions, making it difficult to make and/or keep friends. They expect you to know their thoughts and experiences but have great difficulty reading or understanding your feelings. They interpret things very literally and follow "rules" rigidly. Sudden changes in routine or expectations can cause them great distress. They appear uninterested in what you have to say but will go on endlessly, like little professors, talking about their favourite topic. They may also have unusual sensitivity to loud noises, crowds, tastes, smells and clothing such as labels, or sock seams. Individuals with AS may read well but not comprehend as much (unless its their area of interest). They often struggle with writing and other cognitive skills.
Current estimates suggest that 1 in 150 of the population may have AS. That's an estimate 150,000 to 200,000 Canadians.
The latest studies (2001) from the National Autistic Society in the UK suggests individuals with ASD with an IQ over 70 (a hallmark of AS) make up 71 per 10,000 or .7% of the population. Time Magazine notes in its May 6, 2002 issue cover story, ASD is five times as common as Down syndrome and three times as common as juvenile diabetes
Why Haven't I Heard of Asperger Syndrome
Although first identified by Dr. Hans Asperger in Austria in 1944, the work of Asperger was only translated into English in 1991 and did not make its way into the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Statistical Manual until 1994. For decades, individuals with AS went un - or misdiagnosed with any number of related or entirely unrelated disorders. With the recent recognition there has been an astronomical increase in the number of identified individuals with AS in North America. This manifold increase does not seem to lie strictly in better diagnostics. Debate about the causes of autism and AS and their dramatic increase worldwide all point to the desperate need for more and wider research.
Individuals with AS are often identified as eccentric, quirky or weird. Although usually interested in making friends, they have very little idea how to go about establishing or maintaining friendships. They are often aware of their differences but are unable or uncertain as to how to address them. Consequently, such individuals suffer isolation, resulting in depression, frustration and despair.
At the same time, most individuals with AS have incredible rote memories and may have obsessive interests or tremendous creativity that may lead to great achievements if encouraged and given the opportunity to flourish like Albert Einstein, Glenn Gould and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, all of whom are believed to have had AS.
For Further Information
Check out the Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support website at www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/
or Tony Attwood's website at
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