What do Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, W.B Yeats, Charles Darwin, Michelangelo and the more recently known, Bill Gates have in common?
The brain behind many an inventive genius has always been a researcher's favorite. The prodigious talent that gave them a berth in the hall of fame has come under the scanner, in an effort to unravel the neural fundamentals of intellect. Is it the concentration of a particular type of cell or the presence of an 'intelligent' gene behind the mark of distinction? - Researchers are yet unable to put their finger on the exact 'DNA' of genius.
AdvertisementGoing a step further, recent research has also suggested that the genius of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, W.B Yeats, Charles Darwin, Michelangelo and Bill Gates may have its roots in a recently established medical condition called 'Aspergers Syndrome'. Perhaps it was their single minded focus on a subject to the point of obsession that stroked the fire to produce their magnum opus, otherwise unimaginable to the normal man! It is believed that Albert Einstein and more recently, Bill Gates gave up school to focus on their magnificent obsession.
So, was it a disorder that produced the unparalleled 'Theory of Relativity'? - Essentially, did the disorder cause the titillation of certain areas in the brain, igniting a different thought process? In a nutshell, is there a connection between developmental disorders and the making of a genius?
The distinguishing line is in the manner of processing, according to Professor Michael Fitzgerald, of Dublin's Trinity College. He offered an explanation about this 'maverick' trait, which might have led them to process the 'details' first and then move on to the 'global' picture, as opposed to the manner of normal processing.
What has emerged out of such explorations is also a clear understanding of the functioning of the brain, knowledge of developmental disorders, its signs and symptoms and its impact on victims' lives.
Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder that belongs to the group of 'pervasive developmental disorders'. It is considered to be a high-functioning form of Autism.
Apparent in the preschool years, children with Aspergers Syndrome are unable to maintain healthy social relationships. It is a neurological condition characterized by -
- Delay in the Development of motor skills
- Extreme difficulty in social interactions
- Abnormal fixation with routines
- Portraying a marked tendency to perform repetitive tasks
- Strange facial expressions, odd gestures
- Overriding clumsiness
On a lighter vein, the comic and fictional portrayal of Mr.Bean is thought to be an example of the extreme social clumsiness attributed to Asperger's syndrome.
In Black and White
Asperger's Syndrome had escaped attention till 1944, when Dr Hans Apserger, a pediatrician from Vienna found striking abnormalities in the behavior of four boys between the ages of 6-11.
Dr.Hans observed that these boys were unable to maintain healthy peer relationships. Though they portrayed normal language development and cognitive skills, yet they exhibited strange body language marked by odd gestures and expressions. Unable to comprehend the nuances of verbal and non verbal communication, they appeared comfortable in their own world of 'unusual' preoccupations. Dr. Apserger used the word 'autistic psychopathy' to describe such children.
Though, Asperger's Syndrome got its distinction as a separate medical condition in 1944, it was only in the middle of 90's that Aspergers Syndrome became an established clinical diagnosis.
Tell Tale Signs
Some of the distinguishing signs of Asperger's Syndrome that signal the need for intervention manifest as:
ē Abnormal non verbal communication
ē Improper eye contact, unusual expression and gestures
ē Repetitive behaviors and movements of the body
ē Lack of empathetic communication
ē Fallout with peers, withdrawn and depressed
ē Inflexible and dogmatic
ē Confused, clumsy and anxious
ē Increased sensitivity, medically called 'Sensory Integration Dysfunction'
ē Unusual interests about unique topics like train or weather, bordering on obsession.
Teenagers suffering this syndrome may show signs of depression. Equipped with above average intelligence, they begin to realize that something is oddly different about them. Unable to handle themselves in the absence of empathy and understanding, victims may plummet into a vortex of negativity, to a point of no return.
Though there is no single medicine to cure the condition, it might be heartening to know that with timely intervention, victims go on to lead productive lives. The clinching strategy to assist victims rests in training them with life skills, otherwise second nature to normal people.
The renowned Australian psychologist, Dr. Tony Attwood, who has more than two decades of experience and is a specialist on the condition, said, 'I have always been impressed by their patience and ingenuity in achieving abilities others acquire without a second thought.'
In his book, 'Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals', Dr Tony Atwood says, 'Parents and teachers often noticed the unusual behaviors of certain children, but had no idea why they behaved as they did.'
Elaborating on the difficulties of such children, Dr. Attwood says, 'Children with Asperger's Syndrome have the strong desire to have friends while recognizing their considerable difficulties with achieving and maintaining genuine friendships.' Many get ridiculed, excluded, teased or even bullied. Embarking on education programs to assist then has a valuable effect on these children can be used to assist them.
Dr Attwood believes that social skills training imparted by a therapist helps victims acquire the appropriate manner of communication. Teachers and parents can go the extra mile to alleviate stressful situations for the victims at school and at home by providing them the right environment. Aspergers afflicted children grow up being the butt of jokes and teasing and this can only exacerbate their condition, rather than help them find their ground.
To enable proper handling of such children, education of parents and teachers is a must. Use of communication aids and techniques by parents and teachers can make a world difference to the victims. Many of them turn out to be winning personalities with the right intervention.
The mainstay of treatment involves a combination of psychotherapy, social skills training, constant encouragement, and empathy. These are proven measures to help victims rise above their difficulties and realize the true purpose of their lives.
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