Making Headway With Aspergerís Syndrome

by Savitha C Muppala on  February 7, 2008 at 2:52 PM Health In Focus
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What do Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, W.B Yeats, Charles Darwin, Michelangelo and the more recently known, Bill Gates have in common?
Making Headway With Aspergerís Syndrome
Making Headway With Aspergerís Syndrome

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.

Going 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.

Striking Discord

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
According to statistics, the rate of occurrence is about one in 300 births, making it more common than Autism. Unlike Autism, victims of Aspergers syndrome do not show any deficiency in the development of language and cognition. In certain cases, victims also suffer other mental health conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Depression, and Learning Disability.

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.

Helping Hand

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.

Source: Medindia

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Great article, what will it take for people on the spectrum to get the help and support they need.
I continually hear of people trying to be someone they are not just to fit into the world, children being told to act and be what they are not to please others.
It really is about time we stop trying to get our children to conform and let
them be who they are, stop trying to change them and educate society
that there is in fact a whole group of people who are just different..
A lot of my problems are from others excepting me to be what I am not, as a child you are continually told you are wrong, as an adult we learn to adapt to fit in, but does not bring happiness. Its hard having to act and be what your not half the time. When I was a child I really did not understand my mother, would go to visit and she would hid away. But now I have been diagnosed I understand and often wish I was stronger to able to not see people if I want to be alone, not feel I have to comply all the time.
But since being diagnosed and deciding to try as much as possible to be me, I am much happier as have now realized that in fact our symptoms are apart of who we are, not some unfortunate illness we suffer. We are unique individuals which the so-called 'normal' world underestimate and even despise, but often do not try to understand. We have been made to believe in a stereotype of 'normality' for our children, and to panic, fear and react when our offspring don't achieve. Far to often its the associated conditions we need help with, but the NT's continue to blame our Autism Spectrum Disorders for everything!

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