Living with Asperger's Syndrome
Albert Einstein, Bela Bartok, Alan Turing, Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson and I. Is this a list of Geniuses? People who have changed history?
Or are these people who display the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome? Dr. Tony Attwood, the world-renowned Australian psychologist who is an expert on Asperger's Syndrome, cited them as examples of people with Asperger's during a Conference held at the Palisades Center in Rockland, New York, in October of 1999. Dr. Attwood is a practicing clinical psychologist at MacGregor Specialist Center in Australia, with twenty-five years of experience in the field of Asperger's Syndrome.
I had the opportunity to join over 200 other participants at the day-long Asperger's Conference. Participants came from as far away as Africa to assist with organizational tasks and to listen to Dr. Attwood's presentation, as well as his answers to questions from the audience. Dr. ...view middle of the document...
For nearly fifty years, Dr. Asperger's work was largely ignored. Until the 1990s, "Parents and teachers often noticed the unusual behaviors of certain children, but had no idea why they behaved as they did," writes Dr. Attwood in his book Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals.
What is Asperger's Syndrome? Asperger's is a developmental disorder that is a high-functioning form of autism. Dr. Attwood's patients and others with Asperger's often express above-average intelligence. Children have problems in social interaction with their peers, and frequently have obsessions with one topic - clocks, bus routes, maps, state capitals - or engage in repetitive behaviors. Often these obsessions interfere with normal functioning. Both Albert Einstein and Bill Gates dropped out of school to devote full time to their obsessions. Asperger's Syndrome occurs more frequently than classic autism: one in 300 births compared to one in one thousand. Some youngsters with Asperger's feel lonely as teenagers and experience depression as adults, because they are intelligent enough to realize their deficits, yet cannot change their behavior on their own.
Common traits include not understanding how to play with other children; unusual tone of voice; taking comments literally; fleeting eye contact; extraordinary long-term memory; inflexibility for disruption of routine; elaborate routines or rituals; poor motor coordination; odd gait when running; repetitive motions or rocking when upset or stressed; and low sensitivity to pain.
Treatment for Asperger's involves teaching the kind of social behavior that comes naturally to most people: listening to others, looking them in the eye, and trying to understand another's point of view. Dr. Attwood believes, "Children with Asperger's Syndrome have the strong desire to have friends while recognizing their considerable difficulties with achieving and maintaining genuine friendships. Many experience ridicule, exclusion, teasing or bullying. Education programs can be used to assist them."
Education is a powerful tool. The conference provided lessons beyond Asperger's Syndrome. "The more you learn about one disability, the more you learn about the nature of all disabilities."