Is Asperger Syndrome the new Tourette Syndrome?
I keep hearing all these references to Asperger’s Syndrome, ranging from the simple “That dude totally has AS” to specific fake diagnoses of the “such and such clearly exhibits many of the classic Asperger symptoms” variety, so I asked myself the natural question, which is “Since people generally don’t know what they’re talking about at any given point in time, what do these people mean by ‘Asperger’s Syndrome?”
Wikipedia starts off incredibly unpromisingly by stating that it is a
pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) on the autistic spectrum. It manifests in various ways and can have both positive and negative effects on a person. It is typically characterized by issues with social and communication skills. Due to the mixed nature of its effects, it remains controversial among researchers, physicians, and people who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
I.e. laymen have no chance of understanding it. It boils down to this:
- Narrow interests or preoccupation with a subject to the exclusion of other activities
- Repetitive behaviors or rituals
- Peculiarities in speech and language
- Extensive logical/technical patterns of thought
- Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and interpersonal interaction
- Problems with nonverbal communication
- Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
Among the peculiarities of speech, the foremost is that
People with AS typically have a highly pedantic way of speaking, using a far more formal language register than appropriate for a context. A five-year-old child with this condition may regularly speak in language that could easily have come from a university textbook, especially concerning his or her special area of interest.
Individuals with AS may use words idiosyncratically, including new coinages and unusual juxtapositions. This can develop into a rare gift for humor (especially puns, word play, doggerel and satire). A potential source of humor is the eventual realization that their literal interpretations can be used to amuse others. Some are so proficient at written language as to qualify as hyperlexic. Tony Attwood refers to a particular child’s skill at inventing expressions, e.g., “tidying down” (the opposite of tidying up) or “broken” (when referring to a baby brother who cannot walk or talk).
So from now on, when someone you know who doesn’t know anything about developmental disorders uses the phrase ‘Asperger Syndrome’, you can assume what they actually mean is “Talks a lot and is kind of funny and awkward.”