When most people hear the words Asperger’s syndrome, children with high IQs and reduced social skills typically come to mind; some people think of the film Rain Man, others think of Albert Einstein (even though he was never formally diagnosed). In this article, we look at some of the lesser-known aspects of Asperger’s syndrome.
Also known as autistic spectrum disorder, Asperger’s syndrome is a lifelong condition that affects people in a variety of different ways.
There are similarities with autism, however those with Asperger’s syndrome tend to have fewer difficulties with speaking and don’t usually have the associated learning disabilities.
Does it mainly affect boys?
When Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger originally described the syndrome in 1944, he thought it only affected males. Since then however, research has revealed that there is likely to be a similar amount of females on the spectrum.
The National Autistic Society have pointed out that because of the gender bias towards boys, girls are generally less likely to be identified with autism spectrum disorders, even when symptoms are just as severe.
Asperger’s does affect girls in a slightly different way, making it tricky to diagnose. Girls will have special interests, however in contrast to boys with the disorder who tend to build up an incredible wealth of knowledge on subjects like dinosaurs or trains, they will like the same things other girls their age would like, albeit in a more focussed way.
What are meltdowns?
Those with Asperger’s syndrome can suffer from ‘meltdowns’, episodes where the person temporarily loses control because they can’t cope with certain environmental factors. It is not usually one specific thing that causes a meltdown, and triggers differ from person to person.
When the person gets overwhelmed, what they experience looks like a tantrum, but unlike a tantrum – giving the person what they want will not pacify them. Depending on the cause of the meltdown, it is usually best to help the person leave the situation that they are finding overwhelming. Everyone responds differently, but most people find it useful to sit somewhere they feel safe, perhaps listening to music.
Is everyone with the condition a genius?
Not everyone with Asperger’s syndrome has a high IQ, some do and some don’t. The amazing ability that some have with dates and numbers is actually caused by a different condition – savant syndrome. Again, some people on the spectrum have this, others don’t.