Typically in society today, the over diagnosis of disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and other behavior disorders are very common. One disorder that has only recently been brought to the table is Asperger's Syndrome. Only added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1994, Asperger's is a neurological difference that seems to be stirring up everywhere among candidates assumed to be either socially senseless or mildly autistic (3). It is a disorder that is characterized by different extremes in behavior, and does no surface until around ages five to nine years old, if even diagnosed, many times it is not diagnosed at all. Though it is not a widely studied disorder and still new in the "autism spectrum," it is becoming more and more commonly diagnosed or looked into, especially among engineers and computer programmers (1).
Asperger's was first recognized by the Viennese scientist Hans Asperger and the child psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943 and 1944. Each published papers, which described patterns of behaviors among children with normal intelligence and vocabulary that were somewhat awkward and unaware socially and in communication. Though the idea was dropped soon after, the study of Autism and the like were continued with a consideration of "high functioning" autistics that may function in even another realm (later to be diagnosed as Asperger's) (1). Those with Asperger's tend to exhibit signs of detachment socially, they are sensitive to their surroundings, and yet cannot interpret their own "proper body space" (1). They tend to preoccupy themselves with distinct and specific entities within an object or an idea, and they are obsessively organized and function within a world of obsessive uniformity. For example, the child or adult will insist on performing the same tasks daily in order for their life to run smoothly. Asperger's so far is more commonly traced in males, and there are a variety of cases where children actually appear to be "little professors" or mini-geniuses because they are so internalized, focused and brilliant, like an idiot savant, it tends to show up in diminutive and specific areas of intellect (1). Typical Asperger's have difficulty expressing empathy and though they appear to live normal lives, they have severe social interaction issues and cannot stay within the realm of others for long periods of time without floating into another thought process. There is no clinical indication of cognitive defects or slowing, and yet Asperger's function in another world internally within their own conscience, and perhaps what is not even within their own conscience.
Since Asperger's is somewhat new within the medical field, actual physical brain and nervous system research is not very lengthy or proven. There are studies that suppose that the right hemisphere of the brain is naturally less functional in Asperger's cases and that part of that is a decrease in motor skills and an all around physical awkwardness (5). Asperger's cases have extensive vocabularies at times, but really no grasp or a reaction to language, caused by a malfunction in the ability to empathize with anything or grapple with another's speech patterns, leading to many interpretations of such behavior. Many Asperger's cases have "behavioral problems" for this very reason (5). Their actions are not accountable because they are not necessarily aware of their surroundings. According to Asberger himself, "in the course of development, certain features predominate or recede, so that the problems presented change considerably. Nevertheless, the essential aspects of the problem remain unchanged. In early childhood there are the difficulties in learning simple practical skills and in social adaptation. These difficulties arise out of the same disturbance which at school age cause learning and conduct problems, in adolescence job and performance problems, and in adulthood social and marital conflicts" (3). Though the research on the brain and nervous system with Asperger's is new and insufficient, it does show signs of a mix up in consciousness as well as an actual alteration within the brain and nervous system itself.
There are several theories out now which speculate that Asperger's is linked to many persons who are very bright and dominant in the field of computers and engineering. "It's a familiar joke in the industry that many of the hardcore programmers in IT strongholds like Intel, Adobe, and Silicon Graphics - coming to work early, leaving late, sucking down Big Gulps in their cubicles while they code for hours - are residing somewhere in Asperger's domain. Bill Gates is regularly diagnosed in the press: His single-minded focus on technical minutiae, rocking motions, and flat tone of voice are all suggestive of an adult with some trace of the disorder." "Replacing the hubbub of the traditional office with a screen and an email address inserts a controllable interface between a programmer and the chaos of everyday life. Flattened workplace hierarchies are more comfortable for those who find it hard to read social cues. A WYSIWYG world, where respect and rewards are based strictly on merit, is an Asperger's dream" (3). So, is everyone who exhibits loner behavior and inclination towards computer programming a candidate for Asperger's?
In today's society we have so many children on Ritalin for ADD, ADHD, and various other social and behavioral problems. Perhaps they are all Asperger's, but what is wrong with that? According to UCSF neurologist, Kirk Wilhelmson "If we could eliminate the genes for things like autism, I think it would be disastrous. The healthiest state for a gene pool is maximum diversity of things that might be good" (3). The idea behind the rise of autistic qualities in certain areas is due to certain mating patterns. When a computer programmer marries an engineer and both exhibit Asperger's like tendencies, it is no surprise that their offspring would do the same. Whether or not this is a terrible outcome is questionable, because these people that display these qualities are extremely beneficial to today's technological world. Perhaps the way of the world is for some to be social creatures and others to be the techies. The thought of genetic predetermination and upbringing are somewhat scary effects, but who is to say that one is not satisfied if they work at a computer all day? Most likely Asperger's has always been in existence, from Monks to Bill Gates. They have all made their contributions to society, so really can that be classified as a "disorder?" Research must be done to clarify the actual physical brain and nervous system of Asperger's, but on a general level, in society, it seems to be affecting many, but in ways that are not necessarily detrimental.
1) 1)Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support,Basics on Aspergers
2) 2)Worchester Polytechnic
3) 3)The Greek Syndrome, Article re: Silicon Vallet and abundance of Aspergers
4) 4)The AQ Test, Test for Aspergers
5) 5)Maryland Asperger Advocacy and Support Group,Basic Information and medical information on Asperger's
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