Undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome?

The following is a definition of asperber’s syndrome along with some of its more common presentations.  I have copied this directly from the website http://www.webmd.com.

“Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.

Although Asperger’s syndrome is similar in some ways to autism — another, more severe type of PDD — there are some important differences. Children with Asperger’s syndrome typically function better than do those with autism. In addition, children with Asperger’s syndrome generally have normal intelligence and near-normal language development, although they may develop problems communicating as they get older.

The symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome vary and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:

  • Problems with social skills: Children with Asperger’s syndrome generally have difficulty interacting with others and often are awkward in social situations. They generally do not make friends easily. They have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation.
  • Eccentric or repetitive behaviors: Children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such as hand wringing or finger twisting.
  • Unusual preoccupations or rituals: A child with Asperger’s syndrome may develop rituals that he or she refuses to alter, such as getting dressed in a specific order.
  • Communication difficulties: People with Asperger’s syndrome may not make eye contact when speaking with someone. They may have trouble using facial expressions and gestures, and understanding body language. They also tend to have problems understanding language in context.
  • Limited range of interests: A child with Asperger’s syndrome may develop an intense, almost obsessive, interest in a few areas, such as sports schedules, weather, or maps.
  • Coordination problems: The movements of children with Asperger’s syndrome may seem clumsy or awkward.
  • Skilled or talented: Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math.”

Having worked in public education at the primary school level I have had occasion to come in contact with several children with diagnosed Asperger’s.  The things I noticed about them was how they constantly missed common social cues.  They also had a tendency to retreat from social interaction, were very sensitive to distractions, and had a very difficult time understanding the world external to themselves.

I had the good fortune to work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an engineer for a number of years.  As I reflect upon the people I knew there it has occurred to me that there were a number of these brilliant people I came into contact with who probably had undiagnosed Asperger’s.  Most people thought of them as being self-centered, narcissistic.  And to some extent that may be true but my take on them is they were not people who thought, as a real narcissistic does, that they could do no wrong.  They just were unaware that they were either out of line in their interactions, or incapable of understanding how to consider another person’s needs and desires when interacting with them.  They do not, however, do this from some evil narcissistic tendency, but probably because they are in capable of such consideration, and when such things are pointed out to them, they are receptive to the consideration of such a short coming.  The true narcissist is not receptive.

I am not trained, nor have I studied, the field of psychology or psychiatry.  But from a strictly lay perspective I cannot help but wonder how many people we think of as being extremely selfish and self-center are actually an Asperger’s candidate.  I believe such a consideration could well help them, and us.


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