Faces of Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome (AS) has recently made a very visible jump in the American public’s consciousness. Recently two TV reality shows have had contestants with this high functioning form of autism. Check out the stories of Heather Kuzmich a model that was catapulted to the top ranks of American popularity on America’s Next Top Model and of Zev Glassenberg a contestant on the Amazing Race. Neither Kuzmich or Glassenberg was a winner on their respective show, however the country as a whole was given a glimpse of the challenges these patients face.
Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder that falls within the autistic spectrum affecting social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and a reluctance to accept change. If a patient has a mild case it may go undiagnosed and the patient will be labeled as odd or eccentric. Some sources indicate that many famous successful people such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, Henry Ford and Bill Gates exhibit symptoms of AS.
The disorder is named after Hans Asperger a Viennese pediatrician. In 1940 he described a behavior pattern that was demonstrated in some of his patients. He noted that these patients had normal intelligence and language development but impaired social skills. He noted that this was more prevalent in boys than girls.
Symptoms of Asperger Syndrome include high intelligence, high level of vocabulary, repetitive routines or rituals, socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior, problems with non-verbal communication and clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements. The onset of AS is later than what is typical for classic autism. Most kids are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that somewhere between 1 in 100 to 1 in 300 children in the United States have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD’s occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, but are four times more likely in boys than girls. The causes of ASD’s are unknown. According to the CDC most scientists agree that genetic material is a risk factor for any ASD. Children who have a sibling or parent with an ASD are at a higher risk of also having an ASD.
Diagnosing AS can be difficult since there is no medical test such as a blood test to diagnose the disorders. Physicians must look at the child’s behavior, development and parent responses to make a diagnosis. There is no cure for AS but early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development and socialization.
Persons with Asperger’s rely heavily on rigid internal rules and struggle with the unwritten social cues and social interaction. Reality TV stars Kuzmich and Glassenberg both survived in very high stress, competitive, and social environments. They both had some missteps but overall there presence on the national scene allowed the rest of us to have a glimpse of their private world.