Facts about Asperger’s Syndrome

Even though the incidence of Asperger’s appears to be on the rise, the number of cases has not yet been established enough to track. Estimates indicate that one out of every 68 children may have this disorder, with males being almost five times more likely to have AS than females. However, despite a wealth of resources – both online and in print – on Asperger’s Syndrome and those who have it, AS remains misunderstood in mainstream conversation. Here are a few common myths, and a couple facts, about AS:

People with Asperger’s lack empathy.

  • FALSE. While people with Asperger’s do process emotions and express them differently than people who do not have AS, they are in fact very emotionally empathetic and completely capable of relating to others’ feelings. In fact, people with AS often feel emotions more strongly than non-AS people. The most common issue in people with AS is cognitive recognition of empathy; simply put, because they have a hard time reading social cues, they aren’t always going to pick up on the way others are feeling. A clear statement, though, such as, “I am sad because of…” is usually all a person with Asperger’s needs for things to click into place.

People with Asperger’s don’t make eye contact.

  • FALSE. Obviously, every person with AS is different, but often they do make eye contact – just in fleeting or uncommon ways.

People with Asperger’s eventually grow out of it.

  • FALSE. Asperger’s Syndrome is a life-long disorder. However, identifying AS as early as possible helps people with Asperger’s better transition into adulthood and navigate the world around them. Support from school, friends, and family, along with therapy, can help set people with AS up for very successful and vibrant lives.

People with Asperger’s are often extremely intelligent.

  • TRUE. Part of the nature of Asperger’s is that the person with AS gravitates toward a very specific set of interests, to the exclusion of much else. This sort of specialization makes a person with Asperger’s very good at what they choose to pursue, from mathematics to music to medicine, and beyond. Temple Grandin, a scientist and activist diagnosed with classical autism, often talks about Asperger’s and how it has shaped the world – click here to watch one of her remarkable TED talks.

People with Asperger’s often form deep connections with animals.

  • TRUE. In fact, allowing a child with AS to bond with a pet is a great way to allow them to exercise their caring skills, but also helps them to open up emotionally. Pets such as dogs and cats are very perceptive of human emotions, and are even often found to display greater levels of patience and interaction with their AS owners than non-AS owners. This deep connection with animals can also motivate a person with AS to pursue a career involving them, such as being a veterinarian or biologist.

Want to know more about Asperger’s Syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders? Click here to check out Dr. Clatch’s articles on the Courage to Connect website!

Dr. Michael Clatch, Psy. D
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