is Asperger syndrome really a syndrome?

I read about the Asperger syn­drome and I couldn’t relate to that more. For the first time I can iden­tify so much traits that I just can’t help but believ­ing I have it. It’s not like watch­ing TV program’s “are you too stressed out in the urban city?” sort of way, I kind of found it funny.

Asperger syn­drome was named after Hans Asperger who, in 1944, described chil­dren in his prac­tice who lacked non­ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, failed to demon­strate empa­thy with their peers, and were phys­i­cally clumsy.

Some char­ac­ter­is­tics of Asperger syndrome:

Social Inter­ac­tion It is worth noting that because it is clas­si­fied as a spec­trum dis­or­der, some people with Asperger syn­drome are nearly normal in their abil­ity to read and use facial expres­sions and other subtle forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. How­ever, this abil­ity does not come nat­u­rally to most people with Asperger syn­drome. Such people must learn social skills intel­lec­tu­ally, delay­ing social devel­op­ment. For exam­ple, many people with Asperger syn­drome have dif­fi­culty with eye con­tact. Some make very little eye con­tact because they find it over­whelm­ing, whereas others have un mod­u­lated, star­ing eye con­tact that can cause dis­com­fort to other people. Sim­i­larly, the use of ges­tures may be almost nonex­is­tent or may seem exag­ger­ated and differ from what would nor­mally be con­sid­ered appro­pri­ate for a sit­u­a­tion. Narrow, Intense Inter­ests Asperger syn­drome can involve an intense and obses­sive level of focus on things of inter­est. [..] Par­tic­u­larly common inter­ests are means of trans­port (such as trains), com­put­ers, math (par­tic­u­larly spe­cific aspects, such as pi), wikipedia, and dinosaurs. Note that all of these last items are normal inter­ests in ordi­nary chil­dren; the dif­fer­ence in Asperger chil­dren is the unusual inten­sity of their inter­est. (Speech/Language) Pecu­liar­i­ties People with Asperger syn­drome often have little patience for things out­side these areas of inter­est. During the school years, many are per­ceived as highly intel­li­gent under­achiev­ers or over­achiev­ers, clearly capa­ble of out­per­form­ing their peers in their field of inter­est yet per­sis­tently unmo­ti­vated to do reg­u­lar home­work assign­ments (some­times even in their areas of inter­est). Others, in con­trast, may be hyper moti­vated to out­per­form peers in school. Many people with Asperger syn­drome also make idio­syn­cratic use of words, includ­ing new coinages and unusual jux­ta­po­si­tions. This can develop into a rare gift for humor (espe­cially puns, word­play, dog­gerel, satire) or writ­ing. Other Char­ac­ter­is­tics In gen­eral, orderly things appeal to people with Asperger’s. Some researchers men­tion the impo­si­tion of rigid rou­tines (on self or others) as a cri­te­rion for diag­nos­ing this con­di­tion. It appears that changes to their rou­tines cause inor­di­nate levels of anx­i­ety for at least some people with this con­di­tion.

One inter­est­ing fact people found out was the vast major­ity of soft­ware devel­op­ers seem to demon­strate Asperger behav­iors. Not only that, I believe the above char­ac­ter­is­tics pretty much obvi­ously describes the “geeky guy” doing com­pli­cated high IQ things usu­ally seen in movies.

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If that is the case, then we (yes I’ve already iden­ti­fied myself as having Asperger syn­drome) prob­a­bly are not patients, and I just came up with a bril­liant but very stun­ning anal­ogy to prove my point:

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We’ve all seen Dis­cov­ery Channel’s Animal Planet show­ing the mar­velous cre­ation of mother Earth. We see lions, tigers, dol­phins, ele­phants and some­times whales. The camera pans across impos­si­ble angles while the nar­ra­tor ana­lyzes and describes the behav­ior of what the flock of mon­keys are doing jump­ing up and down the trees.

Wait! Isn’t that we are just learn­ing social behav­ior intel­lec­tu­ally right there? It seems we as human beings can’t quite “feel the subtexts” of monkeys’, dolphins’ social inter­ac­tions, even though we’ve always said we are the high­est order of living being. Now we even have a Uni­ver­sity degree pro­gramme for this kind of thing. Isn’t that exactly what the psy­chol­o­gists, what Hans Asperger describe the syn­drome patients were doing?

From this per­spec­tive, we can basi­cally view “normal” people as lower forms of beings, and the “patients” have no choice but to try to under­stand their inter­ac­tions intel­lec­tu­ally. Maybe that’s why Ein­stein didn’t start to speak until he was 3 year old. He didn’t really “get” what these other guys around him are doing. Just as if I put some­one among a flock of pigs, he couldn’t know what to do. But if I were to put him there long enough, he would finally adapt by maybe learn­ing it intel­lec­tu­ally, and he would prob­a­bly get along pretty well with the pigs. In the pigs’ eyes, that guy is acting strange and all that, but he can still blend in some­what, given long enough time.

Yeah, that was fun. We should prob­a­bly call this “syndrome patients” “smarties” from now on 🙂

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