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Default 04-10-2007, 09:27 AM

Social differences

Although there is no single feature that all people with AS share, difficulties with social behavior are nearly universal and are one of the most important defining criteria. People with AS lack the natural ability to see the subtexts of social interaction, and may lack the ability to communicate their own emotional state, resulting in well-meaning remarks that may offend, or finding it hard to know what is "acceptable". The unwritten rules of social behavior that mystify so many with AS have been termed the "hidden curriculum".

People with AS must learn these social skills intellectually through seemingly contrived, dry, math-like logic rather than intuitively through normal emotional interaction.

Non-autistics are able to gather information about other people's cognitive and emotional states based on clues gleaned from the environment and other people's facial expression and body language, but, in this respect, people with AS are impaired; this is sometimes called mind-blindness.Mind-blindness is also known as a lack of theory of mind.

Without theory of mind, AS individuals lack the ability to recognize and understand the thoughts and feelings of others. Deprived of this insightful information, they are unable to interpret or understand the desires or intentions of others and thereby are unable to predict what to expect of others or what others may expect of them. This often leads to social awkwardness and inappropriate behavior.

A person with AS may have trouble understanding the emotions of other people: the messages that are conveyed by facial expression, eye contact and body language are often missed. They also might have trouble showing empathy with other people. Thus, people with AS might be seen as egotistical, selfish or uncaring. In most cases, these are unfair labels because affected people are neurologically unable to understand other people's emotional states. They are usually shocked, upset and remorseful when told that their actions are hurtful or inappropriate.

It is clear that people with AS do not lack emotions. The concrete nature of emotional attachments they might have (i.e., to objects rather than to people), however, often seems curious or can even be a cause of concern to people who do not share their perspective.This deficit in the ability to read one's own and other's emotions goes by the name alexithymia, a Greek term coined in 1972 by P.E. Sifneos meaning literally "lack of words for emotions."

Failing to show affection or failing to do so in conventional ways does not necessarily mean that people with AS do not feel affection. Another important aspect of the social differences often found in people with Asperger's is a lack of central coherence.

Speech and language differences

People with AS typically have a highly pedantic way of speaking, using a far more formal language register than appropriate for a context. A five-year-old child with this condition may regularly speak in language that could easily have come from a university textbook, especially concerning his or her special area of interest.

Literal interpretation is another common, but not universal hallmark of this condition. Attwood gives the example of a girl with AS who answered the telephone one day and was asked, "Is Paul there?" Although the Paul in question was in the house, he was not in the room with her, so after looking around to ascertain this, she simply said "no" and hung up. The person on the other end had to call back and explain to her that he meant for her to find him and get him to pick up the telephone.

Narrow, intense interests

AS in children can involve an intense and obsessive level of focus on things of interest, many of which are those of ordinary children. The difference in children with AS is the unusual intensity of said interest. Some have suggested that these "obsessions" are essentially arbitrary and lacking in any real meaning or context; however, researchers note that these "obsessions" typically focus on the mechanical (how things work) as opposed to the psychological (how people work).

Sometimes these interests are lifelong; in other cases, they change at unpredictable intervals. In either case, there are normally only one or two interests at any given time. The interests are often linked in some way that is logical only to the AS individual. In pursuit of these interests, people with AS often manifest extremely sophisticated reasoning, an almost obsessive focus, and a remarkably good memory for trivial facts (occasionally even eidetic memory). Hans Asperger called his young patients "little professors" because he thought his patients had as comprehensive and nuanced an understanding of their field of interest as university professors.

Asperger syndrome - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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