When is categorized under the autism spectrum.

            When you hear the word “developmental disability” most
people would automatically look for a physical disability, but that’s not
always the case. There’s disabilities that you can’t see with the naked eye and
Asperger’s syndrome is one of them. Asperger’s syndrome as defined by Autism
Speaks Canada is “an autism spectrum disorder
(ASD) considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum” (Asperger’s
Syndrome, n.d.). The book Look Me in the
eyes by John Elder Robison details John’s life as he grows up with an
undiagnosed disability until the age of forty when he learns he has Asperger’s
syndrome. In order to fully understand Asperger’s syndrome, it is important to
look at the signs and symptoms of Asperger’s, the problems that these symptoms
create and the coping mechanisms these individuals use to overcome their

            Asperger’s syndrome is categorized
under the autism spectrum. Like autism most people are undiagnosed until they
show signs in the home, at school, or at their workplace. Some symptoms
associated with Asperger’s include; depression and anxiety, issues with social
interactions and lack of eye contact. They can also show signs of behavioural
issues such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and obsessive tendencies.
Some people even show savant skills associated with numbers, mathematics,
mechanical and spatial skills. Although those with Asperger’s syndrome do not face
any language or cognitive delays they show profound deficiencies when it comes
to social communication skills. Social interactions can seem difficult for
people with Asperger’s syndrome as they don’t understand simple nonverbal
communication cues or may not understand the difference between what’s
appropriate in certain settings.   They might also have awkward mannerisms or
issues with motor skills which may cause clumsiness. Another symptom is that they
often have one sided conversations, forgetting to ask about the other person life.
With this particular symptom the person might come off as self-centred or
emotionless. For example, in the book, John had taught himself “…to remember
what’s happening with people close to my friends. When I see someone I have not
seen in awhile, I sometimes remember to say things like ‘How’s Mallory doing at
college'” (Robison, 2007, p. 239-240). John had to train himself to learn to
ask about others instead of just answering the question that was asked. Something
so simple and natural to a regular person is a challenge to a person with
Asperger’s syndrome.

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Asperger’s syndrome has many different symptoms associated
with it but some can cause more issues than others in an individual’s life. This
syndrome not only affects the person diagnosed, but also the family members and
the people around the individual. It may take someone awhile to get use to an individual
with Asperger’s syndrome as they may come off as arrogant or uninterested. This
can cause issues when it comes to building healthy friendships or relationships.
Children with Asperger’s syndrome might have difficulties making friends due to
their lack of eye contact or their awkward mannerisms around other children. This
may cause them to feel less than or feel like there’s something wrong with them.
These individuals also have awkward conversation styles which can come off as rude
and dismissive. Due to symptoms like these individuals with Asperger’s syndrome
often have issues holding down job positions that require team work. Asperger’s
teens have a lot of trouble relating to others as they don’t fully understand themselves
yet. They appear detached or uncaring because they lack social-emotional
understanding skills. Communication is an important skill that everybody needs
to survive in this world. A professor at the university of California named Dr.
Albert Mehrabian studied on nonverbal communication and he found that 7% of any
message is conveyed through spoken words, 38% through certain voice and tone,
and 55% through nonverbal elements such as body language (Belludi, 2008). 
If 55% of communication is through nonverbal communications, it is no wonder
individuals with Asperger’s syndrome have problems in everyday life. This can
cause a lack of confidence which can lead to self doubt. Family members need to
keep a close eye on these individual as “65% of adolescents with Asperger
Syndrome have a secondary mood or affective disorder (such as depression or
anxiety) (Attwood, 2006). With statistics like this early intervention with children
diagnosed with Asperger’s is needed as they need to be equipped with the skills
needed to survive and make it in the world without having any problems.


Although there isn’t a cure for Asperger’s syndrome most people
with Asperger’s syndrome eventually learn different coping mechanisms to deal
with everyday life. Many people use cognitive behavioural therapy to learn social
skills and control emotions. Speech and language therapy can help with
conversation skills. For example, John developed facial expressions that were “socially
acceptable” in different situations rather than his normal emotionless facial expressions.
 John “learned to pause before responding
when people approach … and then begin speaking” (Robison, 2007, p. 239). These
adaptive skills help individuals with Asperger’s so they can function in the
real world without any problems. Early intervention is key and parents play a
big role when it comes to providing these individuals with a more intensive
level of care. This might include creating opportunities for them to socialize,
creating daily routines and schedules along with providing them with constant
companionship. Constant support opportunities like these can help children with
Asperger’s syndrome learn how to cope with their symptoms.

 In the book Look me in the eye, John’s parents did
not know how to deal with him or help him with his difficulties, they did take
him to therapy but the therapists categorized John as a rude and self-centered
young man. They did not believe John had any disability but instead was just a
lazy kid. Early intervention and diagnosis can truly help someone with Asperger’s
syndrome get through life easier. From John’s social ineptness to his
fascination with machines and engineering to his inability to correctly
interpret the feelings of those around him, he finally discovered the answers
he needed at the age of forty. If John was diagnosed earlier in life he could have
avoided all the hardships and self loathing he went through. He might have not
dropped out of school but instead had the confidence in his savant skills to
pursue a post secondary education. Even though there is no cure to Asperger’s
syndrome, understanding the disability and acceptance from others would go a
long way.


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