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Aspie
Aspie

Ah, Asperger('s) Syndrome. If you've spent any time on the Internet, you will have run into someone claiming that s/he has this disorder and were wondering what it meant. Well, we here at gothicmarshmallon aim to fix you up with that info.

Asperger Syndrome was discovered by Hans Asperger in 1944. He noticed that some of the children in his practice were somewhat socially awkward, and began studying them. He called them "Little Professors" due to their ability to memorize facts. AS, as it is abbreviated, is on the autism spectrum. It shares many similarities with autism as a whole, but there a few differences.

So what characterizes someone with Asperger Syndrome? Here are some signs to look for (they may have all or a few of these signs):

Delays in social interaction
. It's been called a "social skills learning disability", and for good reason: People with AS and other sorts of autism have difficulty learning the non-verbal parts of social interaction, whether that's making small talk, dating etiquette, or just looking someone in the eye. Like anyone with a learning disability, people with AS can learn social skills—but it takes them a great deal of time and effort, and may always be difficult to do and imperfect in execution. For those wondering, this is the thing that causes most people on the Internet to self-diagnose, as it's usually the most visible symptom of AS.

Narrowly defined interests. People with AS tend to build up a lot of knowledge about their interests, which run the gamut of...well, everything. Some people are interested in things that are age-appropriate, some will be interested in things that either are viewed as "too old" or "too young" for them. Some people will be interested in things that many people are interested in, others will find obscure interests. Interests can also change from time to time- some end up defining their lives with a certain interest, while others may change it every week.

Some assume that the Otaku and the person with Asperger's Syndrome are one and the same. While possible, this is by no means a definite thing. Go on Hikkimori forums, as well as Asperger forums (wrongplanet), and see that there are many Otaku who are also autistic. The whole 'obsessive interests and lack of social skills' is a dead giveaway.

Speech issues
. There are a lot of issues that can arise with AS speech. Some speak too formally. Others will remain monotone, have tics or wildly inflect. Again, it varies from person to person. (Accents and language can be a large factor as well.) A desire to be as precise as possible will often lead to Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, and oblique references and metaphors can lead to Blunt Metaphors Trauma. Also see stutturing, which may be countered by speaking louder (helps in debate team), using hand/arm gestures to help speak and enunicate clearly (in some cultures this is more prevalent; and less noticeable), and other things like that.

Lack of social empathy
. This is the big one - most people with AS fail to realize if they're boring/offending/hurting/annoying whoever they're speaking to. It's important to note that not realizing you're annoying someone is not the same as not caring; in fact, most, when informed they are causing offense, will be humiliated. Lack of neurotypical-displayed empathy is common; lack of compassion is only as common as in the general public. The issue is mostly a communication problem: Not knowing what the other person is feeling, they will not know how to respond; once informed, they may not know which response is wanted. For example, an AS individual in a romantic relationship may not know that their partner wants them to say "I love you", because they assume that the fact that they love their partner is a given and needn't be said more than once for both people to know it! Hence, some people with Aspergers will blatently ask you if they are bothering you. Just Answer honestly and without hidden meanings.

Associated with AS are various satellite traits: Physical clumsiness, tendency to move in repetitive ways (think everything from tapping your foot to rocking or flapping your hands; or walking like an AT-ST Walker/mecha unit), extreme sensitivity to sensory input (lights, noise, smells...), social anxiety (not actually AS itself but often found alongside it), savant skills (strong natural ability in some isolated field), a tendency towards epilepsy, difficulty planning and executing plans, hyperactivity and a strong attachment to routines or familiar objects. These may manifest in many different ways depending on the person. Being able to focus to an abnormal level or for an abnormal length of time is common, as is difficulty in multitasking and dividing attention.

On the other hand, there are also a number of common fallacies, misconceptions and outright lies surrounding Aspergers and other autism spectrum disorders. These common misconceptions include:

No sense of humor. Now this one's definitely wrong, while an odd or dark sense of humour is common, plenty of people with Aspergers aren't afraid to make jokes about themselves.

Sociopathy. Just because they have difficulty understanding other people's emotional state, it doesn't mean they don't care. Some people with Aspergers can be the nicest folks you'll ever meet, while others will gladly annoy or anger you until they get a reaction, but it's never an excuse for plain old selfishness. Though they may think of their own feelings first because they're the only ones they can understand.

Self-obsession and inflated ego
. If someone makes the Small Name Big Ego list, it's their own fault regardless of Aspergers.

It doesn't exist
. Yes, there are false diagnoses. (and many more false self-diagnoses) If every condition which had those didn't actually exist, we wouldn't need doctors.

Social disability means talent in a particular field
. Oh how we wish this one were true. While a persistence obsession with lots of practice and study may help in getting good at something, otherwise people with AS have as much talent, artistic or otherwise, as any other average person.

Treatment of AS varies throughout Hollywood. The most common portrayal seems to be that of the awkward "little professor" - see Sai from Naruto. AS will often be stereotyped, with anyone who has it being shown as a textbook case. As is unfortunately still in the Hollywood stage where, when a character has it, it will be his defining characteristic or even his full personality. The severity of Aspergers and Autism varies, hence the 'Autistic Spectrum'. (Aspergers has been called by some 'Autism Lite') Some people are lucky enough to have a mild enough case that although it affects how they live and interact they can also live good and enjoyable lives in society while others may have it severe enough that they require closer and more constant supervision and who won't interact much at all. It can be hard to tell: someone's upbringing and education can make a huge difference, and being aware of the condition and how to deal with it often helps a lot.

Also, it's very popular for Internet users to self-diagnose themselves as having Asperger Syndrome. Something Awful actually made a running joke out of this (Ass Burgers, 'spergin out). Sadly, over diagnosing in Real Life is not uncommon either, resulting in specialist schools for sufferers containing many just badly behaved brats alongside the ones with actual problems. This is very much comparable to the overdiagnosis of ADD and ADHD in the past few years. Conversely, Aspergers was very commonly diagnosed as everything from ADHD to schizophrenia to mental retardation before the condition became well known. This has resulted in a Backlash due to this and may be at least partially responsible for the jokes and piss taking that has sprung up.

Note that there is no treatment, prevention or cure for Aspergers; it's not quite a disease or ailment, but a fundamental difference in the way the brain is wired. There is a lot of misinformation going around about the nature of Aspergers, often thanks to the above misdiagnoses and the following backlash, and you really should do the research before you end up making the wrong assumptions in front of the genuinely diagnosed. Generally, depending on the person and group, it can range from being considered a 'badge of honour' - to not caring about, to people who up decide that the downsides outweigh the positives.

It is open to debate whether Asperger's is simply a collection of traits that every human being has to some degree or another. It has been said that Aspergers is contagious; the more you hang around people with it, the more you'll start acting like them. It's also believed by some to be hereditary, though how much of that is simply parental personality traits rubbing off is unknown.

Aspies can either come off as simply eccentric or odd, or insensitive jerkasses.

A large number of psychologists, mental health groups and people with Aspergers have started referring to people with the condition as 'Aspies', though some have mixed feelings about the term, even if it does make talking about them much more convenient. Some Aspies would say following the rules for the N word is advised. There is still a lot unknown about Aspergers syndrome, as with most mental conditions, and research into the condition continues today.

Fashion and apearance are often rather sloppy, and they are not usually that into music, unless they are obbsessed with it.

Info mostly from TV Tropes, some by me, image from deviantart.

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