What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

The number one of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk, revealed that he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome: this is what it is and how it was identified.

Asperger’s Syndrome takes its name from the Austrian doctor Hans Asperger (1906-1980), pediatrician: it is a considered mild form of autism (included in the so-called autism spectrum disorders ), which scientists, musicians and other personalities are also thought to have suffered. famous – a consideration that, however, must not overshadow the difficulties of those who experience this condition, in person or with a family member.

HISTORY. The Russian neurologist Ewa Ssucharewa (1891-1981) had worked on a first description of this disorder, but it is believed that it was Asperger’s who recognized it in the most complete form.

Asperger, a pediatrician in a hospital in Vienna, had identified common characteristics in some children that led him to think of a specific disorder. The little ones raised considerable concerns and problems in the family, and seemed to have behavior and various traits in common: they were usually lonely and isolated , they had difficulty making friends, they were often bullied, they manifested communication problems , an inability to understand. the intentions of peers and to relate to them. Sometimes they were clumsy in their movements and often, in their isolation, they devoted themselves to interests that absorbed them completely, whether they were science, animals or nature, collecting or reading. They became so well versed in their hobby or subject that they had chosen themselves that Asperger called them little professors .

DIAGNOSTIC DOUBTS. Asperger died before the disorder he described was recognized in the medical field, partly because his works were written in German and circulated outside the mainstream of scientific journals.

It was the English researcher Lorna Wing, in 1981, who rediscovered Asperger’s writings and baptized the syndrome he had described.

Unlike autism , which is also characterized by severe changes in language development and often mental retardation, Asperger’s syndrome is considered a milder subtype, although it is still debated whether to consider it a separate or mild form of autism.

In DSM V, the fifth edition of the manual that defines psychiatric disorders, Asperger’s is among the disorders of the autism spectrum as one of the least serious conditions ( for further information : the report of the Higher Institute of Health that illustrates the various problems).

SUPER-GIFTED? Famous aspies , as they are often called, would have been important characters of the past, with above-average intelligence, inserted into their social context in an unconventional, if not bizarre way – personalities like Mozart, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Alan Turing. It’s hard to say if that’s true. Recently, a Pentagon report allegedly advanced the idea that even Russian President Vladimir Putin would suffer from Asperger’s – a hypothesis that didn’t find many supporters.


The 17-year-old Swedish Greta Thunberg has repeatedly described the Asperger’s syndrome from which she suffers as a “superpower”: this condition allows her – she explained – to see reality with different eyes and not to resign herself to the false promises of commitment against heating global. © Shutterstock

IN THE CINEMA. Since the diagnosis was made official, aspie characters have been repeatedly celebrated by films. Adam (protagonist of the 2009 film of the same name) tells of the difficulties of a boy aware of being Asperger’s. His typical trait is social inadequacy: he cannot understand the desires and feelings of others, he always tells the truth, he interprets what others say literally.

Oskar , on the other hand, in the film Very strong incredibly close (2012, based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer), is brilliant, at the age of nine he goes around New York and photographs everything, even if he cannot be hugged and is agitated by the noises strong.

Then there is Lisbeth of Men Who Hate Women (2009): black leather jacket, piercings, tattoos, isolated and mysterious, very skilled hacker. Or, again, the mathematician Alan Turing , whose personal tragic story was recently brought to the screens in The imitation game (2015). Sheldon Cooper , in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory , a young researcher, presents some characteristics typical of Asperger subjects.

These are also ways to make known a condition that is always difficult to diagnose. However, as associations never tire of pointing out (see Spazio Asperger , to name one), the majority of these children, and the adults they will become, are people who need specific forms of support, while they often remain invisible in society.

by Abdullah Sam
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