Saturday, April 16, 2011

Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's syndrome is usually classed as an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Wikipedia says:

A pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than a single symptom. It is characterized by qualitative impairment in social interaction, by stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests, and by no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or general delay in language.[23] Intense preoccupation with a narrow subject, one-sided verbosity, restricted prosody, and physical clumsiness are typical of the condition, but are not required for diagnosis.

The lack of demonstrated empathy is possibly the most dysfunctional aspect of Asperger syndrome.[3] Individuals with AS experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include a failure to develop friendships or to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others (for example, showing others objects of interest), a lack of social or emotional reciprocity, and impaired nonverbal behaviors in areas such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gesture.

The most famous Aspie in my universe, albeit an Aspie exaggerated for comic effect, is Dr. Sheldon Cooper, the fictional character who is the star of The Big Bang Theory. Aspies, as at least some of them call themselves, tend to be bright and are frequently highly accomplished. Like other groups, they have claimed a lot of dead celebrities as members, some more plausibly than others. Newton, Einstein and Dirac look like plausible choices, Lincoln and Franklin, maybe not so much. Ampere, Heaviside, Tesla, Turing and Bill Gates make some lists too.

I am not the first, it seems, to have picked up on Ayn Rand as a plausible candidate, but female Aspies are either rarer or tougher to diagnose.

There do seem to be a lot of physicists on these lists. More than one wife, girlfriend, or relative of a physicist, upon hearer the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers, has been known to say "that pretty much describes every physicist I know."

Which reminds me - one classic Aspie characteristic is a tendency to natter on about subjects nobody else is interested in . . .