Asperger’s syndrome (AS) was discovered by Hans Asperger in 1944 although his writings remained largely unknown until 1981 when Dr. Lorna Wing published case studies of children displaying the same symptoms as Asperger had described. In 1994, AS became an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Still, much is still not understood about AS and there remain many myths and misunderstanding about this condition.
The following are some of the common myths and an explanation of the facts surrounding the myth.
Myth: Asperger’s syndrome is just a form of social anxiety.
Fact: While children and adults with AS have difficulty with social interaction and may resist taking any initiative in starting a conversation or interacting with peers, AS is different than social anxiety disorder. Those with social anxiety have the skills to interact with others, but their fear stops them. Those with AS lack skills such as reading social cues and body language and often take everything literally so conversation is stilted. Some Aspies may develop anxiety disorders because of previous social mistakes and being rejected by peers but the basis of the diagnoses are very different.
Myth: All people with AS are geniuses.
Fact: Just as in the general public, some Aspies have IQs within the genius range and some do not. Many Aspies have an above average IQ and some have average intelligence. Those who have below normal intelligence are not diagnosed with AS.
Myth: Aspies cannot form romantic relationships and rarely get married.
Fact: Many Aspies do date, have romantic relationships, get married and have a family. It is hard for Aspies to initiate relationships and the dynamics of the relationship may be confusing for the Aspie. They may not understand what to do or how to act. But Aspies can and do care about other people and can enjoy a relationship with a partner who understands AS and the idiosyncrasies that often come with it.
Myth: All nerds have Asperger’s syndrome.
Fact: Many Aspies have special interests, such as computers or video games, which may be considered nerdy. However, everyone who is considered nerdy does not fit the diagnostic criteria for AS.
Myth: People with AS want to be alone and have no desire to have friends.
Fact: Many people with AS do want to develop friendships, however, they may have a hard time reciprocating within the relationship. Many do develop long lasting friendships and are considered to be loyal friends. Some Aspies do prefer to be alone because they find friendships difficult and find it exhausting to try to understand the intricacies of relationships. Many have friends they enjoy being with but they also want time alone.
Myth: Children with AS will grow out of it.
Fact: Some people with AS do experience a lessening of symptoms or can better manage symptoms because of occupational, physical or behavioral therapies and while they still have difficulty with social situations, they may not continue to meet all the diagnostic criteria. However, AS is a lifelong condition and does not just “go away” as a child grows up.