Greta Thunberg

 

says "living with Asperger syndrome helps her see things from 'outside the box' when it comes to climate change".

About Asperger syndrome

 

There is no easy way to describe Asperger's syndrome (hereafter called Asperger's) because everyone is affected differently. Having said that there are some attributes which appear to have some degree of commonality. Asperger's is a neurodevelopmental condition and is a type of autism. 

What is autism?

'Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.' (Definition taken from The National Autistic Society) Autism is a spectrum condition affecting in the region of 1 in 100 people. People with the condition range from those with average or above average intellectual ability and able to lead independent, fulfilling lives to those who need significant support having severe communication difficulties with numerous co-morbidities.

 

What is Asperger's syndrome?

 

Asperger's is not a disease or a mental illness. People with Asperger's view the world in a different way from other people. In addition they find social communication and interaction challenging. However, many people can maintain some eye contact, are able to communicate relatively effectively and live independent lives. Frequently they (women and girls especially) attempt to hide or mask challenging areas of their lives often at the cost of their wellbeing. Some people struggle with high anxiety which may be a product of the stress of trying to fit in with the constructs of what is 'expected' in society.

How common is Asperger's?

There are no accurate figures for the  number of people with Asperger's. This is primarily for two reasons:

  • Asperger's wasn't recognised until 1970 so many adults with the condition have yet to be diagnosed. 

  • In 2013, the US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for the diagnosis of mental disorders (DSM-V) reclassified Asperger's under the generic term 'Autism Spectrum Disorders' so the recording of Asperger's as a separate diagnosis has become blurred.

 

Figures for the whole spectrum of autism are rising as assessment tools and recording improves. It now appears that autism is much more common than was previously thought. It is estimated that there are around 700,000 people diagnosed with autism in the UK. Part of the increase in diagnoses can be attributed to the number of women being diagnosed as adults with several in later life. Asperger's knows no cultural, religious, social or geographic bounds although it appears that more men are affected than women. However, the difference between the sexes has decreased in recent years.

How might I suspect Asperger's?

  • There is nothing visible to alert about the possibility of Asperger's.

  • Some people say the world feels overwhelming

  • Many people experience high anxiety

  • Understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be hard and doesn't come naturally

  • Often it's a struggle to build rapport with people

  • People with Asperger's may wonder why they are 'different' and they feel misunderstood

  • Many people have meltdowns but this distress is viewed as acting out

  • Some shutdown and find it difficult to engage

  • Issues with low self-esteem and lacking confidence are common

                                                                           

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