Monthly Archives: January 2014

Asperger’s Syndrome: Origins.

Margaret Jean, Irene Good and Beverly at the Ladner Rotary Luncheon.

Margaret Jean, Irene Good and Beverly at the Ladner Rotary Luncheon.

Recently, I was asked to give a talk to the Ladner Rotary Club on Asperger’s.   The date they had in mind was only four days away.  Probably their scheduled speaker bailed, but I’m just happy to have a chance to increase awareness.  It’s all good, right?   Four days?  I could do this.

I phoned my daughter, Bev right away.

“A room full of business people?”  Bev asked.  “Great.  We’ll talk about Asperger’s in the workplace.”  See why I called her?  Bev always knows what to do.

“Okay, I’ll talk about the origins of Asperger’s just to be sure they know what it is, and you do the workplace part,”  I said.  She agreed.

Here’s a bit of my part of the speech.

Thanks for inviting us to speak today.  Free lunch is always good.  But imagine if someone, say a co-worker, asks a person to lunch, and right away that person becomes anxious?  Clearly apprehensive.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  But for some people with Asperger’s, it wouldn’t be unusual.

So what is Asperger’s, anyway?  And why is it called that?

Asperger’s came to be known as such this way:  In 1944, in Austria, a paediatrician detected some odd behaviour in four of his young patients.  They did not socialize well with the other children.  Their non-verbal communication skills were virtually non-existent.  When they talked?  Their language was stilted or formal.  And they seemed to each have a favorite topic which was of intense interest to them, and therefore dominant in their conversations.  And finally, they seemed to have little or no empathy with the other children.

These findings were published, but only in Germany.  The doctor’s name was Dr. Hans Asperger.

It wasn’t until 1981 when a British physician and psychiatrist, a Dr. Lorna Wing, published several case studies of her own, that Asperger’s was introduced to the world.  Dr. Wing’s case studies exhibited similar symptoms as the children the Austrian doctor had observed, and she referred to them as having “Asperger’s Syndrome”.

Her studies were widely read and published, and her 1996 study is considered by some to be the definitive work on Asperger’s.

In 1992 the World Health Organization added Asperger’s to its list of diseases and disorders.  In 1994, The American Psychiatric Association added it to their manual of Mental Disorders.

But today, researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University and Dr. Jim Tanaka of UVic emphasize that Asperger’s is not so much a disorder, disability or disease; It is more a difference in how the brain processes information.

Stay tuned next week for Bev’s part of the talk!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Calling All Aspies! ASD Research Project; BC Lower Mainland

That is an interesting video!  Jim Tanaka from the University of Victoria explains how he got into Autism studies and how they led to the development of facial recognition games for kids on the spectrum.

By the way, Aspies, are you looking for something to do? Would you like to participate in some current university research?  If you live in B.C.s lower mainland, you’re in luck!

Subjects aka participants are being recruited for a joint SFU/UBC study into the difference in visual perception between those with and those without ASD.

The researchers are looking for adults, that is, people 18 and over, with an ASD diagnosis.  They would also like the parent or caregiver to attend.

For more info on this study go to:

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

Asperger’s Syndrome: What is it, exactly?

What is Asperger’s syndrome?

This article is taken from

Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that makes it very hard to interact with other people. Your child may find it hard to make friends because he or she is socially awkward.

People with Asperger’s syndrome have some traits of autism. For example, they may have poor social skills, prefer routine, and not like change. But unlike those who have autism, children with Asperger’s syndrome usually start to talk before 2 years of age, when speech normally starts to develop.

Asperger?s syndrome is a lifelong condition, but symptoms tend to improve over time. Adults with this condition can learn to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. And they can improve their social skills.

Both Asperger’s syndrome and autism belong to the group of disorders called pervasive developmental disorders (pdd).

What causes Asperger’s syndrome?

The exact cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not known. And there is no known way to prevent it. It tends to run in families. So researchers are doing studies to look for a genetic cause.

What are the symptoms?

Asperger’s syndrome is usually noticed at age 3 or later. Symptoms vary, so no two children are the same. Children with Asperger?s:

  • Have a very hard time relating to others. It doesn’t mean that they avoid social contact. But they lack instincts and skills to help them express their thoughts and feelings and notice others’ feelings.
  • Like fixed routines. Change is hard for them.
  • May not recognize verbal and nonverbal cues or understand social norms. For example, they may stare at others, not make eye contact, or not know what personal space means.
  • May have speech that?s flat and hard to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent. Or they may have a formal style of speaking that?s advanced for their age.
  • May lack coordination; have unusual facial expressions, body postures, and gestures; or be somewhat clumsy.
  • May have poor handwriting or have trouble with other motor skills, such as riding a bike.
  • May have only one or a few interests, or they may focus intensely on a few things. For instance, they may show an unusual interest in snakes or star names or may draw very detailed pictures.
  • May be bothered by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures.

How is Asperger?s syndrome diagnosed?

If you are concerned about your child?s behavior or communication style, talk to your child?s doctor. He or she will ask you about your child?s development and ask if other people have noticed your child?s social problems.

The doctor may refer you to a specialist to confirm or rule out Asperger?s syndrome. The specialist may test your child?s learning style, speech and language, IQ, social and motor skills, and more.

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