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Chapter 10: Page 36
Originally posted on:08/09/2010
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Chapter 10: Page 36

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Now with hair!
A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. This didn't come as much of a surprise to me as I had suspected it for some time, but it's good to have a professional diagnosis.

Asperger's Syndrome is an "autism spectrum disorder" with a number of common symptoms:

- Difficulty in social interactions

We lack the ability to interpret social cues in conversation on an instinctual level and need to learn to do so on a conscious, intellectual level. This means that we find conversation tiring as we are constantly thinking about how to interpret the other person's tone of voice and body language while trying to determine how we should respond. We often come across as insensitive or inappropriate in conversation because we don't understand what we're supposed to talk about or how to react.

- Hyper-sensitivity to sensory stimuli

The extent of this differs from one person to another, but generally speaking we are more sensitive to sound, touch, light and smell than normal. In my case this is most obvious in terms of sound as everything sounds louder to me than it does to others, to the point that everyday sounds - such as a dog barking, someone picking up their keys or a car driving past - are actually painful to me. We tend to find noisy situations overwhelming as we have a hard time ignoring "background noise". Combined with our social difficulties, this means we tend to find parties utterly exhausting and are likely to avoid them entirely. It also partly explains why I've never liked being touched and why I'm so fussy about my food.

- Single-mindedness

We tend to lose ourselves in specific subject matter. We can become experts on one obscure subject while being completely clueless about other subjects thought of as common knowledge. We tend to be fascinated by details while missing the bigger picture. Combined with our social difficulty, we're likely to talk on and on about something we find fascinating without noticing that everyone else is bored to tears. We also tend to value repetition and routine.

The Wikipedia entry is depressingly dry, so if you'd like to learn more about Asperger's Syndrome I recommend this overview, as well as an interview with Tony Attwood on ABC radio which first brought the syndrome to my attention.

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