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What special skills do people with Asperger syndrome have?

Individuals with Asperger syndrome (AS) often have average to above average intelligence. They tend to possess excellent abstract thinking abilities and rote memory skills. One characteristic unique to AS is an intense interest in one or two subjects to the exclusion of all others. Many times individuals with AS are respected for their unusual abilities, and due to their extensive knowledge of certain topics or activities may be regarded as “eccentric.” The individual’s single-minded pursuit of his or her interest can lead to great achievements later on in academic and professional life.

Source: Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD)

*Asperger syndrome, or Asperger's, is a term that is no longer used as a formal diagnosis. In current diagnostic criteria, the syndrome is included under the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Theodore A. Henderson, MD
Adolescent Medicine Specialist

This very question was posed to a panel of individuals with Asperger syndrome at this year's U.S. Autism and Asperger Association meeting in Louisville, KY (August 2016). The panelists answered quite eloquently. Each of them agreed that Asperger Syndrome allows them to see the world in a unique way - differently than "neurotypicals". This can be a gift and it can be a burden. For some, it has allowed them to be particularly creative in their chosen field. For example, one has developed a highly successful educational program and another has a highly sought-after style of photography.

Similarly, Temple Grandin describes the unique way that she builds a mental picture of something. She takes all the examples that she can think of and looks for patterns. In contrast, most people think of a stereotypical item and then will consider the exceptions to the sterotypical rule.

There are, of course, many more examples of the unique abilities that those with Asperger Syndrome may demonstrate. But I am a "top-down thinker" (unlike Temple Grandin's "bottom-up thinking" as she describes), so I think this will be sufficient.

*Asperger syndrome, or Asperger's, is a term that is no longer used as a formal diagnosis. In current diagnostic criteria, the syndrome is included under the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.

William Stillman
Health Education Specialist

I don’t know that we can say that people with Asperger’s Syndrome have “special skills” any more than we would make the same generalization for the rest of the population. We must be mindful of not imposing the “savant” stereotype on folks who really just want to be included and accepted instead of singled out as “special” or, worse, unworthy.

However, people with Asperger’s Syndrome do tend to think in ways that are unique, and with an unconventional logic that can make them intriguing problem solvers for offering a different, perhaps previously-unconsidered, perspective.

*Asperger syndrome, or Asperger's, is a term that is no longer used as a formal diagnosis. In current diagnostic criteria, the syndrome is included under the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.