What is Asperger’ Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a neurological difference which is part of the autism spectrum. It is something which 1 in 250 people experience from birth.
There are features of AS which can help someone be a hard-working student. The stereotype of the ‘absent-minded professor’ is probably based on AS people. With a strong support system and a powerful interest in a field of study, people with AS often find they have just what it takes to make their University lives very successful. Where else but at University can you obsess about your interests and be rewarded for it?
AS is part of the diversity of human beings: we are not all alike. But labels like Asperger’s can be useful, as long as you don’t get trapped by them.
The three common problem areas for AS people are:
You may seem aloof or odd to other people, and
often find it hard to understand another person’s feelings
and thoughts. Your apparent eccentricity may
result in bullying and ostracism. You will often need to
learn appropriate social behaviour as a set of rules,
without appreciating emotionally why this is necessary.
AS often causes a student to be very literal with language.
You may seem repetitive and pedantic, or avoid speaking
to others through fear of ‘getting it wrong’. On the other hand, you will often speak at great length about your interests without realising that this can be boring. You may also be unaware of body language and ‘hints’ and subtleties
The need for routine and insistence on sameness can be very strong. While easily distracted, an AS student may also confuse relevant and irrelevant information and focus on inappropriate details. Poor motor skills and co-ordination may also be present, and sensitivity to noise, lights and being touched. All these indicators lead to a lack of adaptability and flexibility, especially in new situations.
The strengths of AS students
Asperger’s Syndrome often allows a student to show:
- Intense concentration on studying
- An affinity with computers and other technology
- Good formal essay writing
- Attention to detail and precision
- Original ideas
- Reliable meeting of deadlines.
‘Flexibility in lectures, exam arrangements, orientation training, placements and training of key members of staff can be an essential
prerequisite for students successfully completing their academic careers. This does not have to compromise academic requirements.’
(Blamires & Gee: http://education-resources.cant.ac.uk/xplanatory/)
Other useful sources of information:
University Students With Autism And Asperger's
Harpur, J., Lawlor, M. & Fitzgerald, M. (2004)
Succeeding in College with Asperger Syndrome: A Student Guide. London: Jessica Kingsley
Jamieson J and Jamieson C (2005) Managing Asperger Syndrome at College and University London: David Fulton