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Children with Asperger's: A 21st Century Brain Trust

Ignorance about autism and Asperger's syndrome limits the possibilities for students embarking on their professional and academic careers, says BusinessWeek reader Suzanne McCain

Asperger's syndrome (AS) is characterized by social awkwardness, although many have learned to adapt so their deficits may vary. Differences may include taking things too literally, seeing rules too legalistically, having trouble understanding certain kinds of humor while finding humor in obscure details others don't follow, demonstrating brutal honesty, and not realizing when others' feelings have been hurt. Those with AS may have difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues such as facial expressions or body language and realizing when someone they are speaking to has lost interest.

Dealing with them effectively requires being more specific and direct in return. Change or stress causes agitation, which increases their odd behaviors. Humor is derived from the characterization of these types of people on the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory. As Alex Plank at wrongplanet.net, an online network for people with AS and autism, has written, "There are many historical geniuses who are thought to have had autism, including Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson. However, I think it's foolish to use them as evidence when I can merely point to currently living people like Nobel prize-winning economist Vernon L. Smith and actor Dan Aykroyd, who have made public statements about being diagnosed with autism."