No, I haven't taken leave of my senses or decided to "reboot" the blog. It simply occurred to me that while my first post discussed the official criteria, I've never provided a summary of my opinions on the subject.
As usual, this post represents my opinion only (though probably more considered and more direct than usual). If you have conflicting beliefs about what causes, cures or constitutes aspergers, feel free to comment. I'll publish any responses which aren't "rude" or trolling regardless of how I feel on the subject.
A Genetic ASD
There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that aspergers is genetic. You can't "catch it" from someone and it doesn't appear simply due to differences in diet or exposure to certain metals. Similarly, aspergers does not arise from environmental factors such as upbringing, social status or geographic location. Aspergers transcends racial barriers as well as sexual politics.
It's clear that aspergers shares enough characteristics with classic autism, particularly "high functioning" autism, to be considered part of the "spectrum". In fact, the primary diagnostic difference between AS and HFA is simply that HFA includes language delays. Once those delays have been corrected with speech therapy or simply adulthood, there is really no difference. This is one of the main reason for folding aspergers into the all-encompassing ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) label.
It's a decision I mostly agree with except for the fact that there is a very significant difference between someone with HFA and someone with a far more serious form of autism. I have no issues with the join between AS and HFA. My concerns lie with the lack of separation between high and "low" funtioning autism. After all, what good is a label if you can't say "this person has X" and expect everyone to have a fairly good idea of the range of symptoms you're referring to.
It's also clear that Aspergers, and by definition HFA, is a genetic "difference" rather than a "defect". After all, it's obvious that people with the condition can look after themselves as individuals just as well as their NT (Neurotypical) counterparts hence in those terms it's not a disability.
If a defect exists, then it's in the society in which we live. The majority of aspergers traits which are "disabilities" and require "support" in our society are only a problem because our society doesn't accept them. For example, an intolerance to loud noises is a disability in a crowded shopping centre but not on a farm. In closing small "general stores" and opening shopping centres, society has taken this trait and turned it into a disability.
It isn't New
Despite the rapid rise in numbers recently, Aspergers is not a "new" condition. It has been around for a very long time, perhaps since the dawn of humanity. In fact, one theory, which I don't personally support, suggests that Aspergers is a neanderthal trait, hence it only affects certain families (presumably those in which a neanderthal has married in... er... right...).
Although I don't believe that aspergers comes from neanderthal heritage, I do believe that it's a genetic mutation (a difference) which is similar to mutations in other species. Such a mutation would be subject to the normal laws of evolution and would have just as much chance of being passed onto future generations as other differences, such as eye colour. As with eye colour, there may be some situations one colour can provide an advantage over the other but ultimately, neither difference is superior.
Long time readers of this blog may remember a discussion about an adhd wilderbeast. In that instance, it was obvious that the animal was quite different to its peers but it served a necessary purpose nevertheless. Evolution has a way of creating these mutations when needed. In the case of the aspergers individual, it's clear that they are generally deeper thinkers than neurotypicals.
There are a few reasons for the rapid rise in the number of people being diagnosed with the condition but one of the most obvious of these is that it has only recently been recognised and made available as a label. Thus people who would have either been diagnosed with a non-specific condition (or simply ignored) are now receiving a diagnosis. There's more to it than that though. It's possible that the numbers really are rising. If that is the case, then it's down to the laws of evolution again. Perhaps our society with it's fractured nuclear family and focus on technology is actually becoming more conducive to people with aspergers. Perhaps in some way, society is helping aspergers to flourish.
In part two, I'll look at some of the the common co-conditions of aspergers and how the symptoms are defining the label - instead of the other way around. Hopefully we can also touch on the "extreme male brain" theory.