Is Asperger Syndrome a Learning Disability

Aspergers in the classroom

Is Aspergers syndrome a learning disability as we commonly define it? While on the autism spectrum, people with Aspergers tend to be a lot less noticeably affected than classical autism and other types of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). There are cases where the person reaches adulthood until a diagnosis is made, and at that point he or she already has a stellar academic record with an advanced degree in the bag. Clearly, this is far from a black-and-white topic, so let's start with a brief overview of what exactly Aspergers syndrome is.

What Is Aspergers Syndrome?

Aspergers syndrome is undeniably a PDD with clear ties to the autism family of conditions. A person with Aspergers tends to be socially oblivious, failing to pick up the many nuances neurotypical people rely on to form communication. They often give off an unintentional vibe of disinterest and even rudeness, simply because they do not know how to convey their intentions any better than they interpret those of others.

While this can prove a substantial social handicap, many also have the ability to focus very hard for extended periods of time. During this time, all distractions are blocked out, meaning they can dedicate every ounce of brainpower to studying a topic or problem. For a chess player, mathematician, or researcher, this almost supernatural ability to focus gives a distinct advantage both academically and professionally.

Now add that Aspergers differs from other PDDs in that there is no delay in speech or cognitive functions, and you'll see that it is not at all impossible for someone with Aspergers to not only study but become a highly successful physicist, engineer, or IT specialist -- fields that are heavy on technical stuff and where a little social awkwardness is in no way a career-crushing shortcoming.

Is Aspergers Syndrome a Learning Disability?

Can you tell a straight-A student that she has a learning disability? Logic dictates that the answer is no, based on the demonstrable ability to meet and exceed the fundamental criteria upon which the whole system is based.

The question is further muddled by the fluidity of the diagnosis, and the fact that everyone is unique. Suppose a person is a math genius and has swept half the prestigious academic trophies in the country by the age of 17. But at the same time, he is absolutely dependent on an external person to track time and remind him of when to take breaks, eat, sleep, and attend classes, because he gets hopelessly lost in the intricacies of the equations.

Another person may absorb data from textbooks like a sponge, coupling it with a keen sense of reasoning and end up a powerhouse of knowledge and insights about history, biology, chemistry, and other key topics, but still fail to bring in good grades because the Aspergers symptoms are such that the person is unable to sit through a regular written test despite knowing all the answers.

No Clear Answer

Again, this is hardly a black-and-white issue. In most cases, the Aspergers symptoms do indeed interfere with regular schooling to some degree. If recognized and properly prepared for, many can go on to earn good grades and get a good education. Since these extra steps are required for ultimate success, the case can be made that Aspergers does indeed create a learning disability by default.

Other cases, like second one in the preceding section, are more clear-cut; the person is unable to take the test, thus the Aspergers definitely proves a direct barrier to succeed in a school setting, ergo it's learning disability. The obvious arguments for and against the importance of testing in and by itself aside, it tends to become the yardstick against which we determine the issue of learning disabilities. In the end, the question "Is Aspergers syndrome a learning disability" hinges on the individual and the manifestation of the Aspergers in that person. In any case, remember that there is help to be had, and ways to get around practically any obstacle if you just try hard enough. Good luck!

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Is Asperger Syndrome a Learning Disability