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Ask Dr. Gott 6/5
Asperger's Syndrome a mild form of autism
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DEAR DR. GOTT: Our 14-year-old grandson has Asperger's Syndrome. Is there a future for him? Please explain all we need to know about the syndrome. What can we do for him and where can we get help?
    DEAR READER: Asperger's Syndrome is a high-functioning and relatively mild form of autism. Autism is a disorder that predominately affects males (80 percent of all affected individuals). Of those with the Asperger's form, 90 percent are male. There is no known cause for any form of autism, but some authorities believe Asperger's has a genetic component because it appears to run in families.
    Asperger's mainly affects social interaction, communication and imagination (empathy, abstract thought and flexible thinking). People with this form generally have good language skills, above-average IQs, excel in visual or logical thinking, have a strong drive to identify rules and patterns in systems and analyze detail, and often specialize in skills that involve numbers, mathematics and memory. Because Asperger's is relatively mild, affected individuals generally are not diagnosed until after age 16 and lead relatively normal lives.
    There is no blood analysis or medical test that can diagnose autism. Because people are born with it, physicians need to observe behavior from infancy.
    People with autism may also have Savant Syndrome, astonishing "islands" of ability (artistic, musical, mathematical, etc.) or intelligence that is in contrast to their overall mental disability. The exact number of savants is unknown because most have profound disability (from autism, brain injury, etc.) that does not allow them to explain how and what they experience. Daniel Tammet, author of "Born on a Blue Day" (Free Press, 2007), a book about his experiences as an autistic savant) is a notable example of an individual with Asperger's. He is proof that there is hope for a relatively normal life despite his autism. He is also a blessing to doctors studying Savant Syndrome because he is not profoundly disabled, as are most savants.
    Your grandson will most likely lead a relatively normal life despite his Asperger's. He should be under the care of a neurologist and/or psychiatrist. Your love and support are necessary.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: We are a bunch of ladies that get together for cards. During one of the conversations, a lady told us she did not have to take a bath or shower or even wash her hair, as her dermatologist told her she did not have to. So she only uses a deodorant and lotion on herself, and her hair still does not get washed.
Please let us know, as we are afraid to say anything to her. She thinks she is a little more superior than we are, as she doesn't have to take a shower.
    DEAR READER: Clean skin and hair feel good, reduce body odor and wash away bacteria on body surfaces. I believe that your friend is making a mistake, but that's her decision. I don't agree with her dermatologist, but he doesn't have to sit near her, does he?
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