Asperger Syndrome Makes News Thanks to "American Idol" Singer
Greg Stacy

Apr 22, 2011, 14:54

Asperger syndrome has been getting new attention thanks to the popularity of "American Idol" contestant James Durbin, who has the condition.

Asperger syndrome (sometimes known as Asperger's syndrome, Asperger disorder or just Asperger's) is an autism spectrum disorder that often causes social difficulties.

"When I sing, it just all goes away," Durbin said during his "Idol" audition. "I don't have a care in the world."

People with Asperger syndrome can be highly intelligent, but they often have difficulty reading body language, facial expression and other social cues. While they can live relatively normal lives and they can even be highly successful in certain careers that require intense focus, that same focus can sometimes make daily life and ordinary conversations a challenge for them.

Durbin also has Tourette's Syndrome, an illness that causes sufferers to experience vocal tics, sometimes including embarrassing words or phrases. But he refuses to let either condition define who he is.

"I have Tourette's and Asperger's, but Tourette's and Asperger's don't have me," Durbin said in an early "Idol" interview. "It's not who I am."

No matter how his stint on "Idol" turns out, Durbin has become a superstar on, a Web community for those with autism and Asperger's. The site's users are thrilled to see a celebrity who is open about sharing their condition, especially one who has done well in a showcase like "Idol" that requires exactly the kind of emotional expressiveness that can be difficult for those with the syndrome.

"That's (one) thing he has in his favor," a commenter on the site joked, "other people with Asperger's compulsively voting for him."

Asperger syndrome is named after Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician who studied children in his practice who suffered from a lack of nonverbal communication skills, showed little empathy for their peers, and were often clumsy.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor