Elon Musk’s controversial comment on Asperger’s syndrome explained

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“I don’t always have a lot of intonation or variation in how I speak… which I’m told makes for great comedy,” he joked in his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live (SNL). It was May 8, 2021, and Musk stated: “I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL.” Tweeters, however, rebuffed his comments, pointing out that comedian Dan Aykroyd – who has openly spoken about his Asperger’s – has previously hosted SNL.

Aykroyd, having made numerous appearances on the late-night live TV show, did in fact host SNL in 2002.

Regardless, what exactly is Asperger’s syndrome and are there any tell-tale signs of the spectrum condition?

Autism Speaks notes “strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability distinguishes Asperger’s syndrome from other types of autism”.

Asperger’s syndrome typically involves:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Restricted interests
  • Desire for sameness
  • Distinctive strengths.

Strengths, in particular, could include “remarkable focus and persistence”, an “aptitude for recognising patterns”, and great “attention to detail”.

Asperger’s can present some challenges, however, such as hypersensitivities to lights, sounds, and tastes.

The spectrum condition could lead to “difficulty with the give and take of conversation”, and issues with non-verbal conversational skills.

Examples include problems with judging distances from someone, the loudness of voice, and tone.

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There can “unco-ordinated movements, or clumsiness”, or experience “anxiety and depression”.

“The tendencies described above vary widely among people,” the charity pointed out.

“Many learn to overcome their challenges by building on strengths.”

Experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital noted the “symptoms” of Asperger’s during childhood.

Signs of the “developmental” condition include inappropriate to minimal social interactions.

“Conversations that almost always revolve around themselves or a certain topic, rather than others,” the experts said could be a sign of Asperger’s.

Asperger’s may mean the person could have less facial expressions than others, or find it hard to interpret the emotions of others.

Speech could sound “flat, high-pitched, quiet, loud, or robotic”.

Asperger’s could also lead the person to feel upset “at any small changes in routine”.

There can be “unco-ordinated movements, or clumsiness”, or experience “anxiety and depression”.

Children with Asperger’s are likely to possess advanced vocabulary and good grammar skills.

Considered a “neurobiological disorder”, Asperger’s is thought to be caused by genetics and brain abnormalities.

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