Asperger's 1944 article summarized

© September 2009 Paul Cooijmans


Dr. Hans Asperger, the Austrian pediatrician after whom Asperger syndrome is named, published his article Die "Autistischen Psychopathen" im Kindesalter while working at the University Children's Hospital in Vienna. The essential points of Asperger's paper are summarized below in the form of questions and answers. These are intended to be an objective condensation of Asperger's observations related to the relevant questions, which in most cases are spread over the various sections of his article. The comments are by the present author (which is posh language for "I"). One may also wish to read the German original oneself, which can be found through the hyper reference at the beginning of the present paragraph.

The Imperial Seal

Questions, answers and comments

What is Dr. Asperger's most succinct characterization of the condition?

It is a narrowing of one's relation to the world outside one.

What is the nature of this narrowing?

It is a disturbance of instinct; an impairment of the ability to relate to or interact with the outside world in the direct, concrete, instinctive manner that is inborn to the majority of humans.


The instincts meant are now known to originate in the deep-lying ancient structures of the brain that humans share with other mammals, and are popularly called "mammalian brain".

What are the consequences of this disturbance?

Information is processed in the abstract and logical ways of the intellect, rather than instinctively and concretely. Communication is intellect-driven, in language, rather than through the direct instinctive channels that bypass the intellect as in intonation, facial expression, or "body language". Attention is rarely directed at faces of people by whom one is spoken to, although the verbal contents of what is being said is perceived, as if at the periphery of attention, and internally processed. Many more symptoms result from or accompany the disturbance.


The use of words like "abstract", "logical", and "intellect" here serves merely to describe the style of information processing or thinking, and does not necessarily imply high intelligence. This should be kept in mind throughout the present article. Regardless of intelligence, one is forced to use intellect where instinct is disturbed.

Intellect, logic and the like, are now known to occur in the cortex, the outer shell of the brain, which is unique to humans.

How does the condition express itself, on the most general level?

The condition is expressed in the physical realm, in communication, and in behaviour on the whole. Sufferers are at first sight recognized as deviant by their position, look, voice, and manner of speaking. They may make a "mechanical" or robot-like impression. There are significant problems with social adaptation, and in many cases a failure to adapt to society. The traits of the condition are recognizable from the second year of life onward, and are lifelong. The face soon loses its "baby fat", and pronounced features appear that are princely or degenerate-aristocratic. They often have a brooding frown. The early thinking shapes the face.


Experience tells it is at not once clear to some that "the second year of life" means an age of one, and not two, as is the typical misinterpretation. The reader may derive amusement from realizing that this difference in interpretation typifies the distinction between intellect-driven and instinct-driven persons which is so relevant in this context.

Asperger's remark that in many cases there is a failure to adapt to society is elsewhere in his paper qualified by stating that societal adaptation often does come about eventually in adulthood, as a result of professional achievement.

In which kinds of children does it occur?

In children of a wide variety of character, and along the entire spectrum of intelligence, from apparently highly able with an originality bordering on genius, to deeply retarded and severely socially handicapped, mechanical and robot-like. The several hundred cases studied that displayed the condition were all boys though; in girls, social handicaps were seen that resembled some of the symptoms of Autistischen Psychopathen, but not the full condition, and in some of those girls these symptoms apparently resulted from early encephalitis rather than being congenital. However, Hans noted that the mothers of the boys in several cases did display the condition. In lack of an explanation, this led to speculate that either the condition is rarer in girls than in boys, or perhaps in females is expressed only after puberty.

He further calls it "an extreme variant of the male character", reasoning that girls and women tend to be better at concrete, illustrative, practical, and instinctive matters, while boys and men are better at logic, abstraction, and accurate thinking and formulating.

In all of the cases where it was possible to verify this, the child's symptoms could be recognized in relatives. Noteworthy is that the fathers, even if from modest background, often had intellectual professions or, if they had not, appeared to have missed their vocation. In many cases there had been several generations of intellectuals in the families. Often the children came from families of prominent scientists or artists, of whom apparently mainly the whims, the deviance, had remained. These facts speak with certainty for the heredity of the condition, and for the persistence and uniformity with which the traits express themselves throughout generations.

The children were predominantly only child. says this is a result of the generally autistic character of one or both of the parents, which tends to lead them to desire no more than one child. Also, in marriages of autistic persons, the inevitable problems and tension are such that there is no room for a larger number of children.


Nowadays girls do receive the diagnosis of Asperger's disorder, although still several times less frequently as do boys. This increased prevalence of girls may be related to the current diagnostic criteria, which cover only part of the symptoms observed by Asperger, and are therefore less restrictive and allow for more and lighter cases to be diagnosed, including many girls. When reading Asperger's article, one can not escape the impression that the children he considered to have the condition would be the more severe cases within the group that now has the diagnosis of Asperger's disorder.

Nevertheless it also is plausible that this condition is in actuality increasing in both sexes in populations of technological societies, as an evolutionary adaptation to the requirements such a society puts on its citizens in terms of coping with complex technology. A possible increase is apparently seen in areas with much technological industry, and some think this is because the people who live and work there are often technology-oriented intellectuals like computer scientists and programmers, who are more likely to get Aspergoid or autistic children. This is currently a theory, but given the advantage such personality types have in dealing with technology, the strong heredity of the condition, the relation with intellectuals in the family observed by Asperger, and the importance of technology and necessity to deal with it in modern society, it makes sense that with every generation there would be more individuals like this, intellect-oriented rather than instinct-driven. That is, as long as a good number of them achieve sufficient adaptation to succeed in breeding.

One should note well that the condition as understood by Hans Asperger was not limited to those of normal or higher intelligence, contrary to the current concept of . There is no mention of it occurring more often on one side of the intelligence spectrum than on the other. Although there is the connection with intellectuals in the family history, the sufferers of the condition themselves were not as a rule highly intelligent, again contrary to the current popular image of .

Does the condition differ, depending on character or intelligence of the child?

Hans Asperger emphasizes repeatedly that the symptoms are remarkably constant across the spectra of intelligence and character, that the condition is unmistakably uniform. However, the children themselves, their problems, and their life prospects vary greatly, depending on intelligence and character.

Which types of problems does it cause in school?

It causes serious problems in school, regardless of intelligence level. These are problems related to the manner in which the children are inclined to learn, problems of attention, problems of conduct, not fitting in with the other children, and being bullied by the other children. As a result of these problems, the children described by Asperger in many cases were placed in special schools as they were deemed unfit for or could not be maintained in a regular school. Also, school performance was often poor compared to what they appeared to be capable of as judged by their spontaneous production, and compared to the expectations of their parents, who tended to overestimate them.

What are their school-related problems in more detail?

They tend to learn by themselves, from within, invent their own methods (for instance for doing arithmetic), and have difficulty learning, applying and automating the methods instructed by teachers. Their self-invented methods though are not always correct, may sometimes lead to false results, depending on the level of intelligence.

They may find it hard to direct attention to the teacher, or to remain seated in the classroom. The may wander around, seemingly without paying attention to what is happening around them. They may have little or no idea as to what is being treated in class, what their homework is, or pick from a lesson only the bits that happen to interest them. They may only do well in those subjects that happen to coincide with their area of special interest.

They may find it hard to obey, do not recognize authority; rather they follow their own inspiration, regardless of prohibitions and regardless of consequences.

They do not fit in or get along with children or groups, and in confrontation may turn enraged, blindly beating away at the other children, without regard for the safety of others, without any consideration for the consequences, for the injuries, suffering, or damage they may cause. They tend to always play alone. Their behaviour may greatly disturb order in the classroom.

They tend to be the focal point of extreme bullying, to be at the centre of a roaring group of boys mocking them or beating and kicking them. Asperger stresses repeatedly that this bullying is understandable, is provoked by their deviant appearance, clumsiness, and behaviour, including their own possible rage against the other children, and by the fact that they "can not take a joke" - Sie verstehen keinen Spaß - , that they can not stand derision. Hans Asperger says they are not able to understand the world from the heart, which is the basis of true humour: Sie [...] bringen es nicht zu jenem aus dem Gemüt kommenden Verstehen der Welt, das im echten Humor liegt.


The excessive bullying that is so typical in relation to Aspergoid individuals may have an ancient evolutionary background. Someone so deviant is, on the unaware tribal level, not recognized as a member of the own tribe by the normal instinct-driven children. Such an intruder must therefore be prevented from spreading his genes. When a patrol of chimpanzees spots a male member of a neighbouring band at the border of their territory, the opponent is typically captured and held to the ground by two chimpanzees while being battered to death by a third. This is the archetype of bullying. Humans and chimpanzees are parallel species that happen to share this trait, inherited from the common ancestor. Even though it is done by children, make no mistake; the purpose of bullying is to kill, to keep the deviant individual from procreation.

Toward the end of puberty children tend to stop their bullying, as by that time most have reached the abstract thinking phase (which in Aspergoids starts in infancy but in in normal children in puberty), and acquire the option to use intellect to control the ancient instincts. Intellect is the great peace-bringer that keeps the mammalian brain in check. Without intellect, instincts of violence, aggression and xenophobia run wild in the male brain, as so clearly seen in children and in adults of below-average intelligence (Most criminals have I.Q.s between 60 and 100, while violent crime peaks in males between I.Q. 80 and 90).

The blind rage sometimes seen in these children when bullied or mocked appears to come from the "reptilian brain", the brain stem that houses the vegetative functions and is even more ancient than the mammalian brain. It is the rage of the crocodile attacking its prey. In such a rage, there is no awareness of or consideration for consequences, pain, or damage, and no recognition of the supremacy of the opponent; one is a barely aware insensitive killing machine. That nevertheless few are killed in such rages is partly due to the clumsiness and physical weakness of most Aspergoid boys, and partly to the superior tactical insight of the mammalian brain of the instinct-driven bullies, who will only take on their victim in a situation of supremacy, when they are confident they will win a possible fight. Bullies only target those weaker than themselves, mirroring the fact that chimpanzees only attack members of neighbouring bands if they outnumber them by at least three to one.

The reptilian rage can overcome everyone, but one may imagine that in normal persons the mammalian brain acts as a buffer, takes over the anger and expresses it in the more moderate, tactical ways of instinct-driven intonation, facial expression, and "body language", including controlled physical violence as in punching and kicking. One is then "angry", not "enraged". In Aspergoid persons, these mammalian instincts are disturbed, and the anger may be handled directly in the raw, blind, non-tactical way of the reptilian brain. Blind to the supremacy of the opponent, and blind to the consequences. When growing up, the intellect must learn to control these reptilian impulses, and compensate for the disturbance of mammalian instinct. This apparently succeeds in most cases. One might speculate though that the frequent occurrence of depression in these people, as well as the less frequent occurrence of psychosis, have something to do with the ongoing effort of controlling this rage; with a failing therein, a breaking down or disintegration under the stress of it. Also, in forensic psychiatry it is observed that serious aggressive outbursts, sometimes with fatal result for the victim, do occur in Aspergoid individuals, however the existing scientific literature on that phenomenon does not warrant the conclusion that aggressive behaviour is more frequent in persons with than in the general population.

What are their prospects?

The most able often succeed in finding positions where they are appreciated for their specific skills, typically in intellectual, highly specialized professions. The least able are worst off, ending up as wandering eccentrics talking to themselves in the streets. On the whole, adaptation succeeds better than one would expect given the severe problems in childhood, and fails almost only in those cases where intelligence is low. A clear majority arrives at good professional performance, often in high positions, and one gets the impression that no one but exactly these autistic individuals could be capable of such achievement. Their deficits in instinct apparently offer room for compensatory hypertrophic persistence in a narrow area of special interest, which in many cases already existed in childhood.


With this condition, one has to use intellect to compensate for the disturbance of instinct, and those of higher intelligence succeed best in that. This is an illustration of the general relation between intelligence level and real-life functioning. It shows the importance and value of intelligence. It can not be stressed enough that persons of low intelligence have it harder in life than those of high intelligence.

There exists a probably true notion that nowadays it is harder for Aspergoid individuals to find and hold a job than in the 1940s when Asperger wrote his paper. Since the 1960s, Western societies have undergone significant feminization, and men are now required to behave like women in many respects: to be "team players", to have "communication skills", to work in "office gardens" instead of having a room of their own, to talk about "emotions", to possess "E.Q.", to "multi-task", and so on. Such expectations are detrimental for this type, and what in the past would have fallen within the normal variance of personality now becomes a social and professional handicap. The blessings of feminism may be putting ever more potentially creative achievers in the disabled category, thus as it were castrating society's source of progress.

What does Autistischen Psychopathen mean?

Autistischen ("autistic"), a term borrowed from Eugen Bleuler, refers to the narrowing of one's relations to reality, the focus on the self. Asperger explains that autism (in Bleuler's meaning) is in its most extreme form expressed in schizophrenics, and that the condition he (Asperger) is describing is a less serious form of autism, wherein contact with reality is not completely lost. He contrasts schizophrenics with Autistischen Psychopathen by calling the first psychotisch and the latter psychopathisch - literally "mind-ill" - , a less serious qualification. The word Psychopathen therefore is used to specify that this condition is less serious than that which is seen in schizophrenics.

Psychopathen can also be taken to refer to sufferers from personality disorders, although Asperger's disorder as such is now included with "pervasive developmental disorders", a more serious category.

How do they perform on intelligence tests?

No formal tests resulting in I.Q. or other quantitative scores were conducted because of the problems in communication with the children, and their unwillingness or inability to direct attention to the test administrator and perform requested tasks. Instead, selected subtests were used to examine, observe, the children's modes of problem-solving and other aspects of their personalities and disorders. It was observed they did best on tasks that allowed spontaneous production (as opposed to following instructions), in particular on problems that require one to recognize and think in abstract concepts, such as problems that ask for the difference between for instance a ladder and stairs. On the whole they appeared to be abstract thinkers by nature, and the quality of their spontaneous production in some cases revealed they were years ahead of their biological age, despite poor school performance.

Also, they displayed a remarkable originality in thinking and experiencing; in the best cases this originality bordered on genius, in less able subjects it was deviant rather than original, far removed from reality and without much relevance or value.

It too became clear that the children were not inclined to accept knowledge from adults, teachers, to learn and automate skills according to instruction. They could only be original. As a result, a possible I.Q. based on their (good) performance on logical-abstract tests would overstate their school performance. To obtain a balanced impression of their functioning, it was necessary to also take their learning skills, mode of working, concentration and distractibility into account.

Asperger explains that the personality of the child has to be considered when conducting tests, so that for instance fearful, inhibited children are encouraged, helped, and over-talkative, noisy, busy children are kept tight and forced to get down to business.

As a general observation, Asperger says one can not assess each aspect of the personality in isolation, as they influence each other such that the whole is more than the sum of parts, and one therefore has to observe them in combination in the individual, not in a formal test situation but in the individual's own environment and daily activities.


Although no I.Q.s or other quantitative scores result from the tests, it is clear from Asperger's description of the test administrations that the children would have scored quite low I.Q.s, had the tests been conducted in a formal, objective, standardized way, without taking the problems in communication and attention into account. In particular, the children with apparently good capabilities of logic and abstract thinking would have scored lower than one would guess from their spontaneous production. Here one sees at work how the Aspergoid condition depresses psychometric intelligence when tests are conducted objectively and in the standardized way (so, in the only good way).

However, if the test procedure is forgiving with regard to these individuals' problems in attention and communication, and if only the types of tests at which they do best are used, the resulting scores will be elevated compared to their true level of functioning, their general intelligence. Intelligence is a very large factor in real-life functioning, but it is not the whole story, and Asperger is probably right that one must observe the integral personality, of which intelligence is only one important aspect.

Nowadays in the world of "giftedness" one often hears the notion of "Asperger is really giftedness turned into a disorder", implying that the diagnosis is incorrectly given to children who really are highly intelligent, and that the symptoms of are really the features of "giftedness". This notion is of course popular with the parents of diagnosed children. But although some Aspergoid children are indeed intelligent, this does not make their handicap less serious. And the real confusion may lie in cases where the child's inclination to abstract logical thinking causes one to deem it "gifted" while this is not the case. One-sided abstract-logical tests tend to overstate the general intelligence of some Aspergoid persons. Finally, given the conspicuous nature of the Aspergoid condition, it seems unlikely that truly intelligent but otherwise normal children would be incorrectly diagnosed.

What is remarkable about their speech?

Their speech is at once recognized as unnatural, while the particular nature of this abnormality differs greatly between individuals. The speech may be monotonous, singing, high-pitched, staccato, soft and distant, excessively modulated, inappropriately loud, like a caricature of degenerated nobility, etcetera. The speech lacks affect (expression via intonation), and even if it contains intonation this is random or idiosyncratic modulation rather than expression.

The speech works as a caricature, provokes derision. It is not directed at the addressed, but into empty space. The choice of words is often unusual, idiosyncratic, and there is a tendency to freely form new words, for instance by combining existing ones. This formation of new words reveals an underlying thinking process in abstract concepts that goes beyond what has been learnt. The use of language is often creative and witty, and tends to be their primary or only form of humour.

They may learn to speak early, and soon "speak like an adult". Their words may reveal an original experience of life, and unusual viewpoints of an astonishing maturity. The topics and problems they address way exceed what other children of their age tend to be thinking of.

They often do not answer a question directly; it may be hard to get through to them. They may echo what others say rather than replying. But then they unexpectedly may make a spontaneous remark which reveals good understanding of a situation and judgment of people. They may also display a deep insight in art, and the capability of self-observation and self-knowledge. The term "psychopathic insightfulness" is used in this context by Asperger, who thinks the disturbance of instinct - and the greater distance to the concrete that results therefrom - enable and further abstraction, becoming aware, and gaining understanding of the world, and therefore disposes for scientific achievement.


It is no doubt this type of child that in some cultures from early age on is treated with respect, called "the wise man" as an infant, grows up to be a shaman, is identified as the new Dalai Lama, and so on. An expression sometimes used for children like this is kundalini awoken at birth. In Western societies, the term "new age children" is nowadays common. This is probably a condition that disposes not only for science or art, but also for spirituality or occultism, depending on one's further character and cultural environment.

What is the difference of this condition with Leo Kanner's autism?


Asperger does not address this question in his 1944 paper, probably because he was not aware of Kanner's work at the time. The following can be said: Although there are many similarities, the children described by Asperger all had speech, while part of Kanner's autistics did not speak. Also, Asperger puts more emphasis on the strengths and the potential of the children, in particular of the more able ones. On the whole, the condition sketched by Asperger seems to offer a better outlook on life than does Kanner's autism.

These differences are also to some extent alive in the current diagnostic criteria and conventions, although there is controversy between experts as to whether or not Asperger's disorder is, in reality, the same as "high-functioning autism". The latter is not a formal diagnosis though; there is just "Asperger's disorder" and "Autistic disorder". Those who think the two disorders are the same prefer the term "autism", and would rather dismiss the Asperger diagnosis.

What are the differences with schizophrenia?

In schizophrenia there is loss of contact with reality, in particular in the form of hallucinations and delusions. In Autistischen Psychopathen though, contact with reality is merely narrowed, not lost. Asperger expresses this contrast through the words psychotisch versus psychopathisch.

Also, in schizophrenics a process can be observed over time in the form of a progressive loss of contact with reality and destruction of the personality. The Autistischen Psychopathen on the other hand are stable, and those with sufficient intelligence often learn to adapt to some degree to the demands of society via the way of the intellect as they grow up. Only in rare cases do they develop psychosis.

Asperger also observed no above-average occurrence of schizophrenia in the families of autistic children, so that genetically the conditions appear to have nothing to do with each other; this however was not conclusive.


Although only a few percent of those diagnosed with Asperger's disorder develop schizophrenia later on, this is still a small multiple of the frequency of that illness in the general population. Having Asperger seems to double the risk of becoming schizophrenic. And, of those with schizophrenia, fairly many would have satisfied the criteria for Asperger before the onset of their illness. It appears that the premorbid stage of some forms of schizophrenia is or resembles an Aspergoid condition.

It can however still be observed that Asperger's disorder (or autism, for that matter) and schizophrenia do not tend to aggregate together within families. It can not be said at this point if and to what degree these disorders are genetically linked.

What are the differences with an autism-like condition caused by birth trauma or by other brain damage?

Brain damage resulting from birth trauma, early encephalitis and the like may cause many remarkably similar or the same symptoms as seen in Autistischen Psychopathen, but in addition there are neurological and vegetative symptoms in those cases, like strabismus, spasticity, increased salivation and more.

Another difference is that the autistic symptoms caused by trauma are typically not seen back in the patient's relatives, as they have not been inherited.

What advice is given as to how to deal with these children?

What can be said about their motor coordination and practical and social clumsiness?

They are at once perceived as clumsy at school, in particular in gymnastics. They never get "loose", and their movements appear wooden. When instructed to perform specific exercises or practical skills, they appear to move only the muscles at which their attention and will are momentarily directed, while the rest of the body remains stiff. They execute the movements strictly via the intellect, never loosely or spontaneously. They have little control over their body, and never swing along in a rhythm. In general, their motor functions (like walking) may develop late and with difficulty. They have bad handwriting and difficulty learning to write. They may have stereotypical movements or mannerisms, which may be rhythmical; these have no expressive value, are not "body language".

They do not learn the practicalities and social requirements of everyday life by spontaneously imitating adults, but have to learn those painstakingly through careful instruction; and this is all the more problematic because of their great resistance to instruction, and their dislike for practical and social as opposed to theoretical matters. It concerns skills like eating, bathing, getting dressed, or any type of bodily care. These things, most of which normal children learn unawarely and instinctively through imitation, can be learnt by them only cerebrally; they are mechanical intellect-robots. They have difficulty automating tasks, forming habits imposed onto them by others. They are very attached to their own or existing habits though. As a result, the practicalities of everyday life are learnt very late and with difficulty. Once having learnt a skill or formed a habit, their compulsive nature makes them stick to it rigidly. They tend to neglect bodily care, even as adults.


Although they tend to refuse to go along in rhythms presented to them, their own stereotypical movements are often rhythmical.

What is observed about their look?

They avoid looking people in the eye. Their look often appears lost, empty, gazing in the distance, and only flares up when they are up to mischief. They seem to notice people and things with their peripheral vision.

What is wrong with their attention?

Their active attention is disturbed. They appear to notice the outside world at the periphery of their attention, through "passive attention", are distracted by it.


One could say their way of perceiving the world is their being distracted by it. They are like a library visitor who stands in front of a shelf of books, looking at the book right in front of one, trying to read the title on its back, but at once being distracted by a book half a metre to the right or left, at the periphery of vision, and ending up reading that book's title instead.

Whenever attention is directed at one book, another seen peripherally takes over, and in the end all actual perception has been done peripherally. The book title right in front of one, though seen with the eyes, is not truly perceived, never fully enters awareness, its meaning is not understood but only its words go around in the mind, as if a from an unknown language, as if one has selective aphasia at the centre of one's attention.

Are the disorders A.D.H.D. and A.D.D. related to this condition?


Obviously Asperger does not discuss this, but reading his article it seems that what are now called "A.D.H.D." and "A.D.D." are subsets of the symptoms described by him. Attention problems and hyperactivity are regular parts of the condition as seen in the meant group of children. Nowadays, Asperger's disorder, A.D.H.D., and A.D.D. are separate diagnoses, and the criteria for each are only subsets of what Hans Asperger described, Asperger's disorder being the most substantial, but not by far complete, subset.

The question whether or not A.D.H.D. and A.D.D. belong to the "autism spectrum" is interesting and current, and can not be answered at this point.

What is observed about their sexuality?

They may be asexual or without interest in sex, and remain so into adulthood, or, in the majority of cases, have a disturbed, deviant sexuality (like fetishism or homosexuality) which becomes expressed from an early age on, often without shame and in an exhibitionistic manner. They may never in their life have normal sexual relations or achieve a healthy, mature sexuality that is harmonically integrated with the personality.


This is of interest considering the fact that the more intelligent individuals with the Aspergoid condition are often inclined toward science or art, and that many if not most geniuses appear to be rather Aspergoid. It is a public secret that the world's greatest minds tend to be sexual deviants, as expressed in sayings like "Once a philosopher, twice a pervert", or Hoe groter de geest, hoe groter het beest (Netherlandic for "The greater the mind, the greater the beast"). When reading honest biographies of geniuses, one can not escape this fact. It is also something that may make one, secretly but with perverse delight, smile whenever one hears someone claim to be "the world's smartest man" or have "the world's highest I.Q.".

What is said about their special preferences, interests, sensitivities, and insensitivities?

There is often a preference for sour or spicy foods, and a strong dislike for vegetables and milk products. In the tactile realm, a dislike for sensations like velvet, silk, cotton wool, chalk, the roughness of new shirts, the cutting of nails, or water when bathing. Also the inside of the mouth or throat is over-sensitive. In some situations they are hypersensitive to noise, while in other situations they appear to be shielded off from and insensitive to their environment, including the noise.

Their interests tend to be of scientific or technological nature. They may start reading much on topics that interest them at a relatively early age, and have an area of special interest in which their performance is quite unusual (and in rare cases of savant-level). The special interests and possible savant-like skills of retarded persons are generally of no practical use or value.

What is their relation to things?

They may be very attached to things like simple toys or objects, can not stand to be separated from those, yet do not play with them like normal children do. Often they collect things, like matchboxes, again not to play with them but just to possess, store, order them. Their way of possessing or collecting things constitutes a de-souling of the object.

How are they disturbed in their relating to other people?

They are at once perceived as defective in the emotional plane, and remain isolated from others, especially from their closest relatives. They are barely capable of tenderness, and turn angry when one tries to be nice to them. They may be touchingly attached to animals or things, but highly indifferent and cruel toward humans, especially those closest to them. Their mischievous behaviour tends to be highly disturbing, as if they know exactly what to do to cause the greatest annoyance, chaos, damage, or danger. They may be insensitive to the feelings or suffering of others, in particular to the mental or physical suffering they themselves cause to others. They may display sadistic tendencies or behaviour, especially toward close relatives like younger siblings.

In communication, there is clearly a disturbance of "affect", both passive and active; that is, they do not interpret the affect of who is speaking to them correctly or at all, and their own affect, if present at all, is not understood by the other party. When spoken to with affect, they get annoyed, negative, or aggressive.

They are extremely egocentric and pursue their desires and impulses without regard for what is and is not allowed. They lack respect for the other person, speak with the self-obvious certainty of being right. They may have no sense of personal space, touch and grab complete strangers as if they are things instead of humans, and address them without understanding of class, rank, seniority, or courtesy. They are also greatly annoyed when one disturbs them.

Final comment

The antinomy between intellect and practicality may also be seen in the legendary death of Archimedes. The Greeks, known for their love of exact science and art, were at war with Rome. When the instinct-driven practical Romans conquered the city of Syracuse, Archimedes, concentrated on drawing geometrical diagrams in the sand, was not recognized by the Roman soldier who disturbed him. Absorbed in his mathematical problem as he was, he forgot to make himself known but, blind to the consequences, the supremacy, the danger, stood up to the soldier, saying Noli turbare circulos meos - Disturb not my circles - and on the spot died by the sword.