Sarah Shive

Children with this syndrome often exhibit a limited capacity for spontaneous social interactions, a failure to develop friendships, and a limited number of intense and highly focused interests. There are some claims that what makes them different from people with autism is a greater desire to interact. Unlike more classically autistic children, who may be described as “aloof” or “passive” in their social interactions, children with Asperger’s tend to be “active but odd” (Asperger's Syndrome, 2008).
Not content to be alone all the time, they long to form friendships (as they understand them) with others. Unfortunately, they have very little idea how to make friendship work. Their approach is awkward and one-sided, and reflects a lack of understanding that the other person in the exchange has needs and wishes that have to be taken into account, too. Because they cannot read social or emotional cues well, they come off as insensitive, pushy, or strange, yet have very little insight into how they are perceived. These social deficits, which may be somewhat masked at home where all is familiar and adults bend to a child’s unique style, stand out in sharp relief once the child is placed into a group context with typical peers, whether at informal play groups or pre-school. It is around this pre-school period that many parents first become concerned about how their child is functioning (Asperger's Syndrome, 2008).
Emotion is another realm that befuddles people with Asperger's. It is often said that they lack empathy. If, by empathy, you mean a deep understanding of other people’s specific emotional states and how to respond appropriately, this is true. What it does not mean, however, is that they lack all compassion. They are more “self-centered than selfish," with an attitude towards others that may range from indifference to deep concern, but is rarely malicious (Asperger's Syndrome, 2008).

Because people with Asperger's are intelligent but “lack empathy," fears have sometimes been raised that they may be sociopathic. This is absolutely not the case. A true sociopath is a ruthless manipulator with an uncanny ability to read and utilize others’ emotions against them for his own gain. People with Asperger's are, in sharp contrast, clueless. People with Asperger's tend to say what they are thinking without the social filter society employs. On the positive side, this is something valuable they have to offer in the area of friendship: a relationship devoid of double meanings, manipulation, or little white lies (Asperger's Syndrome, 2008).
The more aloof individuals with Asperger's have been likened to Mr. Spock of Star Trek – the logic-bound Vulcan who saw human passion as distasteful and barely comprehensible. The warmer ones resemble Mr. Data, also of Star Trek fame – the android who, like Pinocchio, wanted to be a “real” person, but struggled with understanding emotion, humor, and romance. Both characters provide an opportunity for insight into what it might be like to have Asperger’s syndrome: to be so bright in some ways, so lost in others (Asperger's Syndrome, 2008).