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Microsoft Corporation
Aspergers Syndrome
Bill Gates

Does Bill Gates have Asperger's Syndrome?


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November 30, 2009 9:46PM

The only way to answer this question with certainty is by asking Bill Gates' doctor. And unless that doctor has screened him for Asperger's (commonly referred to as AS, for Asperger's Syndrome), even he couldn't say for sure.

To qualify for an Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis, one has to meet several psychological and behavioral criteria.

Diagnosing Asperger's is normally done through clinical observation, interviewing of the patient and various other tests.

Here are the official criteria used by psychologists to diagnose Asperger's:

[From Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM IV]

"(I) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(A) marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(B) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(C) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g.. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
(D) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(II) Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(A) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(B) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(C) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g. hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
(D) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)

(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

(VI) Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia."

Whether Bill Gates displays these symptoms is certainly debatable. But here are some examples of where he might fall on the spectrum:

** He failed to develop peer relationships, for example, preferring to bond with older students and associates. (Criterion I.B.)

** He's noted for ignoring the opinions and feelings of others. (I.D.) This lack of empathy and awareness of other perspectives/opinions has possibly led to multiple lawsuits against Microsoft for its super-aggressive infringement on competitors' legal rights.

** Single-minded pursuit of computer expertise at the expense of all other interests, including graduating from college (II.A.)

** Gates' noted rocking is not debatable. (II.C.)

Behavioral analysts familiar with Aspergian behaviors also note a general lack of fashion sense (or "trend awareness"). Gates' appearance has long been noted for its "nerdiness," which is unusual for someone so wealthy and powerful.

The list of indicators for Gates being Aspergian goes on.

However, there is one indisputable counter argument: No doctor has officially diagnosed Bill Gates. And until that happens, it's impossible to say whether or not he's an Aspergian. There are certainly good arguments to be made for, and against, such a diagnosis.

But even with clinical diagnoses, a diagnosis often comes down to somewhat subjective observations and analysis.