Asperger’s and Tourette Syndromes: a “Did You Know” PSA
In recent light, James Durbin, American Idol Season 10 hopeful has become a public face to Asperger’s and Tourette Syndromes. In an Idol interview, Durbin triumphantly declared “I have Tourette’s and Asperger’s, but Tourette’s and Asperger’s don’t have me.” But did you know that Asperger’s and Tourette syndromes are both conditions that commonly occur together and are three to four more times more likely to strike males than females.And did you know that before James Durbin, Dan Aykroyd, actor, comedian, and musician, discussed publicly in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR (2004) his own experience living with Asperger’s and Tourette Syndromes.
Aykroyd’s acknowledgement of having both conditions was broached by Gross’s curiosity if research he had found stating that Aykroyd was diagnosed with Schizophrenia was true.
Here’s a snippet of that interview:
GROSS: Sometimes when I’m preparing an interview, I’ll read something about someone, and I’m not sure if they really said that or if it’s really true, because it sometimes isn’t. Ha ha. So, let me read you something that I read that you had said, and you can tell me if it’s true. And if it is true and it’s too personal, you can tell me that as well. But I read that when you were 12 you were diagnosed as schizophrenic and that you heard voices in your head and that you had to kind of keep that under control.
AYKROYD: Um, well, it was more of a Tourette’s thing than schizophrenia. I was analyzed as a Tourette’s and Asperger’s [child], which I still have a little bit today. You know, I mean, I grew up being pulled one way by my mother, who was very very strict, and then being relaxed by my father, who was very passive. I had the Tourette’s there pretty badly there, and I went to a therapist about it. At 12 years old I was able to have the luxury of sitting down with a therapist and talking through all kinds of things, books and music. She was quite influential in kind of evening me out. …Of course, now today they just give kids pills, but back then we didn’t have the benefit of all this sophisticated medicine. Whether it works or not, I don’t know. I think time will tell on that.
It was not so much [schizophrenia]. I think when I said that, I was kind of going to the extreme. It was not so much the schizophrenia part of it, but it was the Tourette’s/Asperger’s, which can be associated with hallucinogenic voices and that. I still have a little touch of that today. But I’ve been able to kind of defeat it without pharmaceutical medication. And I just find in my research and reading today that there’s a lot of people who have this kind of mild condition, and some of them get over it, and [for] some of them, it spins out where it affects them quite negatively.
GROSS: If you don’t mind my asking–
AYKROYD: I don’t.
GROSS: –what were some of the symptoms when you were 12, and were these things that you had to fight against to do the kind of acting & writing that you wanted to do, and did they feed that in any way?
AYKROYD: Well, it was mostly physical tics, you know, and nervousness kind of thing, and that kind of thing, you know, like grunting and tics and the classic Tourette’s type syndrome, that type of thing. But by the time I was 14 it was allayed and I really haven’t had too much occurrence except on the Asperger’s side, where I have a fascination with police, and I always have to have a badge with me. … I have a fascination with law enforcement and the police. My grandfather was a Mountie and that. If I don’t have a badge on me, I feel naked.
GROSS: I can’t tell if you’re kidding or not.
AYKROYD: No, no. It’s true. [Source]
Both Asperger’s and Tourette’s Syndrome are thought to have genetic components, and recent research has discovered a gene for a neurological disorder that includes autistic behaviors.