Tuesday, December 20, 2005
At times, Alexander Plank has felt so different from others he wonders if he's on the wrong planet. The 19-year-old freshman at George Mason University has Asperger's syndrome, a condition characterized by difficulty with social interaction.
Last June Plank co-founded wrongplanet.net, a Web site designed to provide a community for people with Asperger's. The site provides discussion forums and resources, such as tips on making a voice less monotone.
Some of wrongplanet.net's 3,000 global members are formally diagnosed with Asperger's. Others just share some of the syndrome's traits, such as trouble making eye contact or small talk. Many people with Asperger's want to discuss only specific topics, such as computers or art.
"A lot of people [with Asperger's] sort of get conditioned not to really want to ever try" to be social, said Plank, because they have often been bullied or told they act strangely.
On wrongplanet.net, Plank says, there is no pressure. "Chatting online allows people [with Asperger's] not to be worried" that someone is watching or judging them, he says. Some members help each other find jobs -- and dates.
-- Samantha Sordyl