Dimitra Daisy delurked to write a long and very good comment on the previous post, Do disorders come in natural kinds.
If you want a good indication of whether Frankie has Aspergers or not (but only an indication!) look to see if he looks at people's faces to get information about things. Ifyou were frowning because you can't possibly hear another minute of talking about WoW, would he be able to tell? And, even if he can, does he look out for this sort of information? He might be able to tell you are angry, but does he check to see how you feel when he's talking with you? Does he do it consistently?
I want to answer these questions, and those of you who know more about Asperger's can give me feedback if you have any.
First answer: Yes, he can get information from faces, or at least faces with small noises. I gave an example a while back. He came into the living room with something messy and I made a little "uh" sound and he turned and looked me right in the face waiting for me to tell him what was wrong. I told him that the thing he had should stay in the kitchen. At the time I thought he was definitely "reading my face" but as I type this I wonder if he was really responding the distress noise.
Another example would be the other day when he asked me if I thought blood elves were "attracting" I said "Yes, definitely" with a total deadpan followed by a tiny smile. He burst out laughing. Again, he seemed to understand that my face was telling him something other than what my words were saying.
Most of the time when he is talking to someone he does make eye contact.
Second answer: not when he is caught up in an obsession or is frustrated. When he is worked up about WoW he does not check your face to see how you are responding to the conversation. You cannot get him to stop talking about it by giving him a bored face or annoyed face (not that I have tried that for long). I have always thought about it as the obsession/frustration being too strong to be stopped by a facial expression. Sometimes when we have told him that we need him to stop talking about something he has left the room -- not in a huff. It just seems like he knows that is the only way he can not talk to us.
I think it might be the case that he looks at our faces when he is asking for information and it seems like he can "read" them. When we ask him for information he is less likely to look, and when he seems compelled to tell us something he either doesn't look, doesn't "read" or doesn't use what he has read to guide his actions. If he has started to tell me about something he HAS TO FINISH even if I tell him early on "yes, I do know about that" or even "remember, I watched that show with you."
And a comment or two: Frankie has excellent eye contact for a kid in the system. Maybe it was because in the centers/institutions they made him. I know that at his current school they insist upon it. Maybe the group homes and treatment center were like that. In any case, Frankie generally does better than my other kids did. With most of my kids, direct and sustained eye contact was a pretty good indication that the kid was trying to deceive me.
Frankie does not monitor emotions like the other kids did. All the kids learn to insulate themselves from the emotions of others. Some try not to care about what you think. Others try to maintain a sense of control by keeping you wound up. However, they were all very aware of my emotional state. Part of how these kids survive is by watching the adults carefully. So though they might mistake me being tired and cranky with me being angry, they were always aware. Frankie though does not monitor and does not even notice more subtle emotional states. He also does not suspect me of lying if I tell him that I am just tired and not angry.