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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Asperger's boy enters Mastermind
Andrew Cowan
Andrew will be one of 20 hopefuls to appear on Junior Mastermind
An 11-year-old Scottish boy with Asperger's Syndrome is set to take part in Junior Mastermind.

Andrew Cowan, from Glasgow, has won a seat on the BBC One quiz programme with his specialist subject of Star Wars.

The schoolboy suffers from the same form of autism as was featured in the best-selling book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Andrew is one of 20 hopefuls aged between 10 and 11 who will appear on the programme, which begins on 16 May.

Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism which affects the way a person communicates with and relates to others.

People with the condition usually have fewer problems with language than those with autism and many lead highly productive lives in specialised fields, such as academia.

It was only identified as a separate condition in 1944 and became clinically recognised in the mid-90s.

I wanted to show that people like me can live a normal life and also that we're not what people think
Andrew Cowan

Andrew's symptoms manifest themselves with his problems with social interaction and the fact that he cannot cope with high noise levels.

He also finds it difficult to cope with stressful situations.

However, he has shown a remarkable knowledge of the Star Wars film saga since his early childhood.

At the age of four he correctly answered 95% of the questions in a Star Wars newspaper quiz and has said he likes the films because they are "a classic story between good and evil".

Despite his problems, Andrew was determined to sit in the famous big black chair and show the public that people with the syndrome lead normal lives.

'Blessing not curse'

He said: "I wanted to show that people like me can live a normal life and also that we're not what people think.

"Asperger's Syndrome is not a life sentence. It's a blessing, not a curse."

Last year's Junior Mastermind contest was won by 10-year-old Daniel Parker from Cardiff who answered questions on James Bond villains.

This year's contestants will be quizzed on subjects ranging from the Beatles and TV series The Vicar of Dibley to the life and career of Winston Churchill, the history of Cadbury and black holes.

Six contestants will make it through to the grand final later this year to compete for the Junior Mastermind 2005 title.

Mastermind quizmaster John Humphrys said: "These children really understand their subjects and are genuinely interested in them. They are also remarkably cool under pressure.

"I wouldn't sit in that chair for a king's ransom."

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