Asperger Syndrome is a Neuro- Developmental disorder that is on the Autism Spectrum. People with Asperger Syndrome have autism-like difficulties but have an intellectual capacity considered within the normal range and normal verbal skills. However they have a distinctive set of characteristics that have been apparent since early childhood.
This distinctive presentation tends to occur in three main areas: social, communication and restrictive interests.
These difficulties occur in all life domains and can make school, home and community life a lot harder for them.
No two people with Asperger Syndrome are alike – they are all uniquely different. There is no cure for Asperger Syndrome but people with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome can live full and happy lives, especially with early intervention.
Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disability which is characterised by impairments in three main life areas:
- Social interactions: may include failure to develop friendships that are appropriate to their developmental level (i.e. preferring to play with either younger or older children than their age), impaired use of non-verbal behaviours (i.e. facial expression, eye gaze, body language), and impaired ability to identify and respond appropriately to social cues and rules.
- Communication: may include difficulties with conversation skills (i.e. beginning or ending a conversation, turn taking, listening to another’s opinion), being pedantic, unusual way or tone of speaking and interpreting language literally.
- Restrictive interests: may involve the development of special interests that are considered unusual or abnormal in their focus and intensity and have a preference for routine and consistency.
Other things you may see in a child with Asperger Syndrome:
- motor clumsiness
- handwriting difficulties
- sensory issues (such as hypersensitivity to auditory, visual or tactile experiences)
- difficulties with executive functioning skills such as time management, organisational skills, explaining ideas verbally
- anxiety or depression (with self-harm or suicide being a real possibility if not managed appropriately)
- reduced ability to see “the big picture” instead focusing on the smaller details
- difficulty with sarcasm, deception, idioms (such as “it’s raining cats and dogs”)
- often seen as the “rule police” and can tell everyone else what to do, but not do it themselves
Executive functioning refers to the ability to control actions, involving attention, thoughts and even motor movements. “Actions” may include things like shifting attention, staying on topic, planning and executing these plans. Difficulties with executive functioning are probably more obvious at school; where they forget to bring notes home, can’t seem to get organised for the next lesson, forget homework and so forth but are also seen at home and in the community. At home you may see difficulties with knowing what order to put their clothes on, what clothes to wear according to the weather outside, knowing when to put the bin out or remembering that Monday is soccer night so I need to make sure my soccer uniform is clean. In the community it can include making sure you have enough money with you to pay for a movie, or knowing what to do if you miss the bus, or recognising that it is time to go home from a friend’s house when they all start yawning and wanting to go to bed.
There is some research to suggest that Asperger Syndrome occurs approximately 1 in 250 people.
Asperger Syndrome differs from a diagnosis of autism in that there is no significant delay in cognitive development; this means that they have no intellectual disability (which is possible for people diagnosed with autism, but not always so).
There are also far more boys diagnosed than girls.