Asperger Syndrome is on the autism spectrum, meaning it’s a form of autism. Some people call it “Autism Lite,” some call it “Little Professor Syndrome,” and some just call it Asperger’s. 🙂 No one knows exactly what causes it, but our brains work very differently from those of other people, and we process information differently.
Here are some of the common traits shared by people with Asperger Syndrome. Not everyone has all of them, and sometimes people are able to overcome or “grow out of” some of the symptoms as they get older.
This is taken directly from the info page of the Asperger’s Society of Ontario. There’s a lot of good info there, and their staff and volunteers are very willing to talk to you and help answer any questions you might have. (If you don’t live in Ontario, Google “autism” and the name of your town or city, and you should be able to find a nearby organization. Email me if you can’t and I’ll happily direct you.)
If you’ve been referred to this page by someone you know who has Asperger Syndrome, they may be willing to answer some of your questions too. Myself, I do a lot of teaching and “myth-busting” about the condition. 🙂
Another excellent resource is Tony Attwood’s book The Complete Guide to Asperger Syndrome. Most libraries and bookstores carry it, and it’s readily available through places like Amazon.
- Despite a desire for friends, difficulty in initiating or maintaining close relationships
- Problems reading non-verbal or social cues or understanding/using social rules
- Very socially naïve and as a result are often taken advantage of, rejected, or bullied
- Social contact may be directed by them (e.g. play is “on their terms” or not at all)
- Poor (or intense) eye contact, atypical use of gestures and flat or inappropriate facial expressions
- One-sided conversations, and little ability for “small talk”
- May appear overly shy or overly extroverted, but inappropriately so
- Unaware of others’ thoughts, feelings or perceptions resulting in inadvertently appearing rude or inconsiderate
- Literal interpretation of communication from others
- Avoidant of social contact or events, and may experience heightened anxiety in social situations
- Language is learned and used in “chunks” (e.g., phrases, dialogue from TV shows, etc.)
- Communication is used for delivering information or requesting, not as a way of interacting socially
- May respond poorly to changes, sensory stimuli, transitions, lack of structure, and restrictions
- Repetitive movements (e.g., jumping, rocking, pacing) and speech (i.e., talking about favourite topics, interest)
- Rigid, inflexible and rule-bound behaviour
- Inappropriate behaviour given the social situation (e.g., speaking too loud in place of worship)
- Exaggerated emotional response to situations (e.g., tantrums when asked to something that they don’t want to do)
- Superior ability to focus on favourite activity or area of interest (e.g., spends hours mastering video game to the exclusion of other pastimes)
- Average to superior intelligence
- Detail oriented approach to tasks which may result in missing the “bigger picture”
- May have associated learning disabilities (e.g., non-verbal learning disability)
- Often have high verbal scores in a cognitive assessment, and low performance scores
- Difficulty seeing “parts-to-whole” and “whole-to-parts” relationships
- Prefer technical/factual information over abstract
- Anxiety and depression
- Attentional difficulties (e.g., shifting attention; attending to unimportant stimuli)
- Tics or Tourette Syndrome
- Gross and fine motor deficits
- Poor organizational skills (e.g., time management and planning, partializing tasks)
More in-depth description:
Asperger’s Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association) under the general category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) in 1994.
Asperger’s Syndrome is named after the Vienna-based pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who, in 1944, studied and wrote about children in his practice who demonstrated the cluster of characteristics that are prevalent in those diagnosed today with Asperger’s Syndrome..
Although research on the prevalence rate for Asperger’s Syndrome is ongoing, it is thought that as many as 1 in 165 individuals in Canada have some form of an ASD. Based on current population statistics, this prevalence rate translates to an estimated 70,000 individuals in Ontario with an ASD.
Asperger’s Syndrome traits may make it difficult for children to function well in school and for adults to find and keep employment. Many individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit extensive knowledge of a specific interest and therefore are capable of major accomplishments.
Although Asperger’s Syndrome can be first detected in childhood, many individuals are not diagnosed until well into adolescence or adulthood.
The cause of Asperger’s Syndrome is not yet established, but a leading theory at this time points to genetic causes. Many individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome identify similar traits in their family members.
Treatments for those with Asperger’s Syndrome may include counseling, psycho-education, social skills training, medication, family intervention, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, special diets, and others.
Without diagnosis, support and intervention, those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as their families, struggle to understand their puzzling profile of strengths and deficits.