What is Asperger Syndrome?

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.

Happy reading!

Common Traits

Social/Communication Traits

  • 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

Behavioural Traits

  • 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)

Cognitive Traits

  • 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

Associated Challenges

  • 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)

Wait... there's more!

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.

Pretty ribbet-ing stuff, eh?

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11 Comments

11 thoughts on “What is Asperger Syndrome?

  1. Pingback: Ocipura.com

  2. Great blog! Ive read a few of your posts and I can relate with them so much! Im 17 and have recently been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and its great to read your posts and be able to relate! Keep up with the posts, really good stuff.

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments — I really appreciate it. 🙂

      How are you doing after your diagnosis? Did it help you? It was kind of surprise for me and kind of not, but boy, did it ever help clarify some stuff!

      Thanks for visiting and I hope you’ll be back! 🙂

      –Asparagus Girl

      • I think once I’d read the books and looked on the internet, I ticked all the boxes so much to the point it wasn’t a shock when I was diagnosed. Actually, its been about 5 weeks now and it still hasn’t really sunk in! I do think about it quite a lot though. It has definitely answered a lot of questions for me and my family and its helped me understand myself better and has helped me get a better sense of “self”. I do wonder if the negative aspects(depressive episodes, meltdowns, shyness) of me will always be with me because of it being part of me having Asperger’s Syndrome, and that sometimes makes me feel worse when I’m experiencing those things because I feel ill never be rid of them. But apart from that, I feel no different than before diagnosis. I guess I have a better sense of self-understanding and people are working to help me with the things I have trouble with. So that’s always good! But for now, I’m still waiting for it to sink in… if it even ever does! 🙂

  3. Yes, people think I am weird, strange, talented, lunar and anything else you can think of when they don’t understand our plight. The worst thing I ran into after diagnosis is once you tell a ‘normal’ person, they avoid you like the plague. Among 20 or so people in music which I have associated with and even done business with; once THAT cat was out of the bag, they run from me and avoid all contact. I am fed up with this personally. It is a pity that we can be considered some form of threat to them or society in general. Even though interaction was awkward, it was better before I let the moose trounce about the table cloth. (Told them about Asperger’s) My business is failing because of it. It is viral how word has spread and not in a good light. Among support groups in my area, I was put in the same group as those who sat and drooled all the time and had no motor skills or communication skills at all. Full down syndrome cases. Is this the way we are perceived? Holy crap!

  4. there’s an endless list of asperger traits, longer than any other disorder, like love for danger and fascination with blinking lights and swaying object, such as treetops in the wind, and intense love for music and animals. many aspies are also physically stronger than neurotypicals, which is our only way to defend ourselves, I think, since aspies have no idea who to trust and who not to. we also tend to be over trusting, which can lend us in a whole lot of trouble.
    one can go on and on about this list. the human brain is a computer, and ours operate by a different program.

  5. Thanks for this article my girlfriend suffers from aspergers and it’s helped me understand more as she finds it hard to explain.

  6. Thank you for your website. My 13 y.o. daughter was just diagnosed, and I hope that someday she will find comfort in this forum, and maybe someday she can start one of her own!

    • Oh wow! I hope the diagnosis helps her (and you!). It takes a bit of getting used to (on top of getting used to being a teenager!) but knowing what you’re up against is such a gift. There are tons of books & websites that can help too. Hang in there. 🙂

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