What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder, meaning it originates in childhood and affects general progression.
It is categorized as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These are neurological conditions that can impair your communication and language skills.
Autism spectrum disorders can also impact affect behavior and thought patterns. (1)
Asperger’s syndrome falls on the so called “high functioning” range of the autism spectrum.
Unlike other ASDs such as autism, individuals with asperger’s do not usually present with learning disabilities.
Similarly, people with asperger’s do not usually have significant developmental impairment when it comes to language and cognition. (2)
A person with asperger’s is usually of average intelligence or above it. However, they may still face specific difficulties with learning, such as trouble processing language.
Individuals who have the disorder experience the world differently. Asperger’s is a lifelong condition, not a passing illness or disease. (3)
As it is a developmental disorder, the distinctive traits of asperger’s manifest from childhood.
The following symptoms and characteristics may be signs of asperger’s syndrome:
Social Interaction Issues
A common trait of asperger’s syndrome is difficulty in social situations. You may find it hard to interpret certain verbal and non-verbal communications.
Examples include someone’s facial expressions or tone of voice. Sarcasm, jokes and abstract concepts may seem confusing or difficult to identify.
Trouble reading another person’s feelings can cause those with asperger’s syndrome to seem insensitive.
This can result in behavior that is considered “odd” or inappropriate. Making new friends or meeting new people can be challenging for a person with asperger’s. (4)
During conversations, individuals with asperger’s might talk about themselves without engaging the other person. (5)
A stable routine can be comforting for someone with asperger’s. You may always prefer the same breakfast food or the same route to work.
This can include a set method of performing certain tasks, like doing laundry in a specific way. (6)
In conversations, this can result in speech patterns which are robotic or repetitive. (7)
Individuals with asperger’s usually develop interests they focus on intensely. The topics of interest can change over time or stay constant.
It may be anything from computers to trains. These interests can also be somewhat unusual – for example, collecting and identifying garbage.
They devote an immense amount of effort to focusing on and learning about the subject. (8)
These fascinations can be channeled into volunteering or other occupations in their chosen fields. (9)
Asperger’s can cause you to perceive smells, sounds, sights and other stimuli in different ways.
You may find you are particularly sensitive to some things and under-sensitive to others. An example of over-sensitivity is a dislike of people wearing a specific type of perfume.
Under-sensitivity to sound can result in enjoying loud, noisy environments or not acknowledging certain sounds.
These symptoms can also cause you to become overwhelmed. In turn, you may become withdrawn or suffer a meltdown. (10)
A meltdown occurs when someone with asperger’s is extremely overstimulated. It can manifest as shouting, screaming, or physically lashing out. (11)
Asperger’s syndrome has no distinct progression.
There isn’t one specific test to diagnose asperger’s either. In children, asperger’s syndrome is usually brought to a doctor’s attention by concerned parents.
In fact, asperger’s is considered more difficult to diagnose than other autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). In children, it is usually diagnosed at a later age than other ASDs.
This is because symptoms of the condition can manifest differently from person to person.
Undiagnosed adults can manage to learn coping skills to live with the disorder. However, a diagnosis can be beneficial for you, your family, friends and employers.
You may be entitled to certain benefits. You can also pursue support and treatment to better deal with your symptoms.
If you are concerned you may have asperger’s syndrome there are steps you can take to get diagnosed: (12)
See Your Doctor
Firstly, prepare to consult your doctor. Not all general practitioners have knowledge of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Explain to your doctor the reasons why you think you might have asperger’s. List examples of difficulties you have experienced in your life that may be due to the disorder.
For example, trouble with social interactions or sensory issues.
The next step in the process will be taken by your doctor. You will then be referred to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
Depending on the services available in your area, you may meet with a multidisciplinary team.
This is a group of medical professionals with different specialties. For example, counselor, psychiatrist, therapist, etc.
There are several strategies medical professionals use to diagnose autism. You will likely be asked a series of questions about your childhood and development.
These questions will likely center around your behavior patterns and how you interact with others.
The person or people assessing you may also observe your behavior during the diagnostic process. (13)
Diagnosticians will look for typical signs of asperger’s. One such indicator is reporting long term difficulty with social interaction and communication.
Another is having good language skills despite experiencing other issues.
Other criteria include, having repetitive or restricted activities, interests or behavior since childhood. (14)
There are no set or required treatment plans for asperger’s syndrome.
Treatment plans aim to help patients cope with situations and experiences they may find uncomfortable.
Many of the same approaches used in children can also be applied to adults. They center on improving communication and social skills.
Certain therapies can help people with asperger’s identify what triggers frustration and anxiety. (15)
Potential treatment strategies include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) aims to alter your behavior and thoughts over time. For those with asperger’s syndrome, it can help patients learn to manage the condition.
CBT can be tailored to each individual’s case and goals. It can help you learn to regulate emotions and work on controlling impulses, a common issue with asperger’s.
Your therapist will work with you to reduce disruptive traits of asperger’s. These can include meltdowns or habits such as talking over others. (16)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a method to reduce undesirable behaviors and promote learning.
It can enable individuals with asperger’s to improve both basic and complex communication and interaction skills.
This can range from understanding how to listen to others to more in-depth learning, such as considering the perspective of another person.
In ABA, participants can practice the skills they learn to communicate, interact and learn.
This type of therapy can help adults with asperger’s adapt to employment or living alone. (17)
Occupational therapy involves working with a therapist to promote higher function. Your therapist will assess your weaknesses, strengths, and abilities.
These three aspects will be analyzed across a range of areas. This includes your leisure time, work, and daily activities.
An occupational therapist can determine what behaviors are causing you trouble. Then, they can determine how to proceed to reduce or combat the offending behavior.
Occupational therapy can help with various aspects of living with asperger’s. For example, avoiding malls because of the loud noises and crowds.
With this type of therapy, you can learn exercises to filter out sounds and sights that are stressful to you. (18)
What is asperger’s syndrome? Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that falls within the autism spectrum.
What are the signs of asperger’s syndrome? The signs of asperger’s syndrome include robotic, repetitive speech, difficulty handling conversations and trouble with social interaction in general. You may also develop intense interests in certain subjects, and be over or under sensitive to certain stimuli.
How do you develop asperger’s syndrome? The exact cause as to why autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) like asperger’s syndrome develop is not known. However, research has established ASDs can run in families. (19)
How are you diagnosed for asperger’s syndrome? Asperger’s syndrome is diagnosed through a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist or a team of health professionals (i.e. doctor, psychiatrist, etc).
What is the best treatment for asperger’s syndrome? The best treatment for asperger’s syndrome depends on symptoms and individual preferences. Treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, applied behavioral analysis, and occupational therapy.
What are the long term complications of asperger’s syndrome? Asperger’s syndrome can make it difficult to handle social interaction and communication. Some people with asperger’s may find everyday situations overwhelming, such as taking public transport. (20)
Is asperger’s syndrome considered a disability? Asperger’s syndrome can be qualified as a disability under certain circumstances. Your doctor must provide evidence that your disorder affects your communication skills and ability to interact with others. If you have extreme difficulty focusing on tasks, you may also be eligible for disability. (21)
Is there any cure for asperger’s syndrome? No, there is not a cure for asperger’s syndrome. However, there are treatments to help you manage the disorder. (22)
Is asperger’s syndrome life threatening? No, it is not life threatening.
Living with asperger’s can differ dramatically depending on the person. You may find you excel at your job, yet have difficulty with social interactions.
Alternatively, you may find it very difficult to hold down a full time job. However, you may have a unique talent for public speaking.
Getting a diagnosis for asperger’s can help you better understand yourself. Individuals with the disorder may feel as if they don’t fit in.
Just as importantly, a diagnosis enables your family, coworkers and friends to understand how you perceive the world.
You can also seek support and guidance from various foundations and communities dedicated to asperger’s. (23)