What is Aspergers Syndrome?

Aspergers Syndrome (also spelled as Asperger’s Syndrome)  is an oft-misunderstood form of high-functioning autism.

Aspergers Syndrom was first identified by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger in the mid-1940s. However, because the majority of Dr. Asperger’s research was lost during World War II, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Aspergers Syndrome began to receive widespread recognition.

Hans Asperger’s initial research identified the disorder that would come to be referred to as Aspergers Syndrome as an “autistic psycopathy” that was characterized by symptoms including the following:

  • Difficulties experiencing empathy
  • Trouble forming and maintaining friendships
  • Tendency to dominate conversations
  • Some issues with physical coordination
  • Obsessive interest in certain subjects

Signs & Symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome

Though no two cases of Aspergers Syndrome are identical, below are common symptoms and behaviors that modern healthcare professionals have identified as indicating the presence of Aspergers Syndrome.

According to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), an individual must demonstrate two of the following symptoms in order to be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome:

  • Marked impairment regarding nonverbal social cues (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t understand others’ body language, and similar behaviors)
  • Failure to make friends
  • Lack of appropriate social and emotional responses to others
  • Inability to spontaneously share enjoyment, interests and achievements with other people.

Also, the DSM-IV indicates that the individual must demonstrate one of the following in order to be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome:

  • An abnormal and intense interest in one subject
  • Adherence to a strict set of rules, routines and rituals
  • Repetition of certain mannerisms like hand flapping, hair twisting or even whole body movements
  • An obsession in the parts or mechanics of objects

Treatment for Aspergers Syndrome

There is no known “cure” for Aspergers Syndrome, but there are a range of therapies and intervention techniques that have proved successful in the effort to enhance the quality of life for adolescents, teens, and adults with Aspergers Syndrome.

In school, many students with Aspergers benefit from a highly structured environment with minimal distractions and close supervision.  Many students with Aspergers Syndrome are highly intelligent and can be very successful in an academic environment.

For students with Aspergers Syndrome, the most difficult aspects of school aren’t the academic challenges, but the stress and pressure of fitting into what can be a bewildering (to them) social structure.

Individuals with Aspergers Syndrome are likely to benefit from structured and supportive environments in all aspects of their lives — including home, work, school, and social settings. Because many individuals with Aspergers Syndrome do not possess the intrinsic ability to identify nonverbal communication forms such as body language and facial expressions, education in spotting and translating these social cues can be particularly helpful.

Depending upon their particular strengths and weaknesses, individuals with Aspergers Syndrome may benefit from individual and group therapy; animal-assisted therapy (such as equine therapy); and instruction in group dynamics, social interactions, and appropriate interpersonal behavior.