Asperger Syndrome (AS) or disorder is a neurological disorder characterized by poor social interactions, obsessions, odd speech and mannerisms. The syndrome is considered part of the spectrum of pervasive developmental delay and is sometimes referred to as "high-functioning autism."
Like children with autism and other pervasive development delay disorders, children with Asperger syndrome have difficulty with social interactions. They have the most difficulty with interpreting nonverbal cues from other people such as facial expressions and body language. Direct eye contact may be difficult. As a result, they have a hard time forming friendships with their peers. In addition, they do not seek to share interests or experiences with other people. For example, if they like toy trains, they do not bring the toy over to someone to show it off.
Unlike most children with other forms of pervasive developmental delay, children with Asperger syndrome do not have obvious delay in language development. They often have very large vocabularies that seem advanced compared to other children their age; this sometimes earns them the moniker of the "little professor." Despite their large vocabularies, these children are quite literal in their understanding of what others are saying. Also, with the exception of social skills, children with Asperger syndrome usually acquire self-help skills like toileting and dressing at the same ages as their peers.
In addition to their problems with social interactions, children with Asperger syndrome often have an obsessive interest in a particular subject and very little interest in much else. They may obsessively seek information about maps or clocks or some other topic. They may also be very inflexible in their habits and rigidly adhere to certain routines or rituals. Children with Asperger syndrome may show odd mannerisms such as hand-flapping or peculiar postures that make them appear clumsy.
At this time, there is no cure' for Asperger syndrome. Children with Asperger syndrome often grow up to be consider an "odd" or "eccentric" adult. However, they can be helped tremendously by treatment with social skills training, parental education and training, behavior modification and other psychosocial interventions. Because children with Asperger disorder can also have debilitating compulsions and anxiety related to social interactions, sometimes medications can be prescribed that will help with those aspects of the condition.
Like so many behavioral disorders, there is a spectrum and it can be a difficult diagnosis to make. Because people with Asperger syndrome often have obsessive or compulsive behavior, they are frequently diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD); however, most people with OCD do not have difficulty in their social interactions or understanding body language. Another common misdiagnosis is anxiety disorder because of the distress noted with changes in routine or with social interactions. But again, people with anxiety disorders do not have difficulty with nonverbal language or obsessive interests or rituals.
Aspergers syndrome is a type of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and others include Autism and Retts syndrome.
Asperger's Syndrome Reading List:
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Asperger's Syndrome Web Resources