Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome (also called Asperger’s syndrome, Asperger’s disorder, Asperger’s or AS) is the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in which there is no general delay in language or cognitive development. Like other ASDs, it is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and restricted, stereotyped patterns of behavior and interests. Although not mentioned in standard diagnostic criteria for AS, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.

Asperger syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy. Fifty years later, AS was standardized as a diagnosis, but questions about many aspects of AS remain. For example, there is lingering doubt about the distinction between AS and high-functioning autism (HFA); partly due to this, the prevalence of AS is not firmly established. The exact cause of AS is unknown, although research supports the likelihood of a genetic basis; brain imaging techniques have not identified a clear common pathology.

There is no single treatment for Asperger syndrome, and the effectiveness of particular interventions is supported by only limited data. Intervention is aimed at improving symptoms and function. The mainstay of management is behavioral therapy, focusing on specific deficits to address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. Most individuals with AS can improve over time, but difficulties with communication, social adjustment and independent living continue into adulthood. Some researchers and people with AS have advocated a shift in attitudes toward the view that AS is a difference, rather than a disability that must be treated or cured.

For more information: Asperger syndrome

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