What is Asperger syndrome? Asperger syndrome is an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) which is characterized by social impairment, repetitive behavior, good language abilities and an average intelligence. It is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that is present from infancy or early childhood. It is regarded as a less severe form of autism and the individuals with Asperger are usually highly functional.
Epidemiology: the prevalence in the general population is not yet well established. A study conducted in Finland in 2007 among 5.400 children found that 2.9 children per 1.000 met the criteria for a diagnosis. Asperger syndrome is more prevalent in boys than in girls. Other closely related disorders include High Functioning Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified, Tourette syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive disorder. Anxiety disorder and Depression may also coexist with Asperger syndrome
History: Asperger syndrome was first noted in the 1940s by the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger. Hans Asperger observed boys who faced difficulties in their communication with other children but were quite intelligent and had highly developed language skills. Many doctors at the time thought that these children were just high functioning autistics. As a child Hans Asperger was said to have exhibited similar symptoms.
Which are the main characteristics? Some of the most common characteristics of Asperger syndrome are:
- Inability to understand the emotions of other people and express empathy.
- Difficulty in understanding body language, voice intonation and face expressions.
- Difficulty in understanding social cues and participating in groups and discussions.
- Repetitive behavior concerning specific subjects.
- Concentration on very narrow personal interests.
- Difficulty in motor coordination that can lead to clumsiness.
- Resistance to change and inflexibility to new situations.
- Tendency to focus on details and lose the general idea.
People with Asperger syndrome also have several positive characteristics. They are reliable, honest, creative, disciplined, extremely hard working and show exceptional intelligence in their field of interest. They can also observe details that escape other people’s attention.
What causes Asperger syndrome?
Current research indicates that Asperger syndrome can be transmitted from one generation to another. Therefore the causes of Asperger syndrome are mainly genetical. Parents of children with Asperger may exhibit symptoms of the disorder themselves.
Asperger syndrome cannot be completely treated. The various approaches aim at mitigating the symptoms, alleviating the stress of the person living with Asperger and teaching them communication skills in order to adapt to adult life. There is no consensus on which therapy is the best. However, most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention starts the better. A typical therapeutic program of Asperger is similar to the therapeutic programs of other autistic spectrum disorders. It usually includes: training in social skills, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, occupational therapy, speech therapy and parents’ counseling.