Aspergers Syndrome

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Asperger Syndrome or (Asperger's Disorder) is a neurobiological disorder named after a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger. Hans, in 1944 published a paper which described a pattern of behavior in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, and at the same time also exhibited autistic-like behavior and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. It is linked to autism spectrum disorder, and includes autistic-like behavior and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills.

Asperger's Syndrome is more common in boys than in girls. It is not usually recognized before the age or three or even later. The syndrome can be classified using the categories below:

  • Speech: Children with Asperger's Syndrome generally talk at the age expected of typical children. Grammar is acquired at a typical age or a bit later; however there may be a tendency to use "you" or "he/she" instead of "I". In general the form of language is typical but the content is not. Children may talk at length about a favorite subject or repeat a word or phrase over and over again.
  • Non-verbal communication: People with Asperger's Syndrome may have few facial expressions apart from anger or misery. Their voice may be monotone and droning or exaggerated. It is also difficult for them to comprehend the facial expressions of others. Additionally, gestures may be clumsy and exaggerated.
  • Social Interaction: The impairment of two-way interaction is perhaps the most obvious characteristic of the person with the syndrome.
  • Repetitive Activities and Resistance to Change: Children with Asperger's Syndrome may spin and watch spinning objects for long periods or time. They often are obsessively attached to particular possessions.
  • Motor Coordination: Gross motor movements are usually clumsy and uncoordinated. About 90% are poor at sports. Some may have difficulty writing and drawing.
  • Skills and Interests: Most people with Asperger's Syndrome have excellent rote memory and become intensely interested in one or two subjects (sometimes to the exclusion of other topics).
  • Experiences at School: The impairment of social interaction and communication, in particular, work against the child with Asperger's Syndrome. The children are often targets of teasing and bullying at school. Many will be acutely aware that they are different, and can become over-sensitive to criticism, especially as teens.

Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the child with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behavioral traits that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness, bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of "improper parenting".

Understandably, AS individuals encounter enormous difficulties during their transition into adolescence, and later into adult life, since they have not completed the requisite developmental tasks or moved beyond early stages in language, cognitive and social skills. They frequently remain emotionally dependent on parents or family members, and suffer from separation anxiety and insecurity when trying to live on their own. Friendship with peers, romantic relationships, marriage and parenting, and entry into the work world are usually beyond their capacity.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,