What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger syndrome (AS) is a developmental
disorder. It is an autism
spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of neurological conditions
characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language
and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns
of thought and behavior. Other ASDs include: classic autism,
Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive
developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred
to as PDD-NOS). Unlike children with autism, children with AS retain
their early language skills.
The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child’s obsessive interest
in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Children
with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their
conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise,
high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like
little professors. Other characteristics of AS include repetitive
routines or rituals; peculiarities in speech and language;
socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability
to interact successfully with peers; problems with non-verbal communication;
and clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements.
Children with AS are isolated because
of their poor social skills and narrow interests. They may approach other people, but
make normal conversation impossible by inappropriate or eccentric behavior,
or by wanting only to talk about their singular interest. Children
with AS usually have a history of developmental delays in motor skills
such as pedaling a bike, catching a ball, or climbing outdoor play equipment. They
are often awkward and poorly coordinated with a walk that
can appear either stilted or bouncy.
Is there any treatment?
The ideal treatment for AS coordinates
therapies that address the three core symptoms of the disorder: poor communication skills,
obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. There
is no single best treatment package for all children with
AS, but most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention,
An effective treatment program builds
on the child’s interests,
offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps,
actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities,
and provides regular reinforcement of behavior. It may include
social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication
for co-existing conditions, and other measures.
What is the prognosis?
With effective treatment, children with AS can learn to cope
with their disabilities, but they may still find social situations
and personal relationships challenging. Many adults
with AS are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs,
although they may continue to need encouragement and moral
support to maintain an independent life.
What research is being done?
Many of the Institutes at the NIH, including
the NINDS, are sponsoring research to understand what causes AS and how
it can be effectively treated. One study is using functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) to show how abnormalities in particular areas of the brain cause
changes in brain function that result in the symptoms of AS and other
ASDs. Other studies include a clinical trial testing
the effectiveness of an anti-depressant in individuals with
AS and HFA who exhibit high levels of obsessive/ritualistic
behavior and a long-range study to collect and analyze DNA
samples from a large group of children with AS and HFA and
their families to identify genes and genetic interactions
that are linked to AS and HFA.
MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger's, and PDD
P.O. Box 524
Crown Point, IN 46308
Autism Network International (ANI)
P.O. Box 35448
Syracuse, NY 13235-5448
Autism Society of America
7910 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814-3067
Tel: 301-657-0881 800-3AUTISM (328-8476)
Autism Research Institute (ARI)
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
6001 Executive Blvd. Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Tel: 301-443-4513/866-615-NIMH (-6464) 301-443-8431 (TTY)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Tel: 800-241-1044 800-241-1055 (TTD/TTY)