What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is generally considered to be a form of autism. Unlike the more severe forms of autism, people with AS exhibit little or no impairments in their speech (at most a mild delay in early childhood). But like many people with autism, they have a level of intelligence at least in the average range and often in the above-average or even superior ranges. And as with all other forms of autism it is characterized by varying degrees of deficits in social interactions and non-verbal communications. More specifically, people with AS have difficulties, sometimes severe, in perceiving the world from the perspective of another person and in “picking up” on the social “cues” (facial expressions, bodily gestures, tone of voice, etc.) that constitute such a significant part of many human interactions. As a result, having AS can mean having great abilities or talents in certain areas, but can also mean never living independently, never holding down a job for any extended period of time, and perhaps never even enjoying an intimate relationship. At the very least, it often means being an outcast and even subject to victimization in school, in the workplace, and in personal life.
Although there is no single distinguishing trait or characteristic common to all people with AS, and very few that are exclusive to this condition, there are numerous behaviors and traits that are commonly observed in individuals who have Asperger’s Syndrome. These include:
- very intense interests in highly specialized and often unusual areas (which can range from train routes and schedules to sports statistics to geographic or national facts to astronomy or even astrophysics) that preclude attention to or conversation about other subjects;
- inflexible routines in personal habits (insistence on always doing things the same way) towards which there is great resistance to change;
- repetitive bodily motions (such as flapping of the hands or feet and rocking back and forth);
- awkward physical coordination (“clumsiness” and difficulty with sports);
- unconventional body language, inappropriate facial expressions, and poor eye contact (which often causes others to misinterpret their intentions);
- unusual speech patterns (such as a noticeably peculiar tone or modulation of voice);
- atypical conversation (such as inappropriate remarks or irrelevant statements, and a formal “professorial” style of speaking that is more a lecture than a reciprocal conversation with another person);
- strong tendencies to be very literal in understanding of spoken or written language (which can make them very susceptible to being fooled or tricked);
- lack of awareness of their social environment or of the feelings of others (which can make them appear unemotional, un-empathetic, or insensitive);
- remarkable memory for facts or details; exceptional abilities with numbers or patterns
In addition, a few more specific behaviors and traits often observed in younger children with AS include:
- slight delay in the use of speech (particularly complete sentences);
- reversal of pronouns (such as “you” instead of “I”, and vice-versa);
- incessant repetition of favorite topics, expression, or words;
- lining-up toys or other objects in a row;
- very strong attachment to specific objects or items;
- intense fascination with spinning objects; possibly exceptional ability to make things spin (e.g., a top)
As in other forms of autism, people who have Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes have very acute sensory sensitivities. In particular, they can react strongly to sounds or visual stimuli that are not even perceptible to most people (such as the high-frequency sound emitted from the back of a television or the “flickering” of a fluorescent light). The Global and Regional Asperger’s Support Partnership has a local support group that meets monthly in Albuquerque for teens and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Please contact us for more information or visit http://grasp.org