Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger's Syndrome

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that falls under autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Individuals with this condition are characterized by significant difficulties in their patterns of behavior and social interaction and communication.

What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s syndrome is a neurodevelopmental condition 1 Hosseini, S. A., & Molla, M. (2021). Asperger Syndrome. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557548/ that affects a person’s ability to communicate and socialize effectively with others. Individuals with this syndrome typically have difficulties with nonverbal communication, such as understanding body language and facial expressions, and may have a restricted range of interests and repetitive behaviors. It is also known as Asperger’s disorder.

Asperger’s syndrome was once considered a separate diagnosis within the autism spectrum, but it is now classified as part of the broader autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 2 de Giambattista, C., Ventura, P., Trerotoli, P., Margari, M., Palumbi, R., & Margari, L. (2019). Subtyping the Autism Spectrum Disorder: Comparison of Children with High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 49(1), 138–150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3689-4 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

While individuals with Asperger’s syndrome have many of the characteristics of autism, they also often have average to above-average intelligence and language abilities.

Prevalence of Asperger’s syndrome

The prevalence rate of Asperger’s syndrome is estimated to be around 0.25-0.6% 3 Wing, L., & Potter, D. (2002). The epidemiology of autistic spectrum disorders: is the prevalence rising?. Mental retardation and developmental disabilities research reviews, 8(3), 151–161. https://doi.org/10.1002/mrdd.10029 of the general population, with males being diagnosed more frequently than females. The condition is typically diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, but some individuals may not receive a diagnosis until adulthood.

Case Example

John, an 8-year-old boy, experiences challenges with social interaction, including difficulty understanding others’ communication and making friends.

He prefers spending time alone, engaging in solitary activities like reading or drawing. John’s unusual behavior was first noticed by his parents during preschool and gradually developed over time.

He exhibits a strong preference for maintaining the same routine daily and struggles with transitioning between activities. Additionally, John is highly sensitive to sensory input, such as loud noises or bright lights, and often misunderstands his teachers’ instructions.

Case Analysis:

Based on this case, it can be inferred that John has significant difficulties developing appropriate peer relationships, lacks spontaneity in sharing interests or achievements with others, exhibits stereotyped and restricted patterns of interests, and struggles to understand, follow, and respond during academic activities. These behaviors indicate that John may have Asperger’s Syndrome.

History Of Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger 4 Wing, L. (1998). The History of Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism?, 11–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-5369-4_2 , who first described the condition in a series of papers published in the 1940s. Asperger’s work focused on children who exhibited social and communication difficulties, along with repetitive behaviors and obsessive interests.

However, his work was not widely recognized outside of Austria until the 1980s, when researchers began to investigate the similarities and differences between Asperger’s syndrome and other forms of autism 5 Barahona-Corrêa, J. B., & Filipe, C. N. (2016). A Concise History of Asperger Syndrome: The Short Reign of a Troublesome Diagnosis. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 2024. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02024 .

Myths vs Facts Asperger's Syndrome
Myths vs Facts Asperger’s Syndrome

Symptoms Of Asperger’s Syndrome

Common 6 Faridi, F., & Khosrowabadi, R. (2017). Behavioral, Cognitive and Neural Markers of Asperger Syndrome. Basic and clinical neuroscience, 8(5), 349–359. https://doi.org/10.18869/nirp.bcn.8.5.349 Asperger’s syndrome symptoms include:

  1. Difficulty with social interaction, including making friendships and understanding nonverbal communication
  2. Limited interests or preoccupations with a specific topic or activity
  3. Routines and rituals that may be inflexible and difficult to change
  4. Difficulty with understanding or interpreting others’ emotions or perspectives
  5. A tendency to take things literally and have difficulty with sarcasm or humor
  6. Difficulty with sensory processing (such as being oversensitive to sounds, lights, or textures)
  7. Unusual speech patterns, such as speaking in a formal or monotone manner
  8. Impaired coordination or clumsiness

Asperger’s Syndrome Vs Autism

Asperger’s syndrome and autism are both conditions that are classified as part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, there are some differences between the two 7 Klin A. (2006). Autismo e síndrome de Asperger: uma visão geral [Autism and Asperger syndrome: an overview]. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999), 28 Suppl 1, S3–S11. https://doi.org/10.1590/s1516-44462006000500002 .

Asperger’s syndrome is typically considered a milder form of ASD, and individuals with Asperger’s often have average to above-average intelligence and language skills. They may also have no such delays in language development than those with other forms of autism.

In contrast, individuals with other forms of autism may have significant language delays, intellectual disabilities, and more severe challenges with communication and social interaction.

Another difference between Asperger’s syndrome and autism is in the way that diagnosis 8 Hodges, H., Fealko, C., & Soares, N. (2020). Autism spectrum disorder: definition, epidemiology, causes, and clinical evaluation. Translational pediatrics, 9(Suppl 1), S55–S65. https://doi.org/10.21037/tp.2019.09.09 is made. While both conditions share many of the same characteristics, the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome typically require that individuals have no significant delays in language or cognitive development. In contrast, a diagnosis of autism may be made even in the presence of significant language and cognitive delays.

Autism vs Asperger's Syndrome
Autism vs Asperger’s Syndrome

Read More About Autism Here

Asperger’s Syndrome And Mental Health

Asperger’s syndrome can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health 9 Mazzone, L., Ruta, L., & Reale, L. (2012). Psychiatric comorbidities in asperger syndrome and high functioning autism: diagnostic challenges. Annals of general psychiatry, 11(1), 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-859X-11-16 . People with this syndrome often experience anxiety and depression due to difficulties with social interaction, communication, and sensory processing. They may struggle with forming and maintaining relationships, interpreting social cues, and coping with changes in routines or unexpected situations.

In fact, these disabilities in communication and sensory processing, cause additional stress and challenges. Because of this, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome may also experience other mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and tic disorders. These disorders can further impact their mental health and quality of life.

Read More About ADHD Here

What Causes Asperger’s Syndrome?

Research 10 Berney, T. (2004). Asperger syndrome from childhood into adulthood. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10(5), 341-351. doi:10.1192/apt.10.5.341 attributes the common causes of Asperger’s syndrome to the following factors:

  • Genetics
  • Abnormal brain development
  • Environmental factors (like maternal stress, complications during pregnancy and childbirth, etc.)
  • Innate neurological differences
  • Medical conditions (such as epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, and immune system disorders)

Read More About Genetics Here

Asperger's Syndrome In Children vs Adults
Asperger’s Syndrome In Children vs Adults

Diagnosis Of Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis can be challenging, as there is no single test that can definitively diagnose the condition. Instead, diagnosis is typically made through a comprehensive evaluation process that takes into account a variety of factors, including an individual’s medical history, developmental history, and current symptoms.

To receive a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome 11 Lehnhardt, F. G., Gawronski, A., Pfeiffer, K., Kockler, H., Schilbach, L., & Vogeley, K. (2013). The investigation and differential diagnosis of Asperger syndrome in adults. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 110(45), 755–763. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2013.0755 , an individual must meet specific diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5. The evaluation process for Asperger’s syndrome often includes a physical exam, a psychological assessment, and an observation of the individual’s behavior and social interaction.

The assessment may also include standardized tests, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) 12 Akshoomoff, N., Corsello, C., & Schmidt, H. (2006). The Role of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule in the Assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorders in School and Community Settings. The California school psychologist : CASP, 11, 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03341111 or the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) 13 Oh, M., Song, D. Y., Bong, G., Yoon, N. H., Kim, S. Y., Kim, J. H., Kim, J., & Yoo, H. J. (2021). Validating the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised in the Korean Population. Psychiatry investigation, 18(3), 196–204. https://doi.org/10.30773/pi.2020.0337 , which are designed to evaluate an individual’s social and communication skills.

How Is Asperger’s Syndrome Treated?

Common Asperger’s syndrome treatment methods 14 Khouzam, H. R., El-Gabalawi, F., Pirwani, N., & Priest, F. (2004). Asperger’s disorder: a review of its diagnosis and treatment. Comprehensive psychiatry, 45(3), 184–191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comppsych.2004.02.004 used to treat Asperger’s syndrome include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Sensory integration therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Occupational therapy
  • Pharmacotherapy 15 LeClerc, S., & Easley, D. (2015). Pharmacological therapies for autism spectrum disorder: a review. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 40(6), 389–397. (like the use of mild antipsychotic and psychotropic drugs)

Coping Tips For Caregivers Of Children With Asperger’s Syndrome

Consider the following tips 16 Ismael, N., Lawson, L., Moqbel, M., & Little, L. (2018). Coping Strategies among Caregivers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Cluster Analysis. International Journal of Medical and Health Sciences, 7(3). https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/is_fac/31/ to develop healthy coping strategies as caregivers handling Asperger’s syndrome in children:

  • Educate yourself and research into Asperger’s syndrome to better understand the children’s condition
  • Work with a therapist to develop behavioral strategies for your child
  • Use clear and direct instructions to communicate with your child
  • Provide “training” opportunities for socialization (like using role-playing exercises to help children practice social skills)
  • Take breaks, seek support 17 Catalano, D., Holloway, L., & Mpofu, E. (2018). Mental Health Interventions for Parent Carers of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Practice Guidelines from a Critical Interpretive Synthesis (CIS) Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(2), 341. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15020341 , and practice self-care when needed

Coping With Asperger’s Syndrome In Adults

Consider the following measures to take care as an adult with Asperger’s syndrome 18 Roy, M., Dillo, W., Emrich, H. M., & Ohlmeier, M. D. (2009). Asperger’s syndrome in adulthood. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 106(5), 59–64. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2009.0059 :

  • Establish a disciplined everyday routine
  • Identify sensory triggers and find ways to manage them (such as using noise-canceling headphones)
  • Seek therapy for emotional support
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, or other relaxation techniques
  • Communicate openly and seek support from your family, friends, and colleagues

Read More About Mindfulness Here

Takeaway

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can have a significant impact on the long-term outlook of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome. Treatment can help manage symptoms, improve social and communication skills, and enhance the overall quality of life. With appropriate support and interventions, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome can lead fulfilling and independent lives.

At A Glance

  1. Asperger’s syndrome is a subtype of autism characterized by repetitive behaviors, difficulty with communication, and challenges in social interaction.
  2. Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome typically have average to above-average intelligence and no speech delays.
  3. Asperger’s syndrome affects approximately 0.5% of the global population.
  4. The exact cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not fully understood, but it involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors, as well as changes in brain development.
  5. Effective treatment options for Asperger’s syndrome may include various types of therapy as well as medications to manage associated symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do adults cope with Asperger’s syndrome?

Adults with Asperger’s syndrome can cope with their condition by seeking therapy, developing coping strategies, and finding support from friends and family. They can also benefit from social skills training and practicing self-care. 

2. Can you have a normal life with Asperger’s syndrome?

Yes, with the right support and resources, people with Asperger’s syndrome can lead fulfilling lives. While they face unique challenges in social situations and communication, they can develop coping strategies, pursue their interests and talents, and form meaningful relationships.

3. Is Asperger’s syndrome hereditary?

Asperger’s syndrome, like other autism spectrum disorders, is thought to have a genetic component, meaning it can run in families.

4. What can trigger Asperger’s syndrome?

There is no specific trigger that causes Asperger’s syndrome to develop. It is a developmental disorder that is believed to be primarily caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

5. Who is at risk of Asperger’s syndrome?

There is no specific group of individuals who are at higher risk of developing Asperger’s syndrome, as it is believed to be primarily caused by genetic influences. However, males are more commonly diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome than females.

6. Is Asperger’s syndrome considered a mental illness?

Asperger’s syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s social and cognitive abilities. However, it is sometimes mistaken as a mental illness.

7. Is Asperger’s syndrome a disability?

Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disability affecting how people behave, see, understand the world, and interact with others.

8. Who are some famous people with Asperger’s syndrome?

Actors like Dan Aykroyd and Corey Burton, directors like Justin Eugene Evans, and athletes such as Jessica-Jane Applegate and Danny Chew are some famous people with Asperger’s syndrome.

9. What happens if you don’t treat Asperger’s syndrome?

Untreated Asperger’s syndrome can worsen over time, making it difficult for the person to be a friend or maintain steady employment.

10. Can you grow out of Asperger’s syndrome?

Asperger’s syndrome is lifelong and no one can grow out of it. But its symptoms can improve over time with proper treatment.

References:

  • 1
    Hosseini, S. A., & Molla, M. (2021). Asperger Syndrome. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557548/
  • 2
    de Giambattista, C., Ventura, P., Trerotoli, P., Margari, M., Palumbi, R., & Margari, L. (2019). Subtyping the Autism Spectrum Disorder: Comparison of Children with High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 49(1), 138–150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3689-4
  • 3
    Wing, L., & Potter, D. (2002). The epidemiology of autistic spectrum disorders: is the prevalence rising?. Mental retardation and developmental disabilities research reviews, 8(3), 151–161. https://doi.org/10.1002/mrdd.10029
  • 4
    Wing, L. (1998). The History of Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism?, 11–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-5369-4_2
  • 5
    Barahona-Corrêa, J. B., & Filipe, C. N. (2016). A Concise History of Asperger Syndrome: The Short Reign of a Troublesome Diagnosis. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 2024. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02024
  • 6
    Faridi, F., & Khosrowabadi, R. (2017). Behavioral, Cognitive and Neural Markers of Asperger Syndrome. Basic and clinical neuroscience, 8(5), 349–359. https://doi.org/10.18869/nirp.bcn.8.5.349
  • 7
    Klin A. (2006). Autismo e síndrome de Asperger: uma visão geral [Autism and Asperger syndrome: an overview]. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999), 28 Suppl 1, S3–S11. https://doi.org/10.1590/s1516-44462006000500002
  • 8
    Hodges, H., Fealko, C., & Soares, N. (2020). Autism spectrum disorder: definition, epidemiology, causes, and clinical evaluation. Translational pediatrics, 9(Suppl 1), S55–S65. https://doi.org/10.21037/tp.2019.09.09
  • 9
    Mazzone, L., Ruta, L., & Reale, L. (2012). Psychiatric comorbidities in asperger syndrome and high functioning autism: diagnostic challenges. Annals of general psychiatry, 11(1), 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-859X-11-16
  • 10
    Berney, T. (2004). Asperger syndrome from childhood into adulthood. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10(5), 341-351. doi:10.1192/apt.10.5.341
  • 11
    Lehnhardt, F. G., Gawronski, A., Pfeiffer, K., Kockler, H., Schilbach, L., & Vogeley, K. (2013). The investigation and differential diagnosis of Asperger syndrome in adults. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 110(45), 755–763. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2013.0755
  • 12
    Akshoomoff, N., Corsello, C., & Schmidt, H. (2006). The Role of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule in the Assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorders in School and Community Settings. The California school psychologist : CASP, 11, 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03341111
  • 13
    Oh, M., Song, D. Y., Bong, G., Yoon, N. H., Kim, S. Y., Kim, J. H., Kim, J., & Yoo, H. J. (2021). Validating the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised in the Korean Population. Psychiatry investigation, 18(3), 196–204. https://doi.org/10.30773/pi.2020.0337
  • 14
    Khouzam, H. R., El-Gabalawi, F., Pirwani, N., & Priest, F. (2004). Asperger’s disorder: a review of its diagnosis and treatment. Comprehensive psychiatry, 45(3), 184–191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comppsych.2004.02.004
  • 15
    LeClerc, S., & Easley, D. (2015). Pharmacological therapies for autism spectrum disorder: a review. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 40(6), 389–397.
  • 16
    Ismael, N., Lawson, L., Moqbel, M., & Little, L. (2018). Coping Strategies among Caregivers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Cluster Analysis. International Journal of Medical and Health Sciences, 7(3). https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/is_fac/31/
  • 17
    Catalano, D., Holloway, L., & Mpofu, E. (2018). Mental Health Interventions for Parent Carers of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Practice Guidelines from a Critical Interpretive Synthesis (CIS) Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(2), 341. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15020341
  • 18
    Roy, M., Dillo, W., Emrich, H. M., & Ohlmeier, M. D. (2009). Asperger’s syndrome in adulthood. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 106(5), 59–64. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2009.0059
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