Asperger syndrome is considered to be the mildest of the autism spectrum disorders. It differs from mild autism, or "high functioning" autism (HFA), in that children and adults with Asperger syndrome have normal intelligence and verbal skills. Though they may have better language, vocabulary and grammar skills than those with more severe forms of autism, children and adults with Asperger syndrome tend to have difficulty with the subtleties of language. They may be very literal and have trouble understanding facial expressions or body language.
While children with autism are frequently seen as aloof and uninterested in others, those with Asperger syndrome usually want to fit in and have interaction with others. They are instead hindered by their lack of language skills. In social interactions, they seem awkward and unable to demonstrate "conventional" social rules. These individuals may have difficulty retaining eye contact, and therefore, seem to be unengaged in a conversation. They may not understand the use of gestures or body language.
Unlike autism, even high-functioning autism, Asperger syndrome is more likely to
- appear later in a child's development
- see a more positive outcome
- bring about less severe social and communication difficulties
- bring about more prominent and singular obsessions
- result in higher verbal IQ
- result in lower performance IQ
- increase "clumsiness"
- decrease instances of related neurological disorders
One of the most unique symptoms seen in children and adults with Asperger syndrome is that they can be so obsessed with a particular object or a complex topic, that they ignore other objects, topics, or thoughts.
Parents are also encouraged to look for these symptoms of Asperger syndrome:
- Obsessive or repetitive routines or rituals
- Motor-skill difficulties, such as clumsy or uncoordinated movements and delays in motor skills
- Social-skill difficulties, particularly when communicating with others
- Unusual reaction or sensitivity to sensory information, such as light, sound, texture, and taste.
Diagnosis of Asperger syndrome relies on a combination of feedback from the individual's family, physician and trained observers. A child with Asperger syndrome may seem like a normal child behaving "differently." It is the severity of the symptoms and the degree of language development.
Like those for autism, the primary research-based treatment for Asperger syndrome is intensive structured teaching of skills, though the emphasis is less on behavioral intervention and more on language development, social skills training and other specialized educational interventions.
Early diagnosis is key to success.