As a part of the autism spectrum, people with Asperger’s Syndrome are generally considered to be high functioning in comparison to those with other pervasive development disorders. This neurological disorder was named for the Austrian pediatrician, Dr. Hans Asperger, who first described the disorder in 1944.
Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome
Common characteristics of those with Asperger’s include the following:
repetitive rituals or routines
intense preoccupation with a certain subject to the exclusion of other activities
inappropriate social and emotional behavior
inability to interact with peers successfully
speech and language peculiarities that may include speaking in monotone or in an overly formal manner
taking expressions and figures of speech literally
clumsiness and uncoordinated motor movements
problems with nonverbal communication
inappropriate or limited facial expressions
Asperger’s Syndrome in Plain English
More than a simple list of symptoms, people with Asperger’s Syndrome are generally found to have high intelligence and impeccable language skills, although conversation skills are often lacking. Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome have trouble with appropriate eye contact, may come across as pedantic or condescending, and may have difficulty understanding figures of speech and sarcasm due to a tendency to take words literally. Children with AS may learn to read earlier than their peers.
Impairment in social interaction often shows itself as a failure to develop age-appropriate friendships. Young children, for example, may prefer to pursue friendships with older children and adults whose vocabularies are more sophisticated than that of their peers. People with Asperger’s Syndrome may not display what is considered appropriate body language, and they may have trouble reading body language in other people. They may also have difficulty understanding social cues and conventions such as small talk or not bringing up subjects that make other people uncomfortable.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome often prefer routine and consistency, and may show significant distress when their routine is disrupted. Friends and family may notice that people with Asperger’s Syndrome are “obsessed” with a certain subject or object, intensely focused on certain activities like computer games, collecting stuffed animals, or reading comic books. It can be very difficult to get someone’s attention when they are interacting with the object of their interest. Additionally, Asperger’s Syndrome offer lends itself to great attention to detail without noticing the big picture.