What is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a neurobiological disorder that impairs social interaction and communication. Those affected are usually normal to above average in intelligence. They have a tendency to become very interested and preoccupied with a particular subject such as computers, video games, maps, animals, sports teams, and trains. Some individuals with AS exhibit fine and/or gross motor skills problems and appear clumsy. Undiagnosed children with AS are often mistakenly viewed as behaviorally or emotionally disturbed because they cannot appropriately control their anger or impulses. They may behave in an eccentric manner, are loners, and are frequently teased, bullied or viewed as odd or “nerdy” by their peers.

Individuals diagnosed with AS may have problems making and keeping friends. They want to interact but don't understand the complex "social rules" of communication most people know instinctively. Some of the social skills they may have difficulty with are eye contact, body language, staying on topic, changing topic, when to start/stop talking, empathy and tact. For example, they may use large words (sometimes incorrectly) and talk about their interest(s) to anyone for long periods of time, not aware they are monopolizing the conversation and the listener may be uninterested. Or, if asked a question, they may give too much information. Their speaking voice may sound odd, "robotic" or monotone, as if they are reading from a book.

Anxiety, fear of the unknown, and the need to have a predictable environment may cause inflexibility in their everyday lives. Transitioning from one activity or location to another can be stressful and disrupt the lives of those around them. Many prefer structure and routine and need to know what to expect ahead of time. Many may experience sensory sensitivity to certain clothing, lights, smells, sounds, and movement. Touching and hugging from other people may not be comfortable, especially when it's spontaneous. Therapies may include teaching pragmatic and social language skills, behavior modification including emotional regulation occupational therapy and sensory integration. Underlying issues requiring treatment may include executive dysfunction, concentration, impulsivity, aggression, obsessive/compulsive behaviors and depression.

“It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of 'improper parenting'.”

From OASIS website, http://www.aspergersyndrome.org