Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism, a developmental disorder that is characterised by a ‘triad of impairments’ in social communication, social interaction and social imagination. Aspergers varies from individual to individual but its effects are lifelong. Though Asperger syndrome shares similarities with more classical forms of autism, people with Aspergers are unlikely to have learning disabilities or as significant difficulties with speech and language. However, they can have difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, anxiety and depression.
Social communication – people with Aspergers syndrome can find it difficult to express themselves and may have the following sort of difficulties:-
- understanding gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, body language
- holding a conversation ie taking turns, talking excessively
- using complex words that they do not understand
- understanding jokes, sarcasm and metaphors
- speaking literally
Social interaction – people with Aspergers syndrome may want to be sociable but may:
- struggle to get on with people
- not understand unwritten ‘social rules’
- find other people confusing
- be indifferent to people
- behave in odd or unusual ways
Difficulty with social imagination – this doesn’t mean that people with Aspergers cannot become accomplished in areas such as art, music or writing but that they can think and behave inflexibly and may have the following difficulties:
- imagining what will happen next
- understanding that other people have thoughts and feelings
- having limited, rigid or obsessional interests.
- not engaging in pretend play
- becoming distressed at changes in routine
In addition, there may be sensory difficulties that may involve some or all of the senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance and body awareness. This means that someone can be hypersensitive (over responsive) and/or hyposensitive (under responsive) to sensory stimuli. This varies from person to person. For example someone may like deep pressure such as a hug or a massage whilst others may not be able to cope with being touched. Some may not be able to stand light whilst others may seek it.
But its also important to note that there are strengths in having Asperger syndrome. These can include
- being able to concentrate on something;
- attention to detail;
- developing a knowledge about a particular interest;
- having a unique perspective of the world;
- being honest and open;
- having a sense of humour;
- having a strong sense of equality and justice.
Please note that this page is to provide a brief explanation of Asperger syndrome. If you have any developmental or health concerns about your child or young person please seek advice from your health care provider.