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What is Asperger Syndrome?

FamilyAsperger syndrome is a form of autism, a condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. A number of the traits of autism are common to Asperger syndrome including:

Difficulty in communicating

Difficulty in social relationships

A lack of imagination and creative play

However, people with Asperger syndrome usually have fewer problems with language than those with autism, often speaking fluently, though their words can sometimes sound formal or stilted. People with Asperger syndrome do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism; in fact, people with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence.

Because of this many children with Asperger syndrome enter mainstream school and, with the right support and encouragement, can make good progress and go on to further education and employment.

Key characteristics

Asperger syndrome shares many of the same characteristics as autism.

Difficulty with social relationships

Unlike the person with 'classic' autism, who often appears withdrawn and uninterested in the world around them, many people with Asperger syndrome want to be sociable and enjoy human contact. They do still find it hard to understand non-verbal signals, including facial expressions, which makes it more difficult for them to form and maintain social relationships with people unaware of their needs.

Difficulty with communication

People with Asperger syndrome may speak fluently but they may not take much notice of the reaction of people listening to them; they may talk on and on regardless of the listener's interest or they may appear insensitive to their feelings.

Despite having good language skills, people with Asperger syndrome may sound over-precise or over-literal - jokes can cause problems as can exaggerated language, turns of phrase and metaphors. A person with Asperger syndrome may be confused or frightened by a statement like 'she bit my head off'. In order to help a person with Asperger syndrome to understand you, keep your sentences short be clear and concise.

Lack of imagination

While they often excel at learning facts and figures, people with Asperger syndrome find it hard to think in abstract ways. This can cause problems for children in school where they may have difficulty with certain subjects, such as literature or religious studies.

Special interests

People with Asperger syndrome often develop an almost obsessive interest in a hobby or collecting. Usually their interest involves arranging or memorising facts about a special subject, such as train timetables, Derby winners or the dimensions of cathedrals.

Source: What is Asperger syndrome? (The National Autistic Society)