Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is one of several previously separate subtypes of autism in the DSM-IV. With the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, all autism spectrum disorders were combined into a single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Most people are familiar with AS’s cousin, autism, but many have never heard of Asperger’s syndrome or are unsure about where it fits on the spectrum.
What are some common characteristics?
People with AS tend to be very intelligent and logical, often having exceptional math skills or outstanding memories. They may have trouble interpreting nonverbal communications like facial expressions or body language because they lack an intuitive understanding of other people’s emotions and intentions.
AS is thought to be more common in males than females, but there are no concrete statistics on how many men or women have it. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 1 in every 68 schoolchildren has an autism spectrum disorder, but they do not give a specific number for Asperger syndrome.
What are the symptoms?
People with AS may have trouble getting along with others, including friends and classmates. Some engage in repetitive movements like rocking their bodies back and forth or twisting their hands repeatedly. They also often lack social instincts like knowing when someone is upset without being told. However, their ability to talk about details can make them seem like “little professors.”
People with AS also tend to be intensely interested in a few specific subjects and may become knowledgable about those subjects while displaying ignorance of other things that interest most people. While all children with AS are different, some adults describe their own symptoms as similar to those experienced by the fictional character Rain Man.
Some statistics estimate that only 1% of the population has Asperger syndrome. But because there is still no test for it, no one can say for sure how many people have this form of autism — or whether boys really are more likely to suffer from it than girls.
What should I do if I suspect my child might have Asperger’s?
If you’re concerned that your child may have Asperger’s syndrome, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional. There is no one definitive test for AS, so diagnosis can be tricky. However, if your pediatrician suspects that your child has an autism spectrum disorder, she will likely refer you to a specialist who can do further testing and help you create a treatment plan.
Treatment for AS usually includes a combination of behavioral therapy, social skills training, and educational support. With the right help, many people with AS can lead happy and fulfilling lives.