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Asperger's Syndrome
(Asperger Syndrome, Asperger Disorder)

What is Asperger's Syndrome (AD)?

  • Asperger's syndrome, also known as Asperger disorder, Asperger syndrome, or AS, was formerly felt to be a distinct disorder related to autism, one of the pervasive developmental disorders (a spectrum of behavioral disorders including autism).
  • Asperger's syndrome was characterized as one of the autism spectrum disorders (which also include autistic disorder, Rett disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS]). In the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) published in May 2013, Asperger's syndrome and autistic disorder have been combined into one condition for diagnostic purposes, known as autism spectrum disorder. However, many experts still believe that Asperger's syndrome should be preserved as a separate diagnostic entity to represent a condition related to, but not the same as, autism.
  • Unlike persons with autistic disorder, those with Asperger's syndrome do not show a marked delay in language development or cognitive development.
  • Asperger's syndrome is commonly recognized in children after the age of 3 years and is more frequently diagnosed in boys.
  • Individuals with Asperger's syndrome have serious impairments in their social and communication skills, including poor nonverbal communication.
  • However, many individuals have good cognitive and verbal skills, and those with Asperger's syndrome typically have normal to superior intelligence.
  • Many have excellent rote memory and become intensely interested in one or two subjects.
  • Children with Asperger's syndrome are typically educated in the mainstream setting but sometimes require education accommodations or special education services.
  • These children often have difficulty making friends and are often ostracized, teased, or bullied by their peers.
  • Asperger's syndrome is named for Dr. Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, who first described the condition in 1944.
  • The condition was first recognized as a diagnostic entity by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV) in 1994 but was combined with autistic disorder in the DSM-V issued in 2013.

Asperger's Syndrome Causes

Patient Comments

The cause of Asperger's syndrome is unknown. A genetic component to this syndrome is likely, given that the condition has been observed to run in families. It is also likely that environmental influences play a role. Although there remain concerns among some families that vaccines and/or the preservatives in vaccines may play a role in the development of Asperger's syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders, experts have discredited this theory.

Asperger's syndrome is much more common in boys than in girls. In fact, it is 5 times more common in boys. The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders is increasing in the U.S. Recent studies show that approximately 1 out of every 110 children has an autism spectrum disorder. It is not entirely clear whether the increase in the number of children is due to improvements and modifications in the diagnostic process and/or some degree of true increase in the incidence of the disorders themselves. Both factors likely are involved.

Last Reviewed 11/20/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Asperger's Syndrome (Asperger Syndrome, Asperger Disorder):

Asperger's Syndrome - Test

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Asperger's Syndrome - Treatment

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Asperger's Syndrome - Symptoms

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Asperger's Syndrome - Causes

Do you suspect that genetics play a role in your Asperger's syndrome? Why or why not?

Asperger's Syndrome Signs and Symptoms

People with Asperger's syndrome typically have trouble with certain social skills involved in making and sustaining relationships and friendships.

Asperger's syndrome can be characterized by an unusual, formal style of speaking that lacks appropriate intonation or gestures. People with this disorder can speak at length and be very wordy about topics that hold their interest, yet they may not be able to participate in the give and take of a normal conversation. Those with Asperger's syndrome often attempt to "hijack" the conversation and may go off on tangents that are not related to the topic being discussed. They may interrupt conversations and appear to be insensitive to what others are saying.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Asperger Syndrome »

Asperger disorder is a form of pervasive developmental disorder characterized by persistent impairment in social interactions, repetitive behavior patterns, and restricted interests.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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