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Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome (AS) is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDD refers to a group of disorders that involve delays or problems in communication and social skills. AS is the mildest type.

AS usually appears before age 3. Signs of AS include:

  • Obsessive interest in a single subject, such as train schedules, makes and models of cars, or vacuums. Children with AS want to know everything about this one topic of interest, and show limited or no interest in other topics. When talking to others, a child with AS will usually focus on this topic and little else.
  • Repetitive routines
  • Unusual speech patterns, such as speaking in an overly formal manner or in monotone
  • Problems with nonverbal communication, such as not making eye contact when talking or not using gestures to point or show
  • Problems understanding communication that isn't literal, such as sarcasm and humor
  • Failure to make friends
  • Problems with motor skills; clumsiness

Some people confuse Asperger syndrome with mild forms of autism. Unlike most children with autism, children with AS tend to have good verbal and grammar skills. Children with AS have normal to above normal intelligence.

The cause of AS is not known and there is no cure. But therapies can help people with AS learn to communicate better, improve social skills, and improve their coordination. Therapies are most helpful when started at a young age.

Because we only recently have begun to learn about AS, the effects of AS in adulthood are not well-understood. Many adults with AS are able to live alone and work successfully. But others really struggle with organization, social interaction, and communication, making it hard to keep a job or take care of everyday tasks. Skills training, therapy, and support networks can help people of all ages with AS.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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