(ARD Fact Sheet
What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome (AS) is considered a pervasive developmental disorder at the higher
functioning end of the autism spectrum. It is characterized by sustained impairment in social
interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities.
In contrast to autism, there are no obvious delays in language or cognitive development, or in age-
appropriate self-help skills and adaptive behaviors though there are subtle impairments.
Some of the characteristic features of Asperger syndrome overlap to varying degrees with those
of other clinical diagnoses. Therefore a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome must be differentiated from
disorders such as schizoid personality, schizophrenia, obsessivecompulsive disorder, Rett syndrome
and childhood disintegrative disorder. There is considerable debate over whether or not Asperger
syndrome should be differentiated from high-functioning autism.
Unlike most people with autism, individuals with Asperger syndrome experience no delay in
the onset of speech. In fact, their speech tends to be formal, pedantic and long-winded. Persons
with AS often have monotonous vocal intonation and limited use of gestures. They may have
difficulty comprehending other people's expressions, gestures and non-literal statements. Therefore,
individuals with Asperger syndrome usually do not understand jokes, irony and metaphors.
Many individuals with AS want to develop friendships and interact with their peers, but lack
the ability to understand and use rules governing social behavior. They have difficulty using and
interpreting gestures, judging proximity to others, and maintaining eye contact, all of which may
impede the development of personal relationships.
The social behavior of persons with AS tends to be naive and peculiar and movement is likely
to be awkward and clumsy. Because of an intense interest in one or two topics, the individual with
Asperger syndrome may talk at people instead of to people, disregarding the listener's interest or
attention. Although individuals with AS may make efforts to socially interact with others, their
unusual manner may leave many people not knowing how to respond. The person with Asperger
syndrome may then be left misunderstood and isolated.
Special Skills and Interests
Individuals with Asperger syndrome often have average to above average intelligence. They tend
to possess excellent abstract thinking abilities and rote memory skills. One characteristic unique to
AS is an intense interest in one or two subjects to the exclusion of all others. Many times individuals
with AS are respected for their unusual abilities, and due to their extensive knowledge of certain
topics or activities may be regarded as "eccentric." The individual's singleminded pursuit of his or
her interest can lead to great achievements later on in academic and professional life.
Associated Features and Disorders
Parental reports of early development may reveal that motor milestones were delayed and motor
clumsiness is often observed in persons with Asperger syndrome. An uneven profile of skills,
attention deficits and cognitive disorganization may also be key features of individuals with AS.
Asperger syndrome is an uncommon disorder and information on prevalence is limited. The
disorder appears to be more common in males than females. As diagnosticians become more
familiar with the syndrome, its use as a diagnostic category is likely to increase and prevalence
figures are likely to rise.
Educational and Environmental
No two people with Asperger syndrome are identical. Treatment
and educational interventions should be individualized to suit the
needs of the person. Supports and interventions may include: di
Teaching skills and concepts in naturally occurring situations and
across settings to maximize generalization. i Providing a predictable
environment with consistent daily routines and minimal
transitions. i Role playing social situations in which the individual
with AS is taught how to react to social cues. i Teaching social
awareness, taking the perspective of another, and interpretations of
non-literal language. i Teaching appropriate nonverbal behaviors
such as eye contact, gestures, proximity to others and correct
posture. i Instruction on reading the nonverbal communications
of others (e.g., facial expression, body language). i Restricting the
discussion of the individual's special topic to specific times and/or
places. i Creating a buddy system in which a peer can help with
instructional directions by the teacher, remembering homework
assignments and staying on task. Buddies may also facilitate active
socialization with others.
Frith, U. (1991). Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Cambridge,
Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. Sacks, 0. (1995). An
Anthropologist on Mars. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc.
Williams, K. (1995). Understanding the Student with Asperger
Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers. Focus on Autistic Behavior,
For More Information Contact:
Center for Autism and Related Disabilities Sites:
Florida State University
625-B North Adams St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(800) 769-7926 or (850) 644-4367
University of South Florida
13301 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33612-3899
(800) 333-4530 or (813) 974-2532
Fax: (813) 974-6115
University of Florida at Gainesville
P O. Box 100234
Gainesville, FL 32610-0234
(800) 754-5891 or (352) 846-2761
Fax: (352) 846-0941
University of Florida at Jacksonville
6271 St. Augustine Rd, Suite 1
Jacksonville, FL 32217
Phone: (904) 633-0760
Fax: (904) 633-0751
University of Central Florida
12001 Science Drive, Suite 145
Orlando, FL 32826
(888) 558-1908 or (407) 737-2566
Fax (407) 737-2571
University of Miami
Dept. of Psychology
5665 Ponce de Leon Boulevard
PO Box 248768
Coral Gables, FL 33124-0725
800/9-AUTISM or 305/284-6563
Florida Atlantic University
Dept. of ESE
777 Glades Road
Boca Raton, FL 33431
(888) 632-6395 or (561) 297-2023
Fax (561) 297-2063
Factsheet Center for Autism & Related Disabilities
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