Whilst it used to be classified as a separate conditon, Asperger syndrome is one type of a borader category of mental health conditions known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These conditions all share symptoms and characteristics with one another, all which affect the interests, behaviour as well as social interaction and communication of an individual.
Asperger syndrome is considered to be a high functioning form of ASD. This means that Asperger syndrome displays less severe symptoms and characteristics when compared to other types of ASD.
Asperger syndrome begins in childhood and is believed to affect boys more commonly than girls. Approximately every one in 100 people suffers with a form of ASD throughout the UK.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ASPERGER SYNDROME
People with Asperger syndrome may display some of the following characteristics:
- difficulties in communicating and understanding social situations (body language, unspoken social rules)
- restricted interests: obsession in a specific area
- motor awkwardness: repetitive and/or poorly controlled movements
- hypersensitivity (hyperacusis): difficulty coping with noisy environments
- attachment to routine: difficulties to cope with the unexpected
- highly developed vocabulary thanks to a good memory
Asperger's syndrome is very difficult to diagnose as its symptoms may be associated with different behavioural, language or developmental disorders. The first signs of Asperger syndrome are visible from the first months or years (no social gestures at 1 year, no word at 18 months, loss of language ...). However the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome is most often given after the age of 10 years. It is carried out using specific tests, observations and a speech therapy assessment as well as interviews with the family and the school.
There is no such thing as a 'cure' for Asperger syndrome. Once diagnosed, people with Asperger syndrome may benefit from support such as speech therapy, behavioural therapy or psychological therapy.
ASPERGER SYNDROME IN ADULTHOOD
In adulthood, Asperger syndrome is characterized by the same characteristics as in children. There are no visible signs of Asperger syndrome, so relationships with people in daily life can be complicated if people are not understanding. There are several services which can support adults with Asperger syndrome such as social learning programmes, leisure activity programmes and support finding employment.