Asperger syndrome is one of five Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) and it is increasingly being referred to as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Asperger syndrome can also be referred to as Asperger’s syndrome or AS.

Asperger syndrome is characterized by deficiencies in social and communication skills. It is considered to be part of the autistic spectrum and is differentiated from other Autistic Spectrum Disorders in that early development is normal and there is no language delay. It is possible for people with Aspergers syndrome to have learning disabilities concurrently with Asperger syndrome.

Asperger's syndrome is often not identified in early childhood, and many individuals do not receive diagnosis until after puberty or when they are adults. In most cases, they are aware of their differences and recognize when they need support to maintain an independent life. There are instances where adults do not realize that they have Asperger syndrome personalities until they are having difficulties with relationships and/or attending relationship counseling. Recognition of the very literal and logical thought processes that are symptomatic of AS can be a tremendous help to both partners in a close/family relationship.

Causes of Asperger syndrome
The direct cause, or causes, of Asperger syndrome is unknown. It is widely accepted that AS has a hereditary factor. It is suspected that multiple genes play a part in causing AS, since the number and severity of symptoms vary widely among individuals. Non-neurological factors such as poverty, lack of sleep, substance abuse by the mother during pregnancy, discrimination, trauma during early childhood, and abuse may also contribute. For more information see the Causes of Asperger's fact sheet.

Diagnosis of Asperger syndrome
The diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome is complicated by the lack of adoption of a standardized diagnostic screen, and, instead, the use of several different screening instruments and sets of diagnostic criteria. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) lists six main criteria for AS:
- Qualitative impairment in social interaction
- The presence of restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and interests
- Significant impairment in important areas of functioning;
- No significant delay in language
- No significant delay in cognitive development, self-help skills, or adaptive behaviors
- Symptoms not accounted for by another pervasive developmental disorder or schizophrenia.

Characteristics of Asperger syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome often have limited interests, or preoccupation with a subject to the exclusion of other activities. They may also exhibit clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements and repetitive behaviors or rituals. Relationships with others are often affected by peculiarities in speech and language, problems with nonverbal communication, and socially inappropriate behavior and interpersonal interaction.

People with Asperger's syndrome may lack the ability to communicate their own emotional state,or understand that of others. They also might have trouble showing empathy with other people. Thus, people with AS might be seen as egotistical, selfish or uncaring.

Intervention therapies for Asperger syndrome
Assistance for core symptoms of Asperger syndrome consists of therapies that apply behavior management strategies and address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. Many individuals with Asperger syndrome can adopt strategies for coping and do lead fulfilling lives, being gainfully employed, getting married or having successful relationships, and having families. For more information see the Early intervention fact sheet.

Co-morbid disorders associated with Asperger syndrome
There are several psychiatric disorders that are commonly associated with Asperger's syndrome. Children are likely to present with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while depression is a common diagnosis in adolescents and adults.

People with Aspergers syndrome symptoms may frequently be diagnosed with clinical depression, oppositional defiant disorder, antisocial personality disorder, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyslexia or dyscalculia may also be diagnosed. For more information see the Comorbid disorders fact sheets on the home page.

Prognosis with Asperger syndrome
Persons with Asperger syndrome appear to have normal lifespans, but have an increased prevalence of comorbid psychiatric conditions such as depression, mood disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Children with Aspergers syndrome can learn to manage their differences, but they may continue to find social situations and personal relationships challenging. Many adults with Asperger syndrome are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to maintain an independent life. They may make great intellectual contributions in areas such as computer science, mathematics, and physics.

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