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What is Asperger Syndrome?
DESCRIPTION: Asperger syndrome (AS) is a pervasive
developmental disorder characterized by an inability to understand how to interact
socially. Other features include clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements, social
impairment with extreme egocentricity, limited interests and/or unusual preoccupations,
repetitive routines or rituals, speech and language peculiarities, and non-verbal
communication problems. Generally, children with AS have few facial expressions apart from
anger or misery. Most have excellent rote memory and musical ability, and become intensely
interested in one or two subjects (sometimes to the exclusion of other topics). They may
talk at length about a favorite subject or repeat a word or phrase many times. Children
with AS tend to be "in their own world" and preoccupied with their own agenda.
The onset of AS commonly occurs after the age of 3. Some individuals who exhibit features
of autism (a developmental brain disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and
communication skills) but who have well-developed language skills may be diagnosed with
Is there any treatment?
TREATMENT: There is no specific course of treatment or cure for
AS. Treatment, which is symptomatic and rehabilitational, may include both psychosocial
and psychopharmacological interventions such as psychotherapy, parent education and
training, behavioral modification, social skills training, educational interventions,
and/or medications including psychostimulants, mood stabilizers, beta blockers,
neuroleptics, and tricyclic antidepressants.
What is the prognosis?
PROGNOSIS: Children with AS have a better outlook than those
with other forms of pervasive developmental disorders, and are much more likely to grow up
to be independently functioning adults. Nonetheless, in most cases, these individuals will
continue to demonstrate, to some extent, subtle disturbances in social interactions. There
is also an increased risk for development of psychosis (a mental disorder) and/or mood
problems such as depression and anxiety in the later years.
What research is being done?
RESEARCH: The NINDS conducts and supports a broad range of
research on developmental disorders including AS. The goals of these studies are to
increase understanding of these disorders and to find ways to treat, prevent, and
ultimately cure them.
Where can I find more information?
These articles, available from a medical library, are sources of
in-depth information on AS:
Bishop, D. "Autism, Asperger's Syndrome and Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder: Where Are
the Boundaries?" British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 24; 107-121
Gillberg, C. "Asperger Syndrome in 23 Swedish Children." Developmental
Medicine and Child Neurology, 31; 520-531 (1989).
Gillberg, C. "Outcome in Autism and Autistic-like Conditions." Journal of
the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 30:3; 375-382 (May
Szatmari, P. "Asperger's Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Outcome." Psychiatric
Clinics of North America, 14:1; 81-93 (1991).
Kerbeshian, J, et al. "Asperger's Syndrome: To Be or Not To Be?" British
Journal of Psychiatry, 156; 721-725 (1990).
Additional information is available from the following organizations:
Asperger Syndrome Education Network, Inc. (ASPEN)
P.O. Box 2577
Jacksonville, FL 32203-2577
Learning Disabilities Association of America
4156 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15234-1349
Nat. Org. for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 8923
New Fairfield, CT 06812-1783
National Institute of Mental Health
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 7C02
Rockville, MD 20857-8030
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Building 31, Room 2A32
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
Information provided by NIH.