Dr Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, originally described Asperger’s Syndrome in 1944. The syndrome has more recently been classified as an autistic spectrum disorder. Children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have an intellectual capacity within the normal range, but have a distinct profile of abilities that has been apparent since early childhood. The profile of abilities includes the following characteristics:
- A qualitative impairment in social interaction:
- Failure to develop friendships that are appropriate to the child’s developmental level.
- Impaired use of non-verbal behaviour such as eye gaze, facial expression and body language to regulate a social interaction.
- Lack of social and emotional reciprocity and empathy.
- Impaired ability to identify social cues and conventions.
- A qualitative impairment in subtle communication skills:
- Fluent speech but difficulties with conversation skills and a tendency to be pedantic, have an unusual prosody and to make a literal interpretation.
- Restrictive Interests:
- The development of special interests that is unusual in their intensity and focus.
- Preference for routine and consistency.
The disorder can also include motor clumsiness and problems with handwriting and being hypersensitive to specific auditory and tactile experiences. There can also be problems with organisational and time management skills and explaining thoughts and ideas using speech. The exact prevalence rates have yet to be determined, but research suggests that it may be as common as one in 250. The aetiology is probably due to factors that affect brain development and not due to emotional deprivation or other psychogenic factors.