Asperger syndrome (AS)is a type of autism. It is a neurodevelopmental condition which is present from very early on in life, although it may not be a cause for concern at that stage. It affects how individuals make sense of the world, relate to others and process information. AS is part of the autistic spectrum – this means that it affects different people in different ways – it varies widely from person to person.
Individuals with AS tend to experience difficulties in three main areas – social communication, social interaction and social imagination. Although there are some similarities with autism, people with AS and are often of average or above average intelligence. People with AS tend to experience difficulties in social relationships and have rigid patterns of behaviour. They may find change anxiety provoking and difficult to deal with and tend to like order and routine in their lives. People with AS may have special interests and be extremely knowledgeable in a particular field.
The features of AS can be subtle and not be a cause for concern early in life and so individuals with AS may only become aware of their condition as they develop through adolescence and into adulthood. They may become increasingly aware that they are “different” from other people in a variety of ways – particularly struggling to make sense of interpersonal relationships and social communications. This often becomes evident as people develop and have more interaction with the wider world through school, college, university and the workplace. AS can often exist with other conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Many of the characteristics of AS are also strengths and can mean that individuals with AS can be very successful and achieve highly in a range of fields. AS tends to affect more men than women and for women the characteristics can be subtler and “hidden” than for men. The causes of AS are not clearly understood. Current research suggests that a variety of factors may be implicated including genetic and neurobiological factors. There is no “cure” or specific treatments for AS although individuals with AS may benefit from a range of psychological interventions that help them to address specific aspects of their condition.