Also known as Asperger disorder or Asperger syndrome or just Asperger’s, Asperger’s syndrome is a type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) wherein the affected person experiences nonverbal communication and social interaction problems, is physically clumsy, and exhibits limited empathy. The majority of the person’s fundamental skills are underdeveloped, causing difficulties in routine human behavior.

Simply put, another person’s voice-tone, facial expressions, and body language are difficult for people with Asperger’s to interpret and respond to. The syndrome is primarily due to brain development changes caused by both environmental and genetic factors. Though not medically proven, some researchers also suggest mother’s smoking habits during pregnancy, the father’s age, pesticide exposure (kid), etc. to be the causes.

Background and Autism Comparison

Named after an Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who discovered and brought the condition to light, people with this syndrome function much better than autistic individuals. However, they find it tough to use gestures and facial expressions, and don’t make eye-to-eye contact when talking to someone. The affected individuals have no issues concentrating or focusing on things, but the same cannot be said about socializing. Often, Asperger’s kids develop a major talent in a particular field such as math or music.

Vulnerable People

Generally an inherited medical condition, the syndrome is more likely to transpire in males than females, and is usually diagnosed in kids in the 2-6 years age group. There are no clear reasons why men are more susceptible to the disease, but there are a few theories floating around.

  • Girls are more socially receptive than boys. They are much better at hiding real emotions and putting on a happy mask within a social setup than boys.
  • On an average, females are more empathetic or naturally willing to identify the other person’s feelings and thoughts.
  • Boys are more likely to indulge in unruly behaviors.
  • Genetics can be another reason.

In other words, individuals with Asperger’s are likely to act or think in ways generally representative of men.

Signs and Symptoms

Initial signs of the problem is an abnormally low muscle structure and/or coordination problems. Physical tests, X-rays or blood tests can be administered to gain more clarity. These signs vary with individuals. Dilated or enlarged pupils, inflammation, or a rash are common. The patient might experience a blurry vision or a headache, which the onlooker may not detect and will be difficult for the affected individual to express. Distinct or formal speech (a speech that’s flat, monotonous, or lacks rhythm) is also a sign.

People with Asperger’s tend to interpret languages literally and don’t look into implied meanings. These inert issues make it almost impossible for them to notice when the other person in the conversation is no longer interested or active in the communication. Also, they miss humor and don’t instinctually react to a frown or smile. They’ll enter a room with a sleeping baby or an ongoing prayer service speaking too loudly. They can’t control emotions and may easily laugh or cry at inappropriate places or times. However, these behaviors are not synonymous with all affected individuals.

Diagnosis

Often, Asperger’s syndrome remains undiagnosed until the affected person exhibits major behavioral issues at school, workplace or in personal life. Moreover, diagnosis remains a challenge since the condition’s impact may vary among individuals. Usually, the diagnosis would be performed by clinical psychologists or psychiatrists, and pediatricians in case of children.

Treatment

There are social support and educational programs for kids with the syndrome. These institutes offer structured learning programs to help kids develop adaptive behaviors. Most programs also get parents on-board so that they understand the process too and continue the training at home. There are no one-to-one training sessions. The learning happens within a classroom environment, to help kids interact with other students and develop their social skills.

Early diagnosis is key to a better and faster recovery. However, there are Asperger’s-affected adults who’ve demonstrated quick learning, thanks to counseling sessions. Besides training, medications such as antipsychotics, stimulants, etc. help treat issues such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and hyperactivity.  

The various treatment approaches may not offer complete cure – for instance, personal relationships are likely to be difficult. But a significant improvement is likely with regard to behavior and performance at school, workplace, etc.