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Asperger Syndrome

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Edition), known as DSM IV, published in 1994, defines Asperger Syndrome (AS) as marked by “severe and sustained impairment in social interaction “along with restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”

The more general traits that may be observed include awkwardness in social situations, an intense preoccupation with certain specific (often unusual) topics, self-directed orientation, a lack of understanding of social cues, and clumsiness caused by lack of motor coordination.

What is meant by “severe and sustained impairment in social interaction”?

A child with AS often has problems with normally developed verbal as well as non-verbal interaction tools. The child may, for example, not meet the eyes of a person speaking, seem to lack facial expressiveness, or not use normal body posturing and gestures. This affects social interaction in a negative way.

What are “restricted repetitive patterns of behavior”?

This kind of behavior is demonstrated by a preoccupation with certain actions or objects within a restricted range. Rather than applying an intense interest to a variety of subjects, the child with AS has interests of a rather narrow scope, like aliens or computers, bus routes or sports schedules, maps and charts.

This restricted repetitive behavior also is exhibited through a very rigid, non-negotiable adherence to specific nonfunctional routines or rituals. The child with this disorder may, for example, insist on walking a certain route to school without deviation. The child is inflexible about following a certain sequence of events–he or she may need to walk in a circle before sitting down or dress in a specific order.

How is Asperger different from autism?

A child with Asperger experiences no clinically significant delay in cognitive development and does not experience a gross delay in developing language skills.

Other differences:

Children with autism tend to think concretely and have much difficulty with symbolic thinking and pretend play, whereas Asperger children can be quite imaginative although themes may be repetitive.  Asperger children tend to have motor coordination difficulties not seen in autism.

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