Asperger's Syndrome Signs and Symptoms

What Is Asperger's Syndrome?

It's important to understand that while certain types of symptoms are common in Asperger's syndrome; these symptoms will vary in intensity and severity among affected individuals. Moreover, some individuals may have only some of the associated symptoms, and the overall level of functioning of a given person can vary widely.

Note: The term Asperger's disorder is the preferred diagnostic term according to the DSM-IV-TR.

People with Asperger's syndrome typically have trouble with certain social skills involved in making and sustaining relationships and friendships. Their lack of understanding of social cues may cause them to behave in inappropriate ways, such as violating personal space, interrupting conversations, or having trouble understanding when they have hurt others' feelings. While individuals with Asperger's syndrome may report that they want to have friends, they may not understand the true meaning of friendship with others. For example, they may believe they have many friends or believe that anyone they know is their friend. Persons with Asperger's syndrome may also be confused about the emotional aspects of friendship, such as sharing and helping. It may be difficult for them to break away from their own interests and obsessions in order to listen to others' needs and opinions.

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Asperger's Syndrome?

Asperger's syndrome can be characterized by an unusual, formal style of speaking that lacks appropriate intonation or gestures. People with this disorder can speak at length and be very wordy about topics that hold their interest, yet they may not be able to participate in the give and take of a normal conversation. Those with Asperger's syndrome often attempt to "hijack" the conversation and may go off on tangents that are not related to the topic being discussed. They may interrupt conversations and appear to be insensitive to what others are saying.

Parents of children with Asperger's syndrome may notice that their children have unusually keen attention to detail and sensory sensitivity. Children, teens, and adults with this disorder may be especially sensitive to loud noises, sounds, tastes, textures, light patterns, smells, temperature, or climate. Alternatively, they can appear overly resistant to pain or other unpleasant circumstances, appearing not to be bothered.

Finally, one of the best known and characteristic symptoms of Asperger's syndrome is an intense interest in a restricted subject that may even be said to be an obsession or preoccupation. For example, a person with Asperger's syndrome may be consumed and fascinated by trains, cars, or geography. Still others may have more unusual intense preoccupations such as suitcases, road signs, amusement parks, or bottle caps. On a positive note, many successful adults with the condition have been able to turn their preoccupations and fascinations into a meaningful career or job.

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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


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