Asperger's Syndrome (AS) is a form of Autism, meaning that as with Autism it is a developmental disability that affects how a person relates to and communicates with other people, as well as how they make sense of the world around them. AS, like Autism, has characteristics and behaviours which can occur in a wide variety of combinations and can range from mild to severe.
People with AS share the same three main areas of difficulty as those with Autism, known as a 'triad of impairments'. These are:-
1) Difficulties with social communication
- Individuals can have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language (such as body language). Some may have very limited speech or not speak at all, whilst others may have good language skills but still find it hard to understand the back-and-forth nature of conversations.
2) Difficulties with social interaction
- People with autism can find it hard to recognise or understand other people's emotions and feelings, and to express their own. This can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.
3) Difficulties with social imagination
- 'Social imagination' is a skill which allows us to understand and predict other people's behaviour, to make sense of abstract ideas and to imagine situations outside our usual daily routine. This means that people with Autism may find it difficult to predict how others might behave and to cope with changes to their routine.
As with Autism, AS is also more common in males than in females; however, AS tends to be diagnosed later on in childhood than Autism would be.
In contrast to Autism, people with AS are often of average or above average intelligence (although they may have specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, or other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or epilepsy). They also have fewer problems with speech, although they may still have some difficulties in understanding and processing language. For these reasons, AS is sometimes known as ‘high-functioning autism’.
Individuals with AS can often have a particular area, or areas, of special interest, which can be intensely focused. They therefore can often display an exceptional talent in these particular areas; for example, they may have extensive knowledge of railway timetables or football league tables, or be particularly skilled in areas such as IT, music or art. With the right level of support individuals with AS can lead full and independent lives, and can even pursue a career in their area of interest.