Asperger’s Disorder — also known as Asperger’s Syndrome or just AS — is a mild form of autism, recognized as a mental health concern that sometimes requires treatment. Asperger’s is usually diagnosed in childhood or as a young teenager, and is characterized by social impairment, isolation, and what others might see as eccentric behavior.
The disorder’s name comes from Hans Asperger, an Austrian physician who first described the syndrome in 1944.
Asperger’s: Impairments in Social Interactions with Others
Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder often isolate themselves, but they’re still aware of the presence of others, even though the way they approach people can be inappropriate and even peculiar. For example, they might have a one-sided and long-winded conversation with a person — usually an adult — about an unusual and narrow topic.
Also, although individuals with Asperger’s are often self-described loners, they usually express great interest in making friends and meeting people. Unfortunately, their awkward approach, insensitivity to other’s feelings and odd facial expressions and body language (e.g., signs of boredom, quick to leave, avoiding eye contact or staring inappropriately) make developing relationships difficult. This can lead to chronic frustration. Even worse, some individuals get so upset that they develop symptoms of depression, which may require treatment, including medication.
Individuals with AS often also display inappropriate emotional aspects of social interactions. They can come off as being insensitive. They might appear to lack empathy or to disregard another person’s expressions and gestures altogether. However, people with AS usually are able to describe other people’s emotions and intentions — they’re just unable to act on this knowledge in an intuitive and spontaneous way, so they end up losing the rhythm of the interaction. Because they have such a poor sense of intuition and spontaneity, people with AS rely on formal, rigid rules of behavior, making them appear inappropriately and overly formal in social situations.
Some of these symptoms also appear in individuals with higher-functioning autism, though perhaps to a lesser extent. Most autistic people seem withdrawn and unaware of or uninterested in other people.
Asperger’s: Impairments in Communication with Others
Unlike autistic individuals, those with AS don’t usually have significant speech problems, but their language and speech skills still differ from people without the disorder. As a whole, people with AS have an odd way of using language. Specifically, their communication differs in three major ways.