Asperger's Syndrome (AS) was largely unknown until just a few years ago. Recently, we are hearing more and more about Asperger's Syndrome in the news and the media. It was first researched in 1940 by Hans Asperger, a pediatrician in Vienna. He'd noticed behaviors in some of his patients which caught his attention. These patients were mostly boys, who though intelligent and quite verbal, had inadequate social skills and communication abilities, and were uncoordinated and rigid physically.
This distinctive profile was named after Dr. Asperger. It also goes by Aspergers (or Asperger) Syndrome, Asperger's (or Asperger) Disorder or more briefly, Asperger's. It is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That means it's a neurological condition whose signature is impaired use and grasp of language and communication, and repetitive behavior and thinking.
Most research to date has centered on Asperger's children, or Aspies. They can be identified by some particular traits.
They will become engrossed in a very few topics, or hobbies, or objects, to the exclusion of others. They're intensely focused on their obsession, and want to talk about nothing else. They are usually very intelligent, but have serious problems with non-verbal communication, body language, reading others' facial expressions. They're confused by, or oblivious to, social conventions that most of us are familiar with and consider a part of life.
They are very literal-minded and may have unusual speech patterns and expressions that they use frequently. Their speech may sound stilted and repetitive. Conversation tends to be one-sided, with the AS child going on at great length about their one interest. They are not aware of the non-verbal clues of their listeners, willing or otherwise.
Asperger children are generally stiff and awkward, with poor motor ability and coordination. They may be uncomfortably sensitive to light and sound, or the feel of various fabrics and materials. They can be rigid in their habits, with little flexibility for a change in plans or new experiences. They may become quite anxious and upset when alterations in their schedules or their habits is required.
Asperger's Syndrome is not caused by abuse, or bad child rearing. Its root is neurological, and while much needs to be learned, research is making headway. Parents of children with Asperger's should not despair. Many Aspies do very well in life. Information and treatments are available for parents to help their children deal with their special needs and the world around them.
About.com: Asperger Syndrome
Aspergers Society of Ontario
High Functioning Aspergers Syndrome in Children
KidsHealth: Asperger Syndrome
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Asperger Syndrome
Neurology Channel: Asperger's Syndrome
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