Autism is a neurological disorder affecting social and language development. It is a broad-spectrum disorder, which means that symptoms and severity can vary widely. Low functioning autism can mean that a person will never be able to live a full, independent life while high functioning autism often means a person seems quite normal, even superior. Aspergers autism is at the high functioning end of the spectrum.
What Is It?
Some researchers believe that Aspergers Syndrome is a disorder separate from but related to autism. Others feel that it is the same disorder, but high functioning. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders cites six main criteria to define Aspergers autism:
1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction; 2. The presence of restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and interests; 3. Significant impairment in important areas of functioning; 4. No significant delay in language; 5. No significant delay in cognitive development, self-help skills, or adaptive behaviors (other than social interaction); and, 6. The symptoms must not be better accounted for by another specific pervasive developmental disorder or schizophrenia.
Social, language and imaginative impairment mark the relationship to autism while the normal development of cognitive skills, self-help skills and adaptive behaviors makes it very different.
People with Aspergers autism tend to speak about things rather than other people. For them, communication is for the purpose of sharing information. It was the tendency for even young children with this condition to sound like little professors that brought this disorder to the attention of Dr. Hans Asperger in 1944. Partly because of World War II his studies were not translated and distributed for 50 years. Many adults with Aspergers autism were never diagnosed as children.
Although Aspergers autism does not shorten a person’s life, it often comes with a related array of psychiatric conditions such as depression, mood disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Social impairment can be debilitating, causing anxiety and creating situations that are difficult to tolerate. However, the autistic trait of intense concentration and a drive to learn everything about a particular subject can be very helpful to those with a normal or better IQ. People with Aspergers autism can excel in fields that are not dependent on social interaction such as science, music and mathematics. The stereotype of geek and nerd may be based on the socially awkward, absent-minded person that has Aspergers autism.