Asperger�s Syndrome is a developmental disorder falling within the autistic spectrum affecting two-way social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and a reluctance to accept change, inflexibility of thought and to have all absorbing narrow areas of interest. These characteristics result in clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. In the past, many children with Asperger's were diagnosed as having autism or other disorders.
Asperger's Syndrome, also known as Asperger's Disorder or Autistic Psychopathy, is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. While autism and Asperger's have certain similarities, there are also important differences. For this reason, children suspected of having these conditions require careful evaluation.
In general, a child with Asperger's functions at a higher level than the typical child with autism - many children with Asperger's have normal intelligence. While most children with autism fail to develop language or have language delays, children with Asperger's are usually using words by the age of two, although their speech patterns may be somewhat odd.
Most children with Asperger's have difficulty interacting with their peers. They tend to be loners and may display eccentric behaviors. Asperger's involves an intense level of focus on things of interest and is often characterized by special (and possibly peculiar) gifts; one person might be obsessed with 1950s professional wrestling, another with national anthems of African dictatorships, another with building models out of matchsticks. Particularly common interests are means of transportation and computers. A child with Asperger's, for example, may spend hours each day preoccupied with counting cars passing on the street or watching only the weather channel on television. Often, as adults, their intense focus and tendency to work things out logically will grant them a high level of ability in their fields of interest.
Although the cause of Asperger's is not yet known, current research suggests that a tendency toward the condition may run in families. Children with Asperger's are also at risk for other psychiatric problems including depression, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Coordination difficulties are also common with this disorder and these children often have special educational needs.
Child and adolescent psychiatrists have the training and expertise to evaluate pervasive developmental disorders like autism and Asperger's. They can also work with families to design appropriate and effective treatment programs. Currently, the most effective treatment involves a combination of psychotherapy, special education, behavior modification, and support for families. Some children with Asperger's will also benefit from medication.
The outcome for children with Asperger's is generally more promising than for those with autism. Due to their higher level of intellectual functioning, many of these children successfully finish high school and attend college. Although problems with social interaction and awareness persist, they can also develop lasting relationships with family and friends.