In 1944, a year after Kanner published his paper on Autism, a pediatrician in Vienna named Hans Asperger, a Viennese Psychiatrist, who had never seen Kanner's work, published a paper in German describing a consistent pattern of abilities and behaviors that occurred primarily in boys. Hans Asperger died in 1980, a man unknownoutside of Europe. In the early 1980s Asperger’s paper was translated into English, which resulted in international recognition for his work in this area. In the 1990s, specific diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome were included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV).
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome share characteristics with autism. But these characteristics are milder in nature. Most people with Asperger’s syndrome have average or above average intelligence
Typically individuals with Asperger’s Syndromehave difficulties in
• Social-emotional interaction
• Social communication language
• Imagination and flexibility of thought
• Absence of a significant delay in cognitive development
In persons with Asperger’s Syndrome there is a lack of understanding regarding the emotional aspect of friendships. They lack the ability to develop and sustain such relationships.They feel the need for friendship but do not know how to be reciprocal in social relationships. Anxiety and tension increases with greater demands for social skills. An inability to read social cues compounds the problem. Many professionals attribute it to a lack of theory of mind. Theory of mind is the ability to consider and understand other people’s thoughts and feelings. It plays a major role in our interaction with others. In persons with Asperger Syndrome, this skill is severely impaired, resulting in difficulties in comprehending the intentions of others around or not understanding the motivations of the actions of others. Likewise, they are unable to understand their own emotions and those of others. This often makes them appear indifferent and aloof to others. For people who do not understand their condition persons with Asperger’s syndrome come across as blunt, direct and rude.
People with AS differ from those affected by autism, in that they usually have fewer problems with language –they acquire fluent speech before age 4 years, and have a good repertoire of vocabulary. However their voice tends to be flat and emotionless and they have difficulty understanding other people’s emphasis on words or altered tones, used to specifically convey a certain message. The use or understanding of body language, facial expressions and gestures is affected, resulting in their understanding of communication being very literal. Comprehension of words with double meanings, idioms, adages, and metaphors that are commonly used in day to day communication is difficult. Their conversations appear egocentric and usually revolve around themselves or an area of their interest.
Imagination and Flexibility of Thought
Individuals with Asperger’s often have a strong rote memory and do exceptionally well in subjects which focus on facts and figures.Often there is a resistance to change. They tend to be obsessed with keeping the same daily routines and adhere to repetitive activities. This tends to affect their progress in life. There is usually an inability to be able to think and play creatively, as well as a problem in transferring skills from one environment to another. This means that they find it difficult to pretend play or imagine that an object could be used creatively to serve a purpose other than that for which it is made e.g. a cup could be used as a hat, or, a ruler could be strummed like aguitar.
Absence of Significant Delay in Cognitive Development
Many individuals with AS have I. Q.’s that fall above the normal range in verbal ability and below average in performance abilities. They are often obsessed with complex topics, such as weather, music, history, etc. and are often described as eccentric. They are concrete thinkers and hence find it difficult understand anything that is abstract. Many lack common sense
Generally a child receives the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome a little late. Typically, he/she may be labelled as having autism in early childhood, but later in the school years fresh assessments may confirm the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. This is because the diagnosis centers mainly on the social interaction difficulties the child experiences. Asperger’s syndrome can be diagnosed by tests such as Asperger’s Syndrome Diagnostic Scale (ASDS) and Gilliam Asperger Disorder Scale (GADS). In the DSM-5, Asperger’s Syndrome has been included in the same diagnostic group as autism
Students with Asperger’s Syndromedo not have the learning profile and complex behavioral patterns of those with autism. Special schools or segregated educational settings may not be appropriate for them. They should be educated in mainstream education. This is justified as they are cognitively higher in functioning and as such can manage the curricular demands of mainstream schools with need-based adaptations and accommodations. However, their educational program must include goals in the areas of social skills and communication.