Asperger’s syndrome is one of the 5 types of common developmental disorders of human body, and Aspergers symptoms are still causing heated discussion and controversy. Sometimes it’s called a form of High Functioning Autism (autism, which preserves the ability of normal functioning of the body). It means that people with Aspergers symptoms have at least a normal or even high intelligence, but poorly developed social skills. For these reasons their emotional and social development and integration take place later than usual.
As we know, the term “Aspergers syndrome” was offered by famous English psychiatrist Lorna Wing. This mental disorder was named after the psychiatrist Hans Asperger from Austria, who explored symptoms of this phenomenon and called it “autistic psychopathy”.
For most children and adult people with autism developmental delays may be easily detected. These people look like mentally retarded, even if their IQ is much higher than average level. But there are a lot of people who may be called autistic, but they do not look retarded at all. They have high individual skills, much more striking than their problems in imagination, communication or social behavior. And their verbal communication is also very well developed – this kind of developmental problems was described by Hans Asperger and named in his honor, Asperger’s syndrome.
22 Main Aspergers Symptoms
The following list contains diagnostic criteria of Asperger’s syndrome according to Szatmari, Bremner and Nagy (1998).
Loneliness, manifested in at least two of the following four symptoms:
- Problems with the establishing close friendship;
- Avoids big noisy companies;
- Has no interest in acquiring friends;
- Often prefers to be single
Impaired social interaction, manifested in at least one of the following 5 symptoms:
- Refers to others only with his own needs;
- Awkward social relationships;
- One-sided relationship with peers;
- Difficulty in recognizing the feelings of others;
- Detachment from the feelings of other people
Impaired non-verbal communication, manifested in at least one of the following 7 signs:
- Limited facial expressions;
- Not able to read emotions in facial expressions of others;
- Not able to transmit information through the eyes;
- Does not look at others;
- Does not use hands to express himself;
- Gestures are large and clumsy;
- Comes too close to others while speaking
Poor speech, appearing in at least two of the following 6 symptoms:
- Violations of intonation;
- Talks too much;
- Says too little;
- Inability to engage in conversation;
- Idiosyncratic use of words;
- Repetitive speech
10 Facts and Myths about Asperger’s Syndrome
Here are some interesting facts and myths we have found about people with Aspergers symptoms. Let’s see, what of the following is true and what is fiction.
1. “Asperger’s Syndrome was first identified in 1930s. In the presence of this disease some persons can not empathize, they often find it hard to recognize feelings of other people”.
Verdict: It’s true in that part, where they talk about recognizing other people’s feeling. But, of course, people with Asperger’s syndrome can empathize, if they will understand the reason for emotions of partner.
2. “People suffering from Aspergers syndrome often exhibit unmotivated cruelty. For example, they may beat other people, not even suspecting that will make them feel pain”.
Verdict: It’s just a myth, aggression is not a feature or sign of Asperger’s disorder. It’s rather a symptom of oppositional defiant disorder or maniacal depression.
3. “Many prominent psychiatrists believe that many criminals are probably suffering Asperger’s syndrome. They say, that these people do not purposely demonstrate antisocial behavior – it’s just the way their brain works. Therefore, they should be treated as mentally ill people, and not to be jailed for the offense. Patients with Asperger’s syndrome should be treated in the same way as people with kleptomania and pyromania. Their actions are criminal, but intentions aren’t”.
Verdict: The same myth as mentioned above. Some people because of incompetence associate Asperger’s with cruelty, while on the contrary, most people with Aspergers symptoms are modest and bashful.
4. “Besides the lack of ability to love and feel love for themselves from others, such people almost can not maintain social relationships. Attempts to communicate with Asperger’s patients closer usually fail”.
Verdict: Only partial truth. Asperger’s people do have problems with maintaining social relationships. But most of them have families and good friends.
5. “It was considered that people with Asperger’s syndrome are mentally retarded. However, in present there is evidence to the contrary. Researchers who examined ten boys and one girl with this disorder, found that their IQ varies in the range from 77 to 133 (normal is 100)”.
Verdict: It’s true – kids and adults with aspergers symptoms usually have normal IQ level.
6. “Asperger syndrome is sometimes mistaken for autism. Debates about how these disorders are related continue, and we still don’t know whether they are related at all. They do have much in common. However, signs of autism usually appear before the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome”.
Verdict: True. Symptoms of autism and Asperger’s are very similar, and so far there is no clear differentiation of these disorders.
7. “Name of Aspergers syndrome thundered in Australia, where in April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant shot at Port Arthur in Tasmania fifty-five people. Thirty-five of them died, twenty were injured. Bryant was notorious as the Australian mass-murderer. Two psychiatrists, Dr. Ian Sale and Paul Mullen, claimed that Bryant suffered from Asperger’s syndrome. Sale said that this disease, “explains a lot” in the sick behavior of the defendant. After a conversation with Bryant, which lasted three and a half hours, Mullen added that the defendant, who has 66-points IQ, and behaves like a 10-year-old kid, “reacts like a frightened child, helpless and alienated.” However, the doctor said: “We may never know about his intentions and the state, which led him to this murder.”
Verdict: One more bad association for Asperger’s people. See above paragraphs 2 and 3.
8. “One of the aspergers symptoms is the tendency to follow the same strict set of actions, which often has no practical meaning. Any violation of this order may be very traumatic for people with Asperger’s – they are very hard to adapt to any changes”.
Verdict: It’s true, and it’s one of the main Asperger’s syndrome signs.
9. “The prevalence of Asperger syndrome is unknown. However, men suffer from it much more often than women. It is believed that one woman with symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome accounts for between 4 and 9 men”.
Verdict: True. Men and boys make up about 75-80 percent of diagnosed patients.
10. “This syndrome is sometimes mixed up with alexithymia, a cognitive-emotional disorder due to which people are unable to describe their feelings. However, people suffering from Asperger’s syndrome do not recognize feelings of others, and those who have alexithymia, are simply not able to express their own feelings”.
Verdict: Well, maybe somebody really can mix up these disorders, but in fact they are totally opposite by their symptoms. So, we may call it plausible.
In 2005 a great documentary about Asperger’s syndrome was shown on TV. This short movie very subtly and accurately conveys the inner feelings of human with Asperger’s syndrome.
And another great mini-guide to Aspergers symptoms is a cartoon about this disorder. The authors of the cartoon compare Asperger’s people with aliens from other planet. Things that seem normal to others, are strange and unusual for them. In our opinion it is a very good comparison.
Aspergers Symptoms Diagnosis Criteria
Only recently, a syndrome, described by Hans Asperger in 1944, has attracted wide attention of child and adult psychiatrists (L. Wing, 1981; C. Gillberg, 1985; D. Tantam, 1988; U. Frith, 1991). It’s found, as we already mentioned, in people with normal or good, and sometimes even a high intellectual level. But something in their mental health is violated, and that “something” is closely connected with those functions, which are impaired in case of classic autism.
Asperger’s symptoms are diagnosed a little differently by various systems. In the DSM-IV and ICD-10 systems criteria are almost identical, except one thing: DSM-IV request the presence of “clinically significant disturbances in social or other important areas of functioning”, which is not used by ICD-10. Both diagnostic schemes indicate that early language development is normal, and interest to the environment and adapting skills are not violated. This diagnostic criteria also does not include the disorder in communication (verbal and nonverbal).
Asperger symptoms and Autism
Aspergers syndrome is indicated by following the same set of symptoms related to autism, but excluding the criteria relating to a disruption of communication. However, most doctors agree that people with autism spectrum disorders usually have problems with normal development of speech, so inclusion of “normal development of speech” as a diagnostic criterion is irrelevant.
Gillberg published the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s symptoms, which were based on clinical description of patients, prepared by Hans Asperger. These criteria, initially designed for the study, were later improved by Christopher Gillberg (1991). Under this system of criteria, people with Aspergers symptoms can sometimes be classified as those who have a diagnosis of autistic disorder and vice versa. He made an attempt to study the possible intersection region (transition region) of autism among people with high intellectual development (usually it means autism with IQ higher than 70) and Asperger syndrome. By the way here is a link on Asperger syndrome on Wikipedia.
Asperger’s syndrome and autism (with a high intellectual level) intersect with each other. It is unclear whether they represent different types of autism spectrum or not. Scientists identified two interesting models to explain the connection between autism and Asperger syndrome, based on IQ and the level of empathy.
Asperger syndrome and IQ level
It has been suggested that empathy can be considered as functional ability, conceptually similar to IQ and having a strong constitutional roots. According to this model, a general population has different levels of empathy.
We consider diagnosis of autism spectrum only in cases where the level of empathy falls far below significant. In such extremely low levels we diagnose autism, and in other cases, where the level of empathy is higher, instead of autism Asperger’s syndrome can be diagnosed.
Following another model, the only feature that differentiates autism from symptoms of Aspergers syndrome, is the level of IQ (or verbal IQ). Low IQ (low verbal skills) leads to a diagnosis of autism, and higher levels of IQ (higher level of verbal skills) lead to a diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome in patients, mostly with the same types and levels of social disorders.
These models of relations between autism and Asperger’s syndrome should be mutually exclusive.
As we considered, the diagnosis of Aspergers symptoms is not very complicated, but the problem is that Asperger’s syndrome is often completely disregarded.