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What is Asperger syndrome?

People with Asperger syndrome have difficulties in three main areas:

  • Social Communication
  • Social Interaction
  • Social imagination

These are often referred to as 'the triad of impairments'.

People with Asperger syndrome are of average or above-average intelligence. Most speak fluently, though their words may sound overly-formal or stilted. People with Asperger syndrome find it more difficult to read body language and social signals which most of us take for granted.

You cannot tell that someone has Asperger syndrome from their physical appearance.

Asperger syndrome is an invisible life-long disability.

It is a form of autism that, in varying degrees, affects the way a person processes and understands multiple types of information and communications. It also influences how they communicate and relate to others as well as understanding the world around them. People with Asperger syndrome may have learning difficulties like dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epilepsy, among a myriad of other conditions.

By giving children and adults with Asperger syndrome the right support and encouragement, they can lead full and independent lives.

What Asperger syndrome is not:

  • An excuse for bad behaviour
  • Bad parenting
  • Mental illness
  • Extreme shyness
  • A lack of intellectual capability
  • Curable
  • Contagious
  • A result of social circumstances

What causes Asperger syndrome?

Research to-date suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may account for changes in brain development. However, there is still much scientific research needed to identify the exact causes of Asperger syndrome.

Characteristics of Asperger Syndrome:

It is important to remember that the characteristics of Asperger syndrome vary greatly between individuals. However, some common characteristics are:

Social communication difficulties such as:

  • Expressing themselves emotionally and socially
  • Understanding body language, gestures, facial expressions, tone, and intonation of voice
  • Knowing when to start or end a conversation, and choosing topics about which to talk
  • Not fully understanding what they mean when utilising complex words and phrases
  • Literal use and understanding of language, i.e., misunderstanding jokes, metaphors, and sarcasm

Social interaction difficulties such as:

  • Making and maintaining friendships
  • Understanding the unwritten 'social rules' that most of us learn naturally.
  • Finding other people unpredictable and confusing
  • Withdrawing and seeming uninterested in other people, appearing almost aloof
  • Unable to initiate small talk but try getting them to stop talking about their special interest
  • Poor or exaggerated eye contact

Many people with Asperger syndrome wish to be sociable and expand their social circle.

Social Imagination Difficulties Relating to:

  • Imagining multiple outcomes to situations
  • Predicting what will happen next
  • Understanding and interpreting other peoples' thoughts, feelings, or actions
  • Picking up on, understanding, and interpreting the subtle cues that are expressed by facial expressions and body language
  • Having a limited range of imaginative activities, or interests which they pursue rigidly and repetitively
  • A tendency to read factual rather than fictional books
  • 'Pretend' games and play
  • Lack of empathy

Additionally, many people with Asperger syndrome can be highly imaginative and creative. There are many accomplished artists, writers and musicians who have Asperger syndrome.

Other related characteristics can include:

  • Love of and need for routines
  • Finding it difficult to cope with or accept changes
  • Having rules and rituals upon which they insist as it makes their world easier to interpret
  • Developing an intense and often obsessive interest in a hobby or collecting which may be temporary or a lifetime enthusiasm¬†
  • Becoming highly knowledgeable about a particular area of information
  • Sensory difficulties that can occur in one or all of the five senses¬†
  • Odd postures and facial movements or expressions
  • Clumsy or poorly co-ordinated movements
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