Asperger syndrome is named for Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician. In 1944, Asperger published an article describing children whose symptoms were typical in their verbal and cognitive skills.
Children with Asperger syndrome share traits with those who have autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Both groups have difficulties with social interactions:
- Trouble looking people in the eye
- Rarely use gestures or facial expressions
- Trouble knowing how close to stand to others
- Less interest in engaging others
- May not share objects or experiences of interest with others
Like children with ASDs, those with Asperger syndrome may also:
- Fixate on narrow interests, sometimes to the exclusion of other topics
- Prefer rituals and routines
- Become anxious and upset when those are altered or disrupted
- Engage in repetitive behaviors such as spinning or rocking for long periods
- Become preoccupied with parts of objects
A key difference, however, is in language skills. Early language milestones are not delayed in children with Asperger syndrome. In fact, these children may even be early readers who speak in an overly formal way and have an impressive vocabulary. Some may affectionately be referred to as “little professors.” Even so, their language skills may be quite unique or different. They may:
- Talk continuously about a limited number of topics
- Have difficulty understanding certain types of humor, figures of speech, and jokes
- Have less understanding of the social use of language, such as how to start and maintain a conversation or how to end one
Another difference is that children with Asperger syndrome do not have cognitive delays, which may or may not occur in autism. Children with Asperger syndrome are also capable of doing age-appropriate self-help skills like bathing and dressing and will be curious about their environment in childhood.