What is Aspergers Syndrome? Asperger’s Disorder is a milder variant of Autistic Disorder.  Both Asperger’s Disorder and Autistic Disorder are in fact subgroups of a larger diagnostic category.  This larger category is called either Autistic Spectrum Disorders or Pervasive Developmental Disorders (“PDD”).  In Asperger’s Disorder, affected individuals are characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood. There are impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication. Though grammatical, their speech may sound peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern. Clumsiness may be prominent both in their articulation and gross motor behavior. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which usually leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests. Some examples are cars, trains, dinosaurs, fans, door knobs, hinges, meteorology, astronomy or history.  The name “Asperger” comes from Hans Asperger, an Austrian physician who first described the syndrome in 1944.  An excellent translation of Dr. Asperger’s original paper is provided by Dr. Uta Frith in her Autism and Asperger Syndrome.

Currently, in order to receive a diagnosis of Asperger’s, you would need to visit a psychologist who would give a series of tests that would eventually lead to a diagnosis if they qualify.  Here is the current definition of Asperger’s:

Asperger’s Disorder (299.80 DSM-IV)
The essential features of Asperger’s Disorder are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, and activity. The disturbance must clinically show significant impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning. In contrast to Autistic Disorder, there are no clinically significant delays in language. In addition there are no clinically significant delays in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior, and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

  • Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
  • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
  • A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
  • A lack of social or emotional reciprocity

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

  • Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
  • Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals
  • Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
  • Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)

E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

In Arizona, there are no services provided through the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) or Arizona Long Term Care for those with a diagnosis of Asperger’s.  However, some insurance companies may provide limited therapies such as speech and occupational therapy depending on your plan.

Steven’s law was passed here in Arizona in 2008 which required insurance companies to cover autism treatments including Asperger’s and PDD-NOS.

Links about Asperger’s:

Books on Asperger’s:

  • “Asperger Syndrome in Young Children: A Developmental Approach for Parents And Professionals” by Laurie Leventhal-Belfer, Cassandra Coe
  • “Complete Guide to Asperger Syndrome” by Tony Attwood, PhD
  • “Kids in the Syndrome Mix of ADHD, LD, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, Bipolar, And More!: The One Stop Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Other Professionals” by Martin L. Kutscher, M.D.
  • “The OASIS Guide to Asperger Syndrome: Completely Revised and Updated Advice, Support, Insight, and Inspiration” by Patricia Romanowski Bashe and Barbara L. Kirby; Forewords by Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD and Tony Attwood, PhDSucceeding in College With Asperger Syndrome by John Harpur, Maria Lawlor, Michael Fitzgerald
  • “Women From Another Planet? Our Lives in the Universe of Autism” by Jean Kearns Miller (Collection of writings by women on the autism spectrum.)
  • Getting Services for your Child on the Autism Spectrum by DeAnn Hyatt-Foley & Matthew G. Foley
  • Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, The Downs and Things in Between by Liane Holliday Willey
  • Asperger Syndrome and Long-Term Relationships by Ashley Stanford
  • Asperger Syndrome and Your Child: A Parent’s Guide  by Michael D. Powers, Janet Poland (Contributor)
  • Asperger Syndrome in the Family : Redefining Normal by Liane Holliday Willey
  • Hitchhiking Through Asperger Syndrome  by Lise Pyles
  • Asperger’s Syndrome : A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Tony Attwood, Lorna Wing (Preface)
  • Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbooks : A Workbook for Adults with Asperger Syndrome by Roger N. Meyer
  • Asperger Syndrome : A Practical Guide for Teachers by Val Cumine, Julia Leach, Gill Stevenson, Burnley Stevenson
  • Pretending to Be Normal : Living With Asperger’s Syndrome by Liane Holliday Willey, PhD
  • Asperger’s Huh? A Child’s Perspective by Rosina G. Schnurr, John Strachan (Illustrator)
  • Autism and Asperger Syndrome by Uta Frith (Editor) The translation of the original Hans Asperger paper.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders: Finding a Diagnosis and Getting Help by Mitzi Waltz
  • Higher Functioning Adolescents and Young Adults With Autism: A Teacher’s Guide by Ann Fullerton (Editor), Joyce Stratton, Phyllis Coyne, Carol Gray
  • High-Functioning Individuals With Autism (Current Issues in Autism) by Eric Schopler, Gary B. Mesibov
  • Parenting Your Asperger Child by Alan Sohn and Cathy Grayson (It explains how Cognitive Social Integration Therapy can improve the quality of social interaction and behavior by improving a child’s ability to be flexible.)

Books to explain Asperger’s to your teen:

  • Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence by Luke Jackson, Tony Attwood
  • Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About by Haley Moss
  • A Teenage Girl with High-Functioning Autism Shares Her Experiences
  • All Cats Have Aspergers Syndrome by Kathy Hooperman
  • A picture book that explains Aspergers in terms of feline behavior.
  • My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson-Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete (Told from the perspective of an older sister, this book explain autism to children ages 4-8. This books was written by Holly Robinson-Peete and her 12 year old daughter Ryan.)
  • Asperger’s Huh? A Child’s Perspective by Rosina G. Schnurr, John Strachan (Illustrator)
  • Aspergers, What Does It Mean To Me? by Catherine Faherty (A highly recommended workbook style book that can be personalized and used to explain Aspergers to children.)
  • Autism Through a Sister’s Eyes by Emily Hecht and Eve Band (A terrific resource for explaining autism to siblings.)
  • Of Mice and Aliens by Kathy Hoopmann (A Blue Bottle Mystery for children 8-13 that tells the story of Ben, newly diagnosed with Asperger Disorder, as he helps alien Zeke understand the rules of Earth. great reading for kids on spectrum as well as siblings and classmates.)