Asperger's syndrome is one of a group of childhood developmental problems known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). These disorders include Asperger's syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder — not otherwise specified, and autism.
Pervasive developmental disorders share a set of common features, which include:
In the 1940s, these developmental problems were thought to be caused by parents who were distant and unemotional with their children. By the 1980s, it was known that pervasive developmental disorders are caused by a problem with the functioning of the brain. To date, however, the exact cause of pervasive developmental disorders remains unknown despite extensive research. Currently available testing, such as blood tests or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, have failed to reveal any consistent abnormalities in the brain.
Sometimes, pervasive developmental disorders run within families. This occurrence suggests that these disorders may have a genetic component. However, pervasive developmental disorders also occur in families that have no history of developmental disorders.
Limited reciprocal social interaction is a main feature of Asperger's syndrome. These individuals often struggle with the use of nonverbal behavior, the development of peer relationships, sharing their interests and enjoyment, and emotional and social reciprocity.
Repetitive and stereotyped behavior
Individuals with Asperger's syndrome often demonstrate encompassing preoccupations, restricted pattern of interests, inflexible adherence to routines, repetitive motor mannerisms (such as hand flapping, rocking), and a preoccupation with parts of objects.
Many people with Asperger's syndrome have above average cognitive abilities and are extremely talented in certain areas. The areas of exceptional skills often involve functions of the right hemisphere of the brain, such as skills with numbers, math, computers, and music.
There are no laboratory tests that can be used to diagnose Asperger's syndrome. An accurate diagnosis can be made after a developmental history is gathered and an observation of an individual's social interactions and behavior is made. The diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome should be made by individuals that are trained in this type of assessment and who can accurately assess an individual's pattern of development and relative strengths and weaknesses.
Individuals with Asperger's syndrome are generally quite bright and verbal, but have social difficulties that can sometimes impair their performance at home or at work. Structured, predictable environments are often beneficial for bringing out best performance. Many individuals with Asperger's syndrome achieve good levels of academic and personal success; others need assistance in obtaining and maintaining employment, living arrangements, and social relationships.
Many individuals with Asperger's syndrome benefit from social skills group and individual intervention in the form of ABA or behavioral therapy. Many individuals require special accommodations within their educational placement and are found eligible for special education services. Treatment should be tailored to meet the individual's needs; build on their strengths and foster development in the areas they have difficulty. Progress should be continually monitored and treatment adjusted as necessary to continue to facilitate development and success.
© Copyright 1995-2019 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 02/01/2011