Asperger's Syndrome

This condition was originally described by Hans Asperger in Vienna in 1944. Although Asperger was not aware of Leo Kanner's work on autism, he did use the word autism ("autistic psychopathy") to describe the social deficits he observed in a group of boys. His original description, in German, received little attention in the English-language literature until recent years. In people with Asperger's Syndrome, deficits in social interaction and unusual responses to the environment, similar to those in autism, are observed. Unlike in autism, however, cognitive and communicative development are within the normal or near-normal range in the first years of life, and verbal skills are usually an area of relative strength. Idiosyncratic interests are common and may take the form of an unusual and/or highly circumscribed interest (e.g., in train schedules, snakes, the weather, deep-fry cookers, or telegraph pole insulators). There is some suggestion of an increased incidence of this condition in family members. The validity of this condition, as opposed to high-functioning autism, remains a topic of debate (Szatmari, 1992). Inconsistencies in the way the term has been used and the lack, until quite recently, of recognized official definitions has made it difficult to interpret the research available on this condition. Even now, some clinicians will use the term to refer to persons with autism who have IQs in the normal range, or to adults with autism, or to PDD-NOS; recent official definitions emphasize differences from autism, e.g. in terms of better communication (particularly verbal) skills. It also seems likely that that the condition overlaps, at least in part, with some forms of learning disability, e.g., the syndrome of Nonverbal Learning Disability (Rourke, 1989).

The transcript from the April 6, 1999 New York Times online chat is still available at the New York Times site.

Asperger's Syndrome
Guidelines for Assessment and Diagnosis
by Ami Klin, Ph.D., and Fred R. Volkmar, M.D.
Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut
Published by the Learning Disabilities Association of America, June 1995
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Asperger's Syndrome
Guidelines for Treatment and Intervention
by Ami Klin, Ph.D., and Fred R. Volkmar, M.D.
Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut
Published by the Learning Disabilities Association of America, June 1995
Download PDF