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Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses

Symptoms of Asperger's Disorder

Tammi Reynolds, BA & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Asperger's Disorder

Asperger's Disorder was first documented by Hans Asperger in the early 1940's. It is similar to autistic disorder and the other pervasive developmental disorders in several ways. As is the case with autistic disorder, individuals diagnosed with Asperger's disorder must show evidence of at least two significant impairments in social development, as well as stereotyped patterns of behavior and adherence to ritualistic routines. However, the similarities between autism and Asperger's disorder stop there. All individuals with autism share in common significant developmental delays with language, cognitive skills and independent living skills. In contrast, individuals diagnosed with Asperger's disorder demonstrate no significant delays in language development, cognitive development or independent living skills. This lack of communicative and cognitive symptoms makes Asperger's disorder unique among the pervasive developmental disorders, all the rest of which do display these types of disturbances. For the most part, people diagnosed with Asperger's disorder are considered to be high-functioning, and are able to make their way in the world without significant assistance. The criteria for Asperger's Disorder are as follows (quoted from the DSM-IV-TR):

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following: (1) 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 (2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level (3) 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) (4) 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: (1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus (2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals (3) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements) (4) 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.