Asperger's Syndrome is part of a continuum of disorders known as Autistic Spectrum Disorders and like Autism is a lifelong condition. Asperger's is not easily recognisable and many children are misdiagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, Autism, Attention Deficit, Oppositional Defiant, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
It was first identified in a paper by Dr. Hans Asperger in Austria in 1944. It was not however, translated into English until 1991.
Asperger's Syndrome is a congenital neurobiological condition. AS is characterised by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities.
People with Asperger's usually have a circumscribed area of interest which leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests; eg cars, trains, door knobs, cards and meteorology.
The speech of AS individuals, though grammatical, is peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and repetition. They find spontaneous conversation very difficult and must learn social scripts through rote memory learning. Everything is taken in a very literal way.
In contrast to ASD, there are no significant delays in language or cognition or adaptive skills other than social interaction.
Most Asperger difficulties centre around social competencies. A characteristic of young children is egocentrism. People with Asperger's remain in this egocentric state, unable to interpret the thoughts and emotions of others, just like people with Autism.
Attention span is another problem area with Asperger's, during preschool years children exhibit what might be called "a one track mind", focusing on one piece of information at a time. This tendency seems to continue into adulthood.
The transition to adulthood can be very difficult as Asperger individuals have not completed the required developmental tasks or moved beyond early stages in language or social skills. They frequently remain emotionally dependent on parents.
People with Asperger's are often identified as eccentric, quirky or weird. They are usually interested in making friends but do not know how. Although aware of their differences they are unsure how to address them; they can suffer isolation, resulting in depression and despair.
The up side is that people with AS may have incredible rote memories and their obsessive interests may lead to great achievements, eg Albert Einstein was believed to have Asperger's Syndrome.
Asperger children generally have an I.Q. in the normal range or above in contrast to Autistic children who can have very low I.Q.s. This is the main difference between Asperger's Syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorder.