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What is Asperger's Syndrome?

By Jane Harmon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder considered to be part of the group of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Children diagnosed with this condition often have difficulty with social interactions and understanding unspoken social cues. As such, these children frequently get into more trouble in school, exasperate teachers, and are the subject of bullying.

Some of those with Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent and highly verbal. Boys are four times as likely than girls to be diagnosed with the condition, but it remains unclear whether this is because they are four times more likely to develop it, or if the different socialization processes for girls and boys improves social abilities of girls with the disorder so that most become indistinguishable from those who don't have it.

When normal infants are learning to read caregivers' moods through facial expressions, children with Asperger's syndrome are not. When threats and dares are uttered on the playground, normal children might know when another child is bluffing, when to ask an adult to intervene and when to stand up for themselves. Asperger's kids might miss all these cues, getting into unnecessary fights or allowing themselves to be cowed by a kid who was only teasing, marking them as an easy target for bullies.

Teens and adults with Asperger's syndrome may not be able to tell when they are talking too loudly for the situation. They also often develop monomaniacal interests in esoteric topics and cannot understand that others are less interested. Clues that they are boring someone with the depths and details of their interests pass them by, so these people often find themselves socially isolated as their peers avoid them.

People with this disorder can be taught to decode social cues intellectually, rather than instinctively. This is a fairly lengthy and frustrating process, because most people cannot verbalize what they understand instinctively, but recruiting friends and family to help is useful. A teen with Asperger's might tell his most trusted friends, for example, to give him a particular hand signal when he is speaking too loudly, or a different signal when he is talking too much about a topic that no one else is interested in.

It's not a uniformly bleak picture for those with Asperger's syndrome, however. Their ability to focus on very intricate topics makes them extremely well-suited to certain fields of endeavor; computer fields are often considered a natural haven for those with this condition.

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Discussion Comments

By anon990537 — On Apr 27, 2015

@Ponygirl: You are not alone! I can identify with so much of what you say. Although my wife hasn't been formally diagnosed with Asperger's, I strongly suspect it. We've been married for 37 years and she drives me nuts! It's extremely stressful! I too suffer from chronic migraine which I think at least in part is due to the daily stress. I've struggled with her behavior for 39 years. She's always been a closed book to me. Our marriage has been fraught with problems and has come close to divorce. But now that I have this new perspective, hopefully it will be easier to cope. Nice to talk to a kindred spirit!

By anon259554 — On Apr 06, 2012

@ponygirl: Yes, he has Asperger's and he is clueless that he has it. He does not do it intentionally, nor does he want to hurt you, but he is just simply autistic in relationships.

By anon258528 — On Apr 02, 2012

The higher rate of males having Asperger suggests that this is an X chromosome variation. There are many other conditions that have gender variation.

By anon178723 — On May 22, 2011

I don't know about robotic sex, etc. being Asperger's Syndrome. Sex is robotic, and his emotionless disorder is probably because he works too hard. He's a workaholic, therefore he acts like a soulless, unemotional robot. It's simple. I've seen people at work who have no feelings.

By ponygirl — On Nov 21, 2010

Help! I don't know what to say. I believe my husband has something. Anti-Social, passive aggressive, Aspergers. High intelligence. But he literally is out of touch. He says he has been living inside his head. What does that mean? We have been married 20 years. The last ten have been awful. I have two boys, now teenagers. They are both bright, but have empathy, eye contact and laugh.

He has bullied me. Won't look me in the eye. Makes me write things down. I can't tell him if something needs to get done. Ex. Cutting the lawn for Mother's Day. He got so made at me and didn't talk to me for the rest of the night. I have been going to a domestic violence shelter for 2 years now. Abusive? I don't know. Lack of affection, won't even kiss me, even when I ask! Literally pushes me away. He says he loves me and that I am beautiful, but his actions say something else. I have gotten my affection and love from my sons for the last 10 years. However, they are now teenagers. Kids get older, and so did I. Time for them to lead their own lives. College soon.

Sex is robotic. I have stopped that for the last year. It feels like I am being used. Almost abusive. Someone actually had to tell me this behavior towards me is abusive and harming me. I had breast cancer and he was not supportive. I couldn't even talk to him about it.

I feel so alone. I have been to the lawyer, but I couldn't understand until I came to this section. I think this is what he has. Highly intelligent. Programmer. Excels at his job. He works at home and doesn't leave the house for days. Doesn't bother him. Malls and grocery stores cause anxiety for him. I have been sending him out on small trips to get him out of the house and be more independent. I have asked him to stop coaching my sons in baseball. But he sneaks in behind my back. This has been going on for seven years. He promises he won't, but then does it anyway. He is passive-aggressive. Has severe psoriasis. He is a control freak. I don't know. My counselors say he has odd behaviors.

Thank you for listening. Being on the other side is difficult. He shows no emotion. Even when his mom died and when his brother died. He is okay with kids and animals. I used to be jealous of the dog! No manners. Never opens the door. Barely says thank you. Walks ahead of women. I have to constantly remind him.

Thanks, everyone. I am just confused. I am also emotionally drained and exhausted. Horrible migraine headaches weekly. Aches and pains I cannot describe. Stress is tearing me up.

I am just trying to understand this disorder. He won't get tested. I did an online one with him and he fibbed. When I did it pretending I was him. He was on the spectrum. Any advice? Lonely and Heartbroken

By anon57782 — On Dec 27, 2009

anyone know about de-coding with Aspergers teens, how to teach them to de-code, etc.

By callista450 — On Nov 20, 2008

Regarding anon20673's comment that 4% of AS cases have higher than normal IQ:

Only 2-3% of the general population have an IQ that is considered in the "bright" or "genius" range; that is, 130 or higher (everything else is "bright normal" and below). Defining an IQ as "normal" doesn't mean that it is exactly 100, but that it is in the range of 70 to 130. That's two standard deviations from the exact average at 100. (The numbers aren't exact. There are many different kinds of IQ tests.)

Since Asperger Syndrome is defined in the diagnostic criteria as excluding anyone with a cognitive delay (that is, IQ lower than 70), it excludes people in the lowest range.

As a result, a slightly higher percentage of AS cases have an above-normal IQ than the general population--but that's only because when you take the lowest-scoring people out of a group, the average necessarily rises.

While people with AS may be more likely to be interested in stereotypically "intelligent" subjects like math or science, when adjustments are made for the odd diagnostic criteria it becomes obvious that they are about as intelligent as anyone else--most are in the normal range, but a few are geniuses.

By anon20673 — On Nov 04, 2008

Research has shown that only 4% of humans with Asperger syndrome has a higher IQ than normal IQ.

By butterfly — On Oct 02, 2008

I am also the mother of a 15 year old. He also was diagnosed with adhd, obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and anxiety. It was mentioned a couple of time by different doctors at different stages the he might have aspergers. However, no ever evaluated him for this and i even had several doctors tell me he didn't have it.

It has been an uphill battle with schools and counselors alike. He has had repeated problems at school. He has no friends. He feels very isolated.

I can understand where you are coming from. Don't give up. I even listened to one therapist that suggested residential treatment. I do not feel that this was the best option for him.

By truelady112 — On Feb 12, 2008

Hello, I am the mother of a young man who just turned 15. Since he was 6 years old he has been treated for adhd, oppositional defiance disorder, compulsive disorder and sensory integration disorder. He has been on adderall for 10 years.

He has been in lots of trouble in school this year, refuses to take his meds, he refuses to go to school and has no friends.

I had to get the definition of monomaniacal. Once I did I was shocked to find that this describes nearly every conversation that we have with him.

I am astounded to read the description of high functioning asperger. My son fits this description perfectly.

I'm not sure where to go from here. I certainly will speak with his doctor and ask for another evaluation since it has been so long since his last one.

Thank you for this forum, maybe we are not fighting a losing battle with him after all.

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