Asperger Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Asperger Syndrome autism

Asperger Syndrome, a disorder first identified by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger in the 1940s, is a complex neurodevelopmental condition known for its hallmark symptoms of social interaction and communication difficulties, as well as repetitive behaviors and interests. Often considered to reside on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, individuals diagnosed with Asperger's frequently possess average to above-average intelligence.

Despite being identified almost a century ago, the official recognition of Asperger Syndrome as a distinct disorder only occurred in the early 1990s. Prevalence estimates indicate that approximately 1 in every 250 individuals is affected by Asperger's, with the condition being four times more common in males than females.

Early onset symptoms of Asperger Syndrome can have a profound impact on an individual's daily life, including the formation and maintenance of relationships, school or work attendance, and participation in daily activities. This underscores the importance of prompt and accurate diagnosis and access to effective treatment and support.

The Causes

The causes of Asperger Syndrome are not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

  1. Genetic Factors: Studies have shown that Asperger Syndrome tends to run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the disorder. Research has identified several genes that may be involved in the development of Asperger Syndrome, including those that play a role in brain development and function.
  2. Environmental Factors: Some studies have suggested that certain environmental factors, such as prenatal exposure to certain toxins or infections, may increase the risk of developing Asperger Syndrome. Research is ongoing to understand the relationship between environment and Asperger Syndrome.
  3. Brain Development: Research on brain imaging has revealed that individuals with Asperger Syndrome have certain structural and functional differences in certain areas of the brain, particularly in the regions involved in social interaction and communication. It is thought that these differences may contribute to the development of the disorder.

It is important to note that the causes of Asperger Syndrome are complex and multifactorial, and more research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms.


The diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome is based on a combination of behavioral and developmental assessments, medical and neurological examinations, and differential diagnosis.

Behavioral and Developmental Assessment: A trained professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, will observe and interview the individual and their caregivers to assess for the presence of symptoms and characteristics consistent with Asperger Syndrome. They may also use standardized assessment tools, such as the Autism Diagn Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagn Observation Schedule (ADOS).

Medical and Neurological Examination: The individual may also undergo a medical and neurological examination to rule out any other underlying medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms. This may include blood tests, imaging studies, and other diagnostic tests.

Differential Diagnosis: A thorough evaluation will also include ruling out other conditions that may have similar symptoms, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or a specific learning disorder.

It is important to note that the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome is not based on a single test or assessment, but rather on a comprehensive evaluation of the individual's symptoms, development, and history.

What Is the Difference Between Asperger Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Asperger Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are both classified as autism spectrum disorders, but there are some differences in terms of symptoms and diagnostic criteria.

One of the main differences between Asperger Syndrome and ASD is the severity of symptoms. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome are considered to be on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, meaning they have fewer difficulties with communication and cognitive skills than those with classic autism. They may have difficulty with social interaction and communication, but their language and cognitive development is typically within the normal range.

Another difference is that individuals with Asperger Syndrome do not have significant delays in language development, whereas this is often a defining characteristic of classic autism. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome also tend to have more restricted and repetitive interests and behaviors than those with classic autism.

The diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome have changed over time, and it was no longer considered a separate diagnosis, in 2013 it was included within the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5). So, an individual who would have been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in the past may now be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1 (previously called Asperger Syndrome).

Overall, both Asperger Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder are characterized by difficulty with social interaction and communication, as well as repetitive behaviors and interests, but the specific symptoms and severity can vary widely among individuals.


Treatment for Asperger Syndrome is typically tailored to the individual's specific needs and may include a combination of behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, medications, and supportive therapies.

  • Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy can help individuals with Asperger Syndrome improve their social skills, communication, and adaptive behaviors. This type of therapy may include social skills training, speech and language therapy, and parent training.
  • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy can help individuals with Asperger Syndrome develop the skills they need to function more independently in daily life. This may include training in activities such as dressing, grooming, and eating.
  • Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage specific symptoms of Asperger Syndrome. For example, antidepressants may be used to treat anxiety or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, or stimulants may be used to improve attention.
  • Supportive Therapies: There are a variety of supportive therapies that can be beneficial for individuals with Asperger Syndrome. For example, counseling can help individuals and their families cope with the emotional and social challenges of the disorder. Other supportive therapies include art therapy, music therapy, and animal-assisted therapy.

It is important to note that treatment for Asperger Syndrome is a ongoing process, and the individual's needs may change over time. It is essential to work with a team of qualified professionals, such as a psychologist, occupational therapist, and physician to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Coping and Support

Coping with Asperger Syndrome can be challenging for individuals, their families, and loved ones, but there are strategies and resources available to help.

Strategies for individuals with Asperger Syndrome:

Establishing a daily routine to provide structure and predictability

  • Using social stories or visual aids to help understand social situations
  • Practicing social skills in a safe and controlled environment
  • Finding a supportive peer group or online community
  • Exploring interests and passions to promote self-esteem and self-expression

Support for family and loved ones:

  • Educating themselves and others about Asperger Syndrome
  • Joining a support group for families of individuals with Asperger Syndrome
  • Encouraging the individual to seek professional help
  • Finding respite care or other forms of respite to alleviate stress

Resources for education and employment:

  • Special education services through the individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan
  • Vocational training and job coaching
  • Assistive technology
  • Supportive employment programs

It is also important to keep in mind that each individual with Asperger Syndrome is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is important to be flexible and open to trying different strategies and resources until you find what works best for you and your loved one.