What is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a pervasive developmental disorder and belongs to the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). AS is a life-long condition which effects about 1 in 100 people, about four times more men than women.

The syndrome was first described in 1938 by Hans Asperger, a paediatrician from Vienna. AS has only been named and increasingly diagnosed since 1981.

There are ongoing international differences in diagnostic criteria. The term Asperger Syndrome (AS) will possibly be replaced by ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ (ASD).

Characteristics of people with AS/ASD

  • Average to high intelligence
  • Difficulties in communication and social skills 
  • Lack of or impairment of empathy 
  • Difficulties in controlling emotions 
  • Difficulties in reading non-verbal communication correctly
  • Difficulties in making friends 
  • Impaired of lack of imagination
  • Often an intense focus on special interests 
  • Struggling with organisational tasks and prioritising 
  • Tendency to being pedantic 
  • Tendency to make literal interpretations of what has been said 
  • Tendency to be so direct that others see behaviour as rude or disrespectful 
  • Difficulties in compromise and conflict resolution 
  • Often clumsiness in motor or fine motor skills 
  • Often sensory difficulties like hyper-sensitivity  
  • Experiencing social situations as confusing and/or tiring

Our knowledge and understanding of Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders is still limited. Often these traits can appear in milder forms and  would not lead to a clear clinical diagnosis, but could be described as ‘Asperger Personality Traits’ (Tony Attwood). Many of these traits could also be the result of other conditions, like traumatic childhood experiences or Mental Health issues.

In close relationships even the milder traits can lead to ongoing misunderstandings, frustration, arguments and unresolved conflicts. Even without a diagnosis counselling can be helpful.

If you have reasons to assume that you or one of your loved ones may have AS/ASD and you want a clinical diagnosis, I recommend that you contact Autism SA. Autism SA employs practitioners who are permitted to diagnose, or can advise you of private practitioners (like psychologists) who are trained in diagnosing AS/ASD.

Learn more about how counselling can help.