Autism Wiki
Asperger's boy plays with magnets

A boy with Asperger's plays with magnets

For current information about Asperger syndrome please see Autistic spectrum

Asperger syndrome (or Asperger's disorder), also referred to as Asperger's or just AS, is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder on the Autistic spectrum. As a milder condition, it differs from other spectrum conditions with relatively normal language and intelligence.[1]

Asperger Syndrome was an official diagnosis under the DSM-IV, but has been removed from the DSM-5, which simply uses the term "Autism Spectrum Disorder." Under the ICD-10 however the name remained.

Children and adults with Asperger Syndrome have an intellectual capacity within or above the typical range, but have a distinct profile of abilities that has been apparent since early childhood.


Smiling Autistic Girl Flaps Hands

"Smiling Autistic Girl Flaps Hands" by autistic artist Luna Rose, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome

Dr. Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, described what was subsequently named Asperger syndrome in 1944.[2] He observed in the late 1930's and the early 1940's certain peculiar behavior patterns in some of his patients, mostly male children. These children had around average language skills and intelligence levels. History records that Georg Frankl worked with Asperger in the 1930's before crossing the Atlantic Ocean before World War 2 and ending up working with Leo Kanner.[3]

The children exhibited what were seen to be impaired social skills, and had many other unusual behavioral patterns. They struggled with social interactions, had very few facial expressions, and showed many special mannerisms. For instance, they could not tolerate clothes made of certain materials, would be annoyed at light that was normal for others, or would try to cover their ears to stop listening to normal noises. They would look odd and exceptional by the way they would behave.

The children exhibited intense interests, which they loved to share with others around them. Asperger referred to them as "little professors"[4][5][6][7] because of their extensive knowledge of their favorite subjects. They also had incredible attention to detail and deeply valued honesty. Asperger called the condition "autistic psychopathy" and described it as primarily marked by social isolation.[8]

The report was hidden away for decades until it was revealed in 1981 by English psychiatrist Lorna Wing[9] - a year after Asperger's passing. In 1991, Uta Firth published the work in English.[10] The discovery changed the way the medical world saw autism, which up until that point was limited to the work of Leo Kanner.

The syndrome was included in the ICD-10 in 1992 as a pervasive developmental disorder under section V:F84.[11] This led to its inclusion in the DSM-IV in 1994. The combination of these classifications led to a large increase of prevalence numbers across the Autistic spectrum. It has more recently been classified as an Autistic spectrum disorder in the DSM-5.[12]

Diagnostic Criteria for Asperger's Disorder (DSM-IV)[]


The profile of abilities includes the following characteristics:

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    1. marked impairment in the use of multiple non-verbal 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.
  2. 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
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (eg: single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
  6. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or Schizophrenia.[13]

The diagnostic criteria for Asperger's tend to focus on symptoms in boys. Girls are more likely to focus on blending in and mimic their peers to minimize social awkwardness, so they may not be diagnosed. Research has suggested a 4:1 ratio of boys vs. girls being referred to a specialist.[14]

There is a chart that lists some common characteristics of Aspie girls.[15]

Further reading[]

  • The OASIS Guide to Asperger Syndrome: Advice, Support, Insight, and Inspiration (ISBN 0609608118) by Patricia Romanowski Bashe and Barbara L. Kirby
  • Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World, Antonetta, Susanne, Trade Cloth, Tarcher, 2005 ISBN: 1585423823
  • Asperger's Answer Book: The Top 300 Questions Parents Ask, Ashley, Susan, Trade Paper, Sourcebooks, 2006 ISBN: 1402208073

External links[]