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Asperger syndrome

Contents of this page:

Alternative Names   

Pervasive developmental disorder - Asperger syndrome

Definition    Return to top

Asperger syndrome is often considered a high functioning form of autism. People with this syndrome have difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and often are clumsy. Motor milestones may be delayed.

Causes    Return to top

Hans Asperger labeled this disorder "Autistic Psychopathy" in 1944. The cause is unknown.

There is a possible link to autism, and genetic factors may play a role. The condition appears to be more common in boys than in girls.

Although people with Asperger syndrome often have difficulty socially, many have above-average intelligence. They may excel in fields such as computer programming and science. There is no delay in their cognitive development, ability to take care of themselves, or curiosity about their environment.

Symptoms    Return to top

People with Asperger have problems with language in a social setting.

Other symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Physical, emotional, and mental tests are usually done to rule out other causes.

Treatment    Return to top

Treatment depends on the patient's level of function. People with a high IQ will have a better outlook than those with a below-average IQ. Because the patient may have average or above average intelligence, improvements in social function are particularly important.

For patients with severe impairment, treatment is similar to autism therapy.

Treatment strategy is based on using the person's strengths (such as intelligence or memory) to help compensate for their social or behavioral difficulties. It is also important for them to have the right living and social environment with as much support as possible.

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, and stimulants may be used to treat problems such as anxiety, depression, and aggression.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The long-term outcome is based on the underlying problem and therapies used.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your child:

References    Return to top

Shah PE, Dalton R, Boris NW. Pervasive developmental disorders and childhood psychosis. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007: chap 29.

Update Date: 5/12/2009

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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