Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome is part of the autistic spectrum. Having an autistic spectrum disorder means that someone has difficulties in the areas of social interaction, communication and imagination.

It is sometimes referred to as a 'hidden disability', as it is not usually visible when initially meeting someone with Asperger syndrome.

How Asperger syndrome affects people

Asperger syndrome is a life-long condition which is more common in men than women. It is diagnosed in childhood but for some it is often not recognised and diagnosed until adulthood.

People with Asperger syndrome do not have a learning disability. Most people with Asperger syndrome have gone through mainstream school and some may move into higher education and employment.

Sometimes people will have specialist knowledge and understanding on one or two specific topics, such as I.T or maths.

People with Asperger syndrome may excel in some areas, in particular:

  • language skills
  • memory
  • concentration on a preferred activity.

Key areas in which people with Asperger syndrome may struggle

  • Understanding metaphors, irony, sarcasm and jokes - they may take things literally and not be able to interpret intonation in speech.
  • Becoming fixated on particular topics or objects and being unable to move on from them.
  • Thinking in abstract or hypothetical terms.
  • Expressing emotion, empathy, sensitivity or tact.
  • Coping with changes to routines, or adapting to last minute changes.
  • Making and maintaining friendships.
  • Social situations.
  • Hypersensitivity to certain sounds or sensory stimuli, such as noise, smell and light – this can be overwhelming and extremely stressful.

As a result of the above difficulties affecting everyday life, many people with Asperger syndrome experience mental health problems and can experience isolation, depression, anxiety and/or low self-esteem.

Some people may also have an additional learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

With the right support, people with Asperger syndrome can lead full and independent lives. 

The psychologist Tony Attwood, an expert on Asperger syndrome, has described the condition as "a different way of approaching life, one that is dominated by the pursuit of knowledge and truth". He also says that great advances in science and art have been attributable to people with Asperger syndrome.