Asperger's Syndrome (Asperger Syndrome, Asperger Disorder)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): What is Autism?

How is Asperger's syndrome diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based upon interviews and observation of the individual along with interviews of his/her family members and sometimes teachers or counselors. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is published by the American Psychiatric Association and includes the diagnostic criteria for all recognized psychiatric conditions.

The DSM-IV had specific diagnostic criteria for Asperger's syndrome. However, revision of the DSM-IV was carried out, with a 5th edition (DSM-V) published in May 2013. In this new version, Asperger's syndrome is included in the same diagnostic group as people with autism and pervasive developmental disorders.

What are the risks or complications of Asperger's syndrome?

As mentioned before, Asperger's syndrome may coexist with other psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety disorder. Even when anxiety disorder is not present, people with Asperger's syndrome may suffer from anxiety or hypersensitivity to certain stimuli such as loud noises. In some cases, disruptive behaviors (tantrums, self-injury, and aggression) and/or depression may occur in response to the anxiety and frustration experienced by sufferers of Asperger's syndrome. Other behaviors that have been reported in people with Asperger's syndrome include obsessive-compulsive behaviors and difficulties with anger management.

As with any condition, the degree of severity of symptoms can vary widely among individuals, and not all persons with Asperger's syndrome will experience associated psychiatric disorders, depression, or disruptive behaviors.

What are the treatments for Asperger's syndrome?

Treatment of Asperger's syndrome involves a multidisciplinary approach.

Medical therapy is not effective in treating Asperger syndrome, although medications may be prescribed to help control troubling symptoms or symptoms of other psychiatric conditions that may coexist with Asperger's syndrome. In some cases, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications are used for relief of anxiety or depression. Medical treatments for ADHD may also be tried if there is significant hyperactivity and/or distraction.

A number of behavioral and educational interventions can help people with Asperger's syndrome, although all of these may not be necessary in a given individual. The type of interventions chosen must be based upon the individual's age and needs. Types of interventions that have been shown to be of benefit include:

  • efforts to reduce overstimulation or overload of sensory input;
  • supporting executive function skills by provision of an environment that is predictable, structured, and organized;
  • organization skills training;
  • speech/language therapy that addresses the ambiguous use of language and the use of language in social settings;
  • social skills training programs, including training in the awareness of social cognition, use of gestures and facial expressions, and conversational language;
  • adaptive skills or life-skills training;
  • educational supports such as assistance with organization, note-taking, allowing oral rather than written testing, use of scripts, and assistance with reading comprehension and subtlety of language use; and
  • self-advocacy training.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/14/2015

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