Common Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome

People with Asperger Syndrome tend to be exceptional. Their ability to communicate, their great memories, and their intelligence often mean that teachers, doctors, and family members don't notice the real challenges in socialization and pragmatics that they face.

As a result, children and adults with Asperger Syndrome often don’t get correct diagnoses or receive the proper treatment and support until later in life (compared to those who are more severely affected with autism and are more noticeable). Professionals sometimes refer to Asperger Syndrome as the “new kid on the block” because the diagnosis didn’t even appear in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1994.

Individuals with Asperger Syndrome often exhibit some of the following characteristics:

  • Average to above average IQ. Not everyone with Asperger Syndrome is a genius; however, many people with this condition have significant intellectual gifts. People elsewhere on the autism spectrum tend to have lower measurable IQs (although this is a big generalization, and every case is unique).

  • Concrete “black-and-white” thinking. Many people with Asperger Syndrome don’t understand unspoken rules, due to difficulties with interpreting figures of speech and nonverbal communication. They tend to rely solely on the words themselves. Difficulty with perceiving nonverbal communication causes significant challenges during social interaction. The same characteristic holds true for people with more classic autism. However, this trait tends to be more startling in those with Asperger Syndrome, due to their often superior verbal skills.

    Despite the fact that many persons suffering with Asperger Syndrome have high IQs, due to challenges in understanding the unspoken rules of employment, they’re greatly challenged in being successful at a typical job.

  • No significant clinical delay in verbal communication. However, the verbal communication of people with Asperger’s is often characterized by differences in melody, rhythm, tempo, and pitch of speech — otherwise known as vocal prosody. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome can often speak complete, grammatically correct sentences without knowing what they actually mean.

  • Desire to have friends without knowing how to make and keep them. This social conflict can result in loneliness and sometimes leads to the person using unusual ways to attract friends and, when entering adulthood, significant others. For example, a person with Asperger Syndrome may monologue about a personal passion without perceiving the nonverbal cues that the listener is getting bored or wants to have a chance to talk — or to change the subject.

  • Sensitivities to sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell. Input to one or more of these senses often overwhelms people on the autism spectrum.

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