What is Asperger's
Asperger, an Austrian
physician, first described the syndrome in 1944. It
is not yet clear whether"higher functioning autism" and
Asperger's syndrome are different.
In fact, this is an area of controversy.
However, one difference is
that the person with Asperger's Syndrome
demonstrates more characteristics consistent with right-hemisphere
deficits such as seen in a nonverbal learning disability.
Who Gets Asperger's
4-8 times more common
A family link
May be related
to oxygen deprivation before or during birth
explains how having autism made school and social life hard, but it
made understanding animals easy.
This guide explains the sensory systems, identifies problems with
sensory integration, strategies for managing challenging behaviors,
suggestions for sensory diets and more for the child on the autism
Temple Grandin provides her perspective on the sensory and
communication difficulties a child with Asperger's Syndrome faces and
ways to cope and be successful.
Vygotsky introduced the term "processing" in conjunction with language
over forty years ago. He stated that the relationship between thought
and words is not a thing but a process.
He argued that speech is social in its origins and that only as
children develop does it become internalized verbal thought.
Adolescence is a difficult time for all young people, but especially
for those with Asperger's Syndrome who struggle to fit in. The
expectations to communicate with peers with increasingly sophisticated
verbal skills increases with age.
Bolick's book focuses on how to help these children turn
preoccupations and routines into positive strengths, manage unforeseen
glitches, understand intimacy and succeed in school.
emphasizes how important career is not only for financial independence
but to build self esteem and create social relationships based on
concrete help for adolescents and young adults prepares them for the
adult world of work.
Willy describes what its like to be a mother with Asperger's Syndrome.
sometimes called "higher functioning
autism" because these individuals are
often very intelligent and can lead successful and
rewarding lives. At the same
time they need to cope with one or more difficulties
in the areas of:
Sensory sensitivities (and/or dysfunction in
Reading social cues such as body language, may
avoid eye contact
Language (monotonic speech, difficulty
such as idioms)
Motor coordination (may appear clumsy or have
poor fine-motor skills)
Persistent narrow preoccupations such as World
War Two military leaders
Difficulty with Theory of Mind and lack of
Inflexible thinking or extreme adherence to
Stereotypical movements such as hand flapping
or body rocking
Failure to develop peer relationships/ lack of
social or emotional reciprocity
It is also common
for individuals with Asperger's syndrome to have anxiety and/or Attention Deficit
Anxiety may be manifested as an Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder with symptoms such as
repetitive and persistent thoughts or insisting that
foods be eaten in a certain order.
Medication is often helpful to treat these frequently coexisting
The person with an
Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis does not have a
significant impairment in
language, cognitive development or self-help skills and
fails to meet the criteria
or another Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
(Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, Amadeus Mozart, Andy Warhol
and Lewis Carroll)
techniques have identified structural and functional differences in specific regions of
the brain. Children with Asperger's Syndrome often
prefer talking to adults, showing
off their in-depth knowledge
of narrow interests. They recognize that adults
are generally more tolerant of social differences and willing to
Hans Asperger described these children as "little professors".
What is Theory of Mind? This refers to the ability to recognize
others have thoughts and feelings different
from one's own. A very young child has difficulty understanding that
cannot know that the kitten licked her when they are not in
the same room
with the child and kitten.
Typically developing children not only learn that others have different
but how to interpret their thoughts and feelings by "reading" their
and body language. For example, achild learns
that when she sees daddy watching
her gaze at a cookie, daddy will know that she wants it. The father also realizes
that his child knows that he knows what she is thinking. He may hand it to her
or move it out of reach. "Theory
of Mind" helps us to understand
another person's behavior.
When famed author, speaker and animal scientistTemple Grandin was
her take on Theory of Mind during a National Public Radio interview,
"Everyone gets into theory of mind
stuff. And it's all about emotional theory of mind. But
there are other kinds. Normal people have incredibly bad visual and sensory
theory of mind."
Empathy is the ability to
recognize and perceive another person's emotions.
A person with
Asperger's syndrome who lacks the skills to "read"people,
struggles to understand human behavior.
In fact, they may
feel more like the Star Trek character "Data" who expressed a desire to
What is Central coherence? This refers to the
ability to see the "whole picture". Autistic people may be better at seeing the details
or small parts than a non autistic person and have difficulty
seeing the gestalt or
entirety. This limitation may impact the ability to use
context or to generalize from one task or
setting to another. An example of this
would be a student spending all of his time on a
science fair project, thus, neglecting
all other work, to the point of failing the course.
On the other hand, the ability to see the details is very useful for
in math and computer science.
Dysfunction in Sensory Integration Individuals on the
autism spectrum may exhibit a variety of sensory sensitivities
to sound, vision, touch,
taste, smell and movement stimuli. They may find the
overload of loud, busy places painful
and crave deep pressure. Children will
often seek sensory environments (i.e. a sandbox) that help them to "normalize
their engines". Adults may chose careers (i.e. working with animals) that also fulfill
sensory needs. Please read more about Sensory Integration
on this web site.
Temple Grandin discovered how to use
this squeeze chute- a
device for holding an
animal. It provides the gentle relaxing
pressure that she craves.
She built her own to use at school. The
effect was both stimulating
and relaxing at the same time. Photo by Daniel Zwerdling
"Photo Courtesy of American RadioWorks" American Radio Works
Auditory Processing or Central
Processing Disorders This is not a
hearing impairment, but a term that describes a variety of
problems with the brain that
can interfere with processing auditory
information. A person with Asperger's Syndrome might manifest difficulty
Paying attention to and remembering verbal
Carrying out multi-step verbal directions
Listening and need more time to process verbal
Figurative language, jokes/riddles, multiple
teasing and implied meanings
Too much auditory information that can be
people with Asperger's Syndrome
FutureHorizons a publishing Company that is
devoted to selling resources
related to all aspects of
autism and Asperger's syndrome. use
code "pedia" for 15% discount on their products There
are countless books, articles and web sites with information on
interventions to help individuals with Asperger's Syndrome. A few are
described here. Please visit Autism for
further resources. Parents will often
adapt their parenting style and child's environment
to help the child cope and
adapt. Fussy babies may need the more than
usual amount of nursing, cuddling
and rocking. Toddlers may
not adjust to the day care center with inflexible routines and
need more time home with a parent or nanny.
However, it is
important to expose children to social situations that
develop self-esteem, confidence
and social skills. Oftentimes, this is
best done (even with older children) in familiar environments, with a
limited number of playmates and
adult support available.
A sensory diet can be helpful both at home and at school. Teenagers
benefit from age appropriate proprioceptive and
such as lifting weights and skiing. Young adults with Asperger's
are frequently relieved after years of clumsy high school gym classes
to engage in less competitive physical activities such as
or cycling. Occupational therapists can design a sensory dietfor
school or work environments. Therapists can also suggest ways to help
children compensate for sensitivities. For example, wearing head phones
helps to muffle extraneous noise.
become increasingly important during the middle and
high school years as children's bodies and social needs change.
School demands for long term planning and organization also increase,
creating stress and anxiety. These children are at risk for depression.
This may also be a good time to consider medications that decrease
anxiety and improve focus.
Strategies for Language/auditory processing difficulties
cues/models, limit verbal directions
Provide enough time
to reply (This seems
simple, but it takes conscious effort)
All directions for
school work can be written on the board or in handouts.
to comprehend jokes, figurative speech and idioms.
"quiet space" to decrease sensory overload. This space might be dim,
filled with cushions and squeeze toys.
Let the child
transition earlier than the others. Give a warning to prepare for
transitions. A timer may be helpful.
To avoid tactless blurting out, encourage
whispering or "think-it, don't say it".
Role, playing, audio/video taping and
social scripting can be used to help children learn when it is appropriate
to say things out loud.
Provide a predictable, consistent
Assignments may need to be broken down into
smaller units, that can be completed in the allotted time. School
work load may need to be decreased.
a "finish later" folder.
Use a check list to
show which tasks have been completed and what remains.
Set aside a time of
day to discuss topics of high interest.
Incorporate areas of
high interest into academics.
Provide a written
answer to be given upon frequently asked questions.
A small classroom is
Teachers should be
well trained in the needs of children with this disability.
There are many
children's books available called "Social Stories"
that teach children
how to respond to confusing
or challenging social situations.
Learning the Lingo
Author and speaker Liane Holliday Willy
coined the term "Aspie" in
people with the the syndrome might refer to one another with this term.
People who do not have Asperger's Syndrome may be called "Neurotypical"
Many "aspies" have found support, friendship and romance through
As a group, they have contributed to a shift in perception that views
as a disease that should be cured but rather a neurdifference that
celebrated. They encourage tolerance for "neurodiversity".