Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which includes Asperger Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA), is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism differ from other autism spectrum disorders by their relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
Asperger Syndrome is named after the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, studied and described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy. The modern conception of Asperger syndrome came into existence in 1981 and went through a period of popularization, becoming standardized as a diagnosis in the early 1990s. In 2014, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition removed Asperger Syndrome as a separate diagnosis, with those formerly diagnosed now categorised as High Functioning Autism.
The exact cause is unknown. Although research suggests the likelihood of a genetic basis, there is no known genetic etiology and brain imaging techniques have not identified a clear common pathology. There is no single treatment, and the effectiveness of particular interventions is supported by only limited data. Intervention is aimed at improving symptoms and function. The mainstay of management is behavioral therapy, focusing on specific deficits to address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. Most children improve as they mature to adulthood, but social and communication difficulties may persist. Some researchers and people with High Functioning Autism/Aspergers have advocated a shift in attitudes toward the view that it is a difference, rather than a disability that must be treated or cured.
- What is Autism Spectrum Disorder – Amaze (Autism Victoria)
- What is Autism – Autism Spectrum Australia
- Autism Spectrum Disorder – Better Health Channel (Victorian Government)
- What is Asperger’s Syndrome – Tony Atwood