Autism is described as occurring on a spectrum because the symptoms can vary from a complete lack of communication with others to difficulty understanding others’ feelings. This range of symptoms is why the diagnostic term is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Aspergers Syndrome, sometimes also called High-Functioning Autism, falls under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder. (And yes, this remains the case, no matter what you may have heard about the newly-published DSM-V. But, the DSM-V is the subject of another blog). Aspergers Syndrome is viewed as being on the “mild” end of the spectrum because its symptoms differ in degree and severity from other forms of autism.
These following characteristics are typical of individuals with AS/HFA:
- Average or above-average intelligence
- Average or above-average verbal communication skills
- Speech marked by a lack of rhythm, an odd inflection, or a monotone pitch
- Average or below-average nonverbal communication skills
- Difficulty in social interactions, including the ability to engage in back and forth conversations
- Difficulty with understanding the actions, words, or behaviors of others, including the ability to see things from another’s perspective
- A preoccupation with or a narrow interest in a specific unique topic
- Awkward movements and/or mannerisms
- Delay in motor skills
- Strong reactions to textures, smells, sights, sounds, or other sensory stimuli that are not noticed by others
In his book, Asperger’s and Self-Esteem: Insight and Hope through Famous Role Models, Norm Ledgin advises us to move beyond describing Aspergers Syndrome in terms of its deficits. Instead, we should target the “Asperger’s traits that make us happy”.
Specifically, Norm Ledgin states that a person with Aspergers Syndrome is likely to:
- Display a dependable commitment to honesty and truth
- Offer to be helpful and accommodating
- Be a reliable keeper of promises
- Show strong ties to home and family
- Obey rules and persons in positions of authority
- Be creative in several interest areas
- Exhibit a natural sense of fairness and justice
- Resist compromising his or her principles
- Have an appealingly droll sense of humor
- Set high standards for his or her own work
- Be organized and get things done
- Inspire confidence by virtue of intelligence and reserve
However, individuals with Aspergers Syndrome are more than the sum of the characteristics presented above. As is true of all human beings, they have a mix of unique characteristics that can work together to overcome challenges to enable them to live productive and fulfilling lives.
Do you see any of these characteristics in your child? What strengths or weaknesses do you see in them?
Autism Community Network (ACN) is honored to be included among the bloggers on the Aspergers101 website as the health-related expert on Aspergers Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism (AS/HFA). Our team consists of a medical doctor, clinical psychologist, applied behavior analysts, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists.
Visit the ACN website here.
By Dr. Loree Primeau, Executive Director, Autism Community Network
Sources: Autism Speaks; WebMD; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Asperger’s and Self-Esteem: Insight and Hope through Famous Role Models by Norm Ledgin.
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