What Is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s, is a previously used diagnosis on the autism spectrum. In 2013, it became part of one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).

Typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability distinguish Asperger syndrome from other forms of autism.

It generally involves:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Restricted interests
  • Desire for sameness
  • Distinctive strengths

Strengths can include:

  • Remarkable focus and persistence
  • Aptitude for recognizing patterns
  • Attention to detail

Challenges can include:

  • Hypersensitivities (to lights, sounds, tastes, etc.)
  • Difficulty with the give and take of conversation
  • Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills (distance, loudness, tone, etc.)
  • Uncoordinated movements, or clumsiness
  • Anxiety and depression

The tendencies described above vary widely among people. Many learn to overcome their challenges by building on strengths.

Though the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome is no longer used, many previously diagnosed people still identify strongly and positively with being an “Aspie.”

Therapies and services

Find the following services near you using the Autism Speaks Resource Guide.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help address anxiety and other personal challenges.

Social skills training classes can help with conversational skills and understanding social cues.

Speech therapy can help with voice control.

Physical and occupational therapy can improve coordination.

Psychoactive medicines can help manage associated anxiety, depression and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How has our understanding evolved?

1944: Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger described four strikingly similar young patients. They had normal to high intelligence. But they lacked social skills and had extremely narrow interests. The children also shared a tendency to be clumsy.

1981: British psychiatrist Lorna Wing published a series of similar case studies. In it, she coined the term “Asperger syndrome.”

1994: Asperger syndrome listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4).

2003: Asperger syndrome and other previously separate types of autism folded into one umbrella diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder” in DSM-5.