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What are the symptoms of Asperger syndrome?

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Symptoms of Asperger syndrome involve problems with social skills, restricted or repetitive interests and behaviors, and delayed motor skills. Children with Asperger syndrome display signs and symptoms by the time they are 3 years old. Some symptoms may show up as early as infancy. A child's delays in learning motor skills are often the Asperger symptoms first noticed by parents. The children may:

  • Crawl or walk late
  • Be delayed in being able to ride a bicycle, catch a ball, or climb play equipment
  • Be clumsy when walking or doing other activities
  • Have a walk that may appear stilted or bouncy

Most signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome relate to:

  • Restricted or repetitive behavior, interests, and activities
  • Problems with social behavior and communication

Restricted or repetitive behavior, interests, and activities
One of the most distinct symptoms of Asperger syndrome is a person's extreme focus on a single object or topic. He or she wants to know everything about the topic and often talks about little else, ignoring other topics, objects, or thoughts. People with Asperger syndrome often remember enormous amounts of factual information about their topic of interest. They may:

  • Have very specific areas of interest, such as an obsession with train schedules, phone books, a vacuum cleaner, or collections of objects
  • Verbally present many facts about their subject of interest, perhaps without a point or conclusion
  • Not recognize that listeners have lost interest in the topic
  • Talk only about themselves and their interests
  • Display repetitive behaviors, in which they sometimes injure themselves
  • Display repetitive finger flapping, twisting, or whole-body movements
  • Be sensitive to certain lights, sounds, textures, or tastes

Problems with social behavior and communication
Unlike children with autism, children with Asperger syndrome develop early language skills normally. In fact, many children with Asperger have a very good vocabulary. However, problems with speech and language in social settings often lead to isolation for children and adults with Asperger syndrome. People with the syndrome may have:

  • Trouble understanding other people's emotions or comments
  • Difficulty talking about their own feelings
  • Problems understanding body language and nonverbal communication (for example, eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures)
  • Speak in unusual ways, such as in a monotone, with an odd tone of voice, or in an overly formal manner
  • Not understand sarcasm or humor, or take a figure of speech literally
  • Not recognize the need to change the volume of their voice in different settings

People with Asperger syndrome do not withdraw from the world in the way that people with autism do. They will often approach other people. However, people with Asperger syndrome have trouble forming relationships with children their own age or other adults, because they:

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Want to be alone, or want to interact but do not know how
  • Seem nervous in large social groups
  • Are unable to respond emotionally in social interactions
  • Have rituals they refuse to change, such as a very rigid bedtime routine
  • Have difficulty showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people
  • Do not express pleasure in other people's happiness1,2,3,4

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders - 4th ed. Washington, DC: Author. [top]
  2. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. (2010). Asperger syndrome. Retrieved May 30, 2012, from [top]
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Asperger syndrome fact sheet. Retrieved May 30, 2012, from (PDF - 134 KB) [top]
  4. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2005). Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 11/30/2012
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