What is Asperger's syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome, sometimes called Asperger’s Disorder, is a type of developmental disorder characterized by having trouble with social interactions and communication, having specific behavioral patterns and strict adherence to routine, and having intense obsessive interests.

Despite these characteristics, people with Asperger’s normally don’t have any language impairments. More often than not, those with this syndrome typically have above-average language development. It’s just specific aspects of communication they have difficulty with (e.g., they don’t recognize social cues, have trouble understanding context, and have reciprocal conversations). They usually have above-average intelligence, too.

Printable Asperger Traits Checklist

Download this Asperger Traits Checklist to properly assess patients suspected of having the syndrome

What is the difference between Asperger's syndrome and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Before 2013, Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism were considered separate. Back then, the following factors were considered to be the characteristics that separated Asperger’s Syndrome from Autism:

  • Those with autism have developmental delays with their language capabilities as opposed to those with Asperger’s, who have normal to above-average language development and may have advanced vocabulary.
  • Those with autism can have an intellectual disability or have above-average intelligence, while those with Asperger’s usually have above-average intelligence.
  • Those with Asperger’s syndrome were believed to be able to engage in social interaction and communicate better than those with autism.

When the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) was published, Asperger’s Syndrome, along with Autistic Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), was consolidated under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The symptom categories of Social Impairment, Language/Communication Impairment, and Repetitive/Restrictive Behaviors, which are shared by various developmental disorders, were consolidated into two categories: Persistent deficits in social communication/interaction and Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.

Those who were diagnosed with Asperger's prior to the publication of the DSM-V were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What are the signs and symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome in adults?

Adults diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, whether before the publication of the DSM-V or with ASD after its publication, will likely have several or all of the listed signs and symptoms below:

Language and speech issues:

  • They tend to sound formal when speaking and may even sound pedantic
  • They use uncommon vocabulary or vocabulary related to their specific interests
  • They have great difficulty interpreting certain social situations, social cues, social context, and non-verbal communication to be challenging
  • They make limited eye contact when conversing with others
  • They have difficulty making friends and maintaining friendships
  • They are too literal and have difficulty interpreting metaphors, sarcasm, and other figures of speech
  • They have trouble recognizing and understanding the emotions of others
  • They have trouble expressing appropriate emotional reactions to specific situations
  • They tend to dominate conversations if they’re discussing something they like

Behavioral patterns:

  • They tend to repeat specific phrases or words
  • They have a strict adherence to routines
  • They get upset and distressed when there are changes to their routines, no matter how small
  • They have an intense obsession with specific hobbies and topics or any other thing that interests them
  • They might tend to isolate themselves since they have trouble with social interaction and communication
  • They have extreme emotions when reacting to certain things because they have trouble managing them
  • Concerning the previous trait, they might have verbal or behavioral outbursts from time to time, throw tantrums, and enact self-harming behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • They might exhibit awkward or clumsy movements
  • They have difficulties with fine motor skills 
  • They have difficulties with gross motor skills
  • They have a limited range of facial expressions
  • They have a limited range of gestures
  • They have weak coordination

Others:

  • They tend to memorize information and facts, usually about things they like
  • They become hypersensitive to light, specific sounds, and certain textures
  • They might have trouble with planning, organizing, and initiating specific tasks

How is Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosed?

Ever since the publication of the DSM-V, the symptoms of Asperger's have been lumped with symptoms of other disorders that are now part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder criteria. At this point, a diagnosis of Asperger's is a diagnosis of autism, and as mentioned earlier, people diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome using the criteria of the DSM-IV are no longer diagnosed with it. Instead, they're diagnosed with ASD.

What steps must one take to make a correct diagnosis?

There are no specific tests for assessing patients for signs of Asperger's. Given this, the healthcare provider must conduct a comprehensive examination, beginning with a thorough clinical interview. The people who are closest to them will be interviewed as well. While interviewing the patient, the provider must observe them as they talk.

Healthcare providers might even have those closest to the patient observe them for a specific period using tools like the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) to record observations.

Doing these will help providers zoom into a patient's potential intellectual or language impairment, movement skills, social skills, communication skills, repetitive behaviors, body language, what their interests are (powerful interests), and mood disorders they might have, their intellectual abilities if they have difficulty understanding jokes if they have good grammar skills, if they have verbal solid skills or not, if they miss social cues, if they understand social norms, if they are sensitive to loud noises, if they have sensory issues and other symptoms they might have.

Healthcare providers might even conduct brain scans to check for any potential brain abnormalities so they can find out if the patient has another neurodevelopmental disorder like cerebral palsy.

After conducting enough examinations on the patient, they will cross-check their findings with the criteria set by the DSM-V. If their findings fit the criteria, they can make an official diagnosis.

How does the Asperger Traits Checklist work?

Suppose you're a healthcare provider specializing in diagnosing and treating developmental disorders, especially those under the Autism Spectrum Disorder umbrella. In that case, we'd like you to know that we created an Asperger Traits Checklist.

It's meant to be used while interviewing the patient, but you can also create copies of it and hand them out to the patient's loved ones, friends, colleagues, and others who suspect that the patient has Asperger's Syndrome/ASD.

You only need to download our template, print it, and tick the checkboxes with a pen to use this. The PDF file is interactive (the checkboxes can be clicked with a mouse), so if you'd instead go paperless, you can simply engage with the PDF file.

What is the benefit of using this checklist?

Since you will be cross-checking all your findings with the criteria set by the DSM-V, the great thing about having this checklist at the ready is that you can immediately tick specific symptoms that you can observe while interviewing the patient. By handing copies to the people closest to the patient, you can check if what you've observed aligns with what they've observed. Since it's a simple checklist, it'll be easy on you when you go back and forth between it and your copy of the DSM-V.

Asperger Traits Checklist example:

Now that you know what Asperger's Syndrome is and our traits checklist, it's time to see what it looks like.

The checklist is nothing fancy. It's simply a checklist that lists the many traits that people with Asperger's Syndrome have. It's the list in the section What are the signs and symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome in adults but in checklist form.

We also added a Notes box at the very bottom so you can detail any observations about the patient being evaluated for potential Asperger's Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Download this free traits checklist example here:

Asperger Traits Checklist

If you like what you see and believe this will help you gather information about your patient easily, then feel free to download our free Asperger Traits Checklist PDF template!

Why use Carepatron as your psychology software?

Thanks for reading this guide! We hope this was an excellent introduction or refresher to Asperger's Syndrome, its diagnosis, and its signs and symptoms. We hope our traits checklist can help you assess your patients with potential Asperger's/ASD with ease!

While we still have you, we'd like to ask for your time to check more of the Carepatron platform if you haven't already. We have a lot of nifty features, and we're confident they're cool and helpful enough that they'll convince you to consider us your number-one clinical documentation and psychology practice management software. We won’t get into detail about these features here, but we’d like to highlight one related to this guide: our resource library.

Our resource library is a treasure trove of clinical resources. It covers numerous healthcare fields, topics, and practices, especially psychology, mental health, and developmental disorders!

Another resource similar to this traits checklist is the Asperger’s Syndrome Test. Unlike the traits checklist, this resource is a self-report questionnaire that you can hand to a patient who potentially has Asperger’s/ASD. They must answer YES or NO questions about communication, social interaction, repetitive behaviors and interests, emotional well-being, and more!

We also have other assessments like depression scales, anxiety scales, and other similar resources that can help you assess patients for symptoms of mental health issues and measure their severity.

We also have worksheets that can help patients apply anything you’ve taught them during therapy or counseling sessions.

What’s great about all these resources is they’re free, so read as many guides as you want and download as many templates as you need! We hope they can streamline your workflow and help you cover more ground when conducting patient examinations.

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Does Asperger’s Syndrome have a cure?
Does Asperger’s Syndrome have a cure?

Commonly asked questions

Does Asperger’s Syndrome have a cure?

No. It can only be managed. If it’s detected early (during childhood), professionals can plan interventions, and therapy plans, and provide support services to the child to help them manage the syndrome and develop coping strategies. This gives them a better shot at living life normally without the syndrome becoming a major hindrance.

What causes Asperger’s Syndrome to emerge?

Currently, the cause of Asperger’s Syndrome is unknown. Scientists believe that genetics and brain abnormalities are contributing factors, but they’re not fully proven.

Does everyone with Asperger’s Syndrome have the same signs and symptoms?

No. Asperger’s Syndrome is now part of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Traits that someone has, others won’t necessarily have. There will be similarities, of course, but each person is different. Some people with Asperger’s might be better at communicating than others. Some might not have hypersensitivity to noise or light compared to others.

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