Asperger Syndrome

Last updated: 03 Mar 2020

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. It is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. People with Asperger syndrome have difficulties in three main areas:

  • social communication
  • social interaction
  • social imagination.

While there are similarities with autism, people with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average, or above average, intelligence. They do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism.

But the personal needs of individuals can differ vastly. Some require intensive support to build skills and overcome barriers to work, while others need little more than access to job opportunities. This spectrum of needs in society as a whole is mirrored – if not intensified – when it comes to adults with autism.

At one end of the autistic spectrum, many adults are highly skilled and often highly qualified. The support they need is very different from those who have struggled to gain qualifications, or who have learning disabilities or mental ill-health.

Strengths: Weaknesses:
Memory Empathy
Active learning Passive learning
Attention to detail Working to approximations
Direct communications Indirect communications


People with Asperger syndrome may need to have particular routines and any break of routine may cause upset or anxiety. Someone with Asperger syndrome may develop special interests which may become a focus for learning and which may progress into expertise in a particular field. This may help in their chosen occupation or career.

Cognitive functioning

People with Asperger syndrome have the symptoms of autism without the additional learning disabilities.

Motor function

Like those with autism, people with Asperger syndrome experience poor coordination and difficulties with fine motor control.

High-functioning Asperger syndrome

People with high-functioning Asperger syndrome and autism are likely to be of average, or above average, intelligence.

Social communication and interaction

As with autism, people with Asperger syndrome may have difficulties with emotional expression and understanding social interaction – for example, gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice. They may also have difficulty knowing when to start or end a conversation.

Someone with Asperger syndrome will be likely to be very literal in their understanding and language, and therefore have difficulties understanding jokes, metaphor and sarcasm.

There may also be difficulties in making and maintaining friendships, and social relationships may cause them anxiety. Unwritten ‘social roles’ – for example, standing too close to someone, inappropriate conversations, or inappropriate behaviour – may not occur to people with Asperger syndrome.

They are also more likely to find other people unpredictable and confusing, they may seem uninterested in other people and may also appear to be aloof.

Social imagination

People with Asperger syndrome find it difficult to imagine alternative outcomes to situations, and have difficulties predicting what will happen next, particularly when it comes to reading other people’s body language or interpreting their thoughts, feelings or actions. Nevertheless, they may have a highly developed imagination in the more conventional sense – for example, many are writers, artists and musicians.

Sensory difficulties

As with autism, people with Asperger syndrome may be intensely sensitive (hypersensitive) or under-sensitive (hyposensitive) to one or more of the senses – for example, sight, sound, smell, touch or taste.

If there is a sensory overload for someone with Asperger syndrome, this will cause them stress and anxiety and in order to deal with this, they may rock or spin.

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