Asperger syndrome (also called Asperger's syndrome, Asperger's disorder, Asperger's or AS) is the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in which there is no general delay in language or cognitive development. Like the more severe ASDs, it is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and restricted, stereotyped patterns of behavior and interests. Although not mentioned in standard diagnostic criteria for AS, under-developed motor skills and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
Asperger syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and had under-developed motor skills. Fifty years later, AS was standardized as a diagnosis, but questions about many aspects of AS remain. For example, there is lingering doubt about the distinction between AS and high-functioning autism (HFA); partly due to this, the prevalence of AS is not firmly established. The exact cause of AS is unknown, although research supports the likelihood of a genetic basis; brain imaging techniques have not identified a clear common pathology.
There is no single treatment for Asperger syndrome, and the effectiveness of particular interventions is supported by only limited data. Intervention is aimed at improving symptoms and function. The mainstay of management is behavioral therapy, focusing on specific deficits to address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and under-developed motor skills. Most individuals with AS can learn to cope with their differences, but may continue to need moral support and encouragement to maintain an independent life. Researchers and people with AS have advocated a shift in attitudes toward the view that AS is a difference, rather than a disability that must be treated or cured.