A disorder of uncertain nosological validity, characterized by the same type of qualitative abnormalities of reciprocal social interaction that typify autism, together with a restricted, stereotyped, repetitive repertoire of interests and activities. It differs from autism primarily in the fact that there is no general delay or retardation in language or in cognitive development. This disorder is often associated with marked clumsiness. There is a strong tendency for the abnormalities to persist into adolescence and adult life. Psychotic episodes occasionally occur in early adult life.
Asperger's disorder no longer exists as a separate diagnosis. Instead, Asperger's disorder is now seen as merely higher functioning autism spectrum disorder. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder now encompasses the previous DSM-IV autistic disorder (autism), Aspergerís disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by (1) deficits in social communication and social interaction and (2) restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities (RRBs). Because both components are required for diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, social communication disorder is diagnosed if no RRBs are present.
This lifelong disorder is present from age 3. Intellectual capacity and language development is normal (unlike lower-functioning individuals with autism). Individuals with this disorder are socially isolated (because of their trouble reading social cues and recognizing other people's feelings, plus their avoidance of eye contact). They often obsessively pursue a single interest and talk about little else. They have strange ritualistic behaviors or mannerisms and a strong adherence to routine. Extensive support in school is needed to correct their poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. Adults with this disorder need considerable social and financial support to live independent of their parents. Even with extensive family and community support; most adults with this disorder are unemployed, single and socially isolated.
New Evidence Shows That Autism Begins During Pregnancy
Researchers have found that there are patches of disorganization in the neocortex of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brains of children with autism. These brain abnormalities are present in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. This research conclusively shows that autism begins during pregnancy, but what causes this prenatal brain disorganization is still not known.
Risperidone and aripiprazole are partially effective in reducing aggression; whereas no medication is effective against the core features of this disorder. None of the psychological treatments for this disorder have robust evidence of their effectiveness. Thus the devoted parents of these individuals are usually left shouldering the entire burden of their care. That is why community supports such as disability pensions, subsidized housing, and specialized support groups for individuals with Aspergers are so important.
Does DSM-IV Asperger's Disorder Exist? (Research has shown that autism is a spectrum disorder and Asperger's disorder is actually just high-functioning autism; hence Asperger's Disorder has been dropped from DSM-V.)