Asperger’s syndrome is a disorder at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) range of neurobiological disorders. Children identified with Asperger’s present with the same deficit areas as ASD (i.e., communication and social skills and a pattern of restrictive or repetitive behaviour) but show strength in receptive and expressive language. Communication issues are related to comprehension, context, and social understanding. Children with Asperger’s present with highly individual strengths and needs, and most require individualized program plans to meet their learning needs.
Asperger’s syndrome is a genetic disorder, but its early presentation is subtle and often missed. It is common for children to be diagnosed late because help is generally sought after problems have already developed behaviourally or academically. Families with a concern request a referral from their family doctor to a developmental pediatrician, child psychiatrist, or psychologist for assessment and diagnosis.
Communication: Children may have an advanced vocabulary but limited comprehension, and this may be most pronounced when it comes to abstract concepts or social nuance.
Socialization: Children often want to be included socially, but because they struggle to read and respond to social cues, and often have preoccupying interests, they can find this hard to achieve.
Behaviour: Rigidity, stress, anxiety, and self-esteem issues sometimes provoke explosive behaviour; generalization of “rules” to practice is often very difficult.
A student with Asperger’s may struggle with higher-level learning concepts that require abstract reasoning. Frustration and anxiety is common. As students move into their teen years, they can feel distress because of their social difficulties. Without supports, they are prone to feel isolated and defeated by school life.