Causes & Effects of Asperger’s

No one experiences Asperger’s syndrome the same way as someone else. Understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of Asperger’s syndrome is a key component toward starting the recovery journey.

Understanding Asperger's Syndrome

Learn about Asperger’s syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is a neurobiological disorder that is included on the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), which encompass a number of developmental disabilities. This group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders are characterized by difficulties communicating, social impairment, and restrictive, repetitive patterns of behaviors. Additionally, these neurodevelopmental disorders are present from infancy or early childhood. ASD occur along a continuum of severity and the symptoms of the disorder can appear in a number of different combinations in each child or teen with the disorder. Two children with the same diagnosis may share certain behavioral patterns, but may display a different range of abilities and skills. Some people who have ASDs are severely disabled and require substantial support for activities of daily living. Asperger’s syndrome, however, is considered to be the mildest form of ASD and those who have it are considered to be “high functioning.”

Most children and teens diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who engage in therapy to improve social and motor skills are able to go on to live happy lives. Most adults who have Asperger’s syndrome are able to hold steady, mainstream jobs but may require a bit of social support and encouragement from loved ones.


Asperger’s syndrome statistics

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in every 68 children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. It is estimated that about 1% of the population of children ages 3 to 17 in the United States has an ASD. However, the precise number of people with Asperger’s syndrome in particular is currently unknown.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for Asperger’s syndrome

The cause of ASD, including Asperger’s syndrome, remains unclear. However, current research has led to a few different hypothesis as to what could possibly be contributing to the development of this disorder. Some theories that have surfaced include:

Genetic: It has long been assumed that there are genetic factors associated with Asperger’s syndrome because of the tendency for it to run in families and the presence of the same trait in twins. However, a specific gene has not been identified. More recent studies have suggested that there is most likely a group of genes whose variations or deletions combined with other factors determine the severity and symptoms for each individual with Asperger’s.

Physical: Brain imaging studies have shown that there are structural and functional differences in specific areas of the brain of those who have Asperger’s versus those who do not. These differences may be caused by abnormal migration of the embryonic cells during fetal development, which then affects the way in which the brain is wired and further goes on to affect the neural circuits that control thoughts and behavior.

Environmental: It is also highly likely that environmental factors such as viral infections, prenatal complications, and air pollutants play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders like Asperger’s syndrome.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety
  • Having another medical condition, such as Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, epilepsy, and Tourette syndrome
  • Being born to older parents

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome

Children with Asperger’s syndrome generally begin to have noticeable symptoms after the child has turned 3 years old, however many with Asperger’s are not diagnosed until later because of limited social demands and support from parents and caregivers in early life. Symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome vary from person to person with no two symptom demonstrations being the same. Some of the most common symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Lack of interpersonal relationship skills and instincts
  • Inability to express their own feelings
  • Often verbalizes internal thoughts
  • Atonal, flat, lacking pitch and accent speaking style which can create challenges in understanding these children when they speak
  • Appearing to lack empathy
  • Children may seek out, but have a difficult time, interacting with peers
  • Excessive talking, especially about a specific topic
  • Frequent one-sided conversations
  • Inability to understand societal norms
  • May not make eye contact or, conversely, may stare at others
  • May not understand the concept of personal space

Physical Symptoms:

  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Poor handwriting skills
  • Heightened sensitivity and overstimulation in relation to loud noises, bright lights, unusual textures, or strong tastes
  • Poor coordination
  • Clumsiness
  • Unusual body postures and gestures
  • Difficulties using gross motor skills

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Tremendous difficulties with changes or upsets in routine
  • Lack of inborn social skills
  • Poor organizational skills
  • May have one or a few very select interests that they are extremely knowledgeable about
  • Difficulties picking up on the subtle changes in tone, pitch, and voice that accompany regular conversation
  • May be unable to understand sarcasm or joke

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Loneliness and social isolation
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Tendency toward shyness
  • Depression


Effects of Asperger’s syndrome

Generally speaking, the earlier Asperger’s syndrome is treated, the more positive the outcomes. Some of the effects of unaddressed or untreated Asperger’s syndrome may include:

  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Challenges in finding and maintaining steady employment
  • Troubled romantic relationships
  • Lowered self-confidence
  • Difficulties with social interactions
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Co-Occurring Disorders

Asperger’s syndrome and co-occurring disorders

There are a variety of mental and behavioral health conditions that occur with Asperger’s syndrome. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Tic disorders
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Social anxiety disorder
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