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Asperger Syndrome (updated July 2002)

What can you tell me about Asperger syndrome?

Asperger syndrome (AS) is a neurobiological disorder, which most researchers feel falls at the "high end" of the autistic spectrum. Individuals with Asperger syndrome can have symptoms ranging from mild to severe. While sharing many of the same characteristics as Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified and High-Functioning Autism, Asperger syndrome is a relatively new term in the United States, having only recently being officially recognized as a diagnosis by the medical community.

Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Individuals with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of "improper parenting."

By definition, those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all) exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. Because of their high degree of functionality and their naivete, those with AS are often viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying. While language development seems, on the surface, normal, individuals with, AS often have deficits in pragmatics and prosody. Vocabularies may be extraordinarily rich and some children. However, persons with AS can be extremely literal and have difficulty using language in a social context. (from www.autism-society.org and www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/)

From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-4):

Diagnostic Features

The essential features of Asperger's Disorder are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. The disturbance must cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. In contrast to Autistic Disorder, there are no clinically significant delays in language. In addition, there are no clinically significant delays in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior, and curiosity about the environment in childhood. The diagnosis is not given if the criteria are met for any other specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or for Schizophrenia.


Information on the prevalence of Asperger's Disorder is limited, but it appears to be more common in males.


Asperger's Disorder appears to have a somewhat later onset than Autistic Disorder, or at least to be recognized later. Motor delays or motor clumsiness may be noted in the preschool period. Difficulties in social interaction may become more apparent in the school context. It is during this time that particular idiosyncratic or circumscribed interests (such as a fascination with train schedules) may appear to be recognized as such. As adults, individuals with the condition may have problems with empathy and modulation of social interaction. This disorder apparently follows a continuous course and, in the vast majority of cases, the duration is lifelong.

Familial Pattern

Although the available data are limited, there appears to be an increased frequency of Asperger's Disorder among family members of individuals who have the disorder.

Diagnostic Criteria

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction as manifested by at least two of the following:

  1. marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.
  2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.
  3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (for example, by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people).
  4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity.

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities as manifested by at least one of the following:
  1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.
  2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.
  3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).
  4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.

C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).

E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Following are links to related ERIC Digests, minibibliographies, frequently asked questions (FAQs), Internet resources, and Internet discussion groups, as well as selected citations from the ERIC database and the search terms we used to find the citations.

You can search the ERIC database yourself on the Internet through either of the following web sites:

ERIC Citations

The full text of ERIC documents (for example, EDxxxxxx) is available:

  • In microfiche collections worldwide; to find your nearest ERIC Resource Collection, point your web browser to: http://ericae.net/derc.htm.
  • For a fee through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS): http://edrs.com, service@edrs.com, or 1.800.443.ERIC. (no longer available)

The full text of citations beginning with an EJ number (for example, EJxxxxxx) is available for a fee from:

ERIC Search Terms Used

Asperger syndrome

ED454658 EC308462
Asperger Syndrome: A Qualitative Study of Successful Educational Interventions.
Fondacaro, Donna M.
Pages: 35
February 17, 2001
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Educational Research Association (24th, Hilton Head, SC, February 16-19, 2001).
Journal Announcement: RIEDEC2001
This paper reports the outcomes of a study that utilized descriptive, qualitative methods and a series of case studies to investigate how students are diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorders, specifically Asperger syndrome under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The study focuses on students attending elementary schools in the counties of southern New Jersey. A sample of 12 students ranging in age from 8-13, was drawn from 9 public schools and 3 private elementary schools in the South Jersey area. A neurologist diagnosed all the students as having Asperger syndrome. Data collection relied upon semi-structured field interviews with special education teachers, regular education teachers, and other school personnel directly involved with educating the children with Asperger syndrome. Data was collected from researcher observations in the academic and unstructured classroom setting. Findings of the study indicate that a small teacher to student ratio was the most successful form of academic intervention, while the behavior modification system in conjunction with positive teacher attitudes was the most successful form of behavioral intervention. Successful forms of social skills intervention were sparse, which indicates a need for further exploration in that area. The report closes with teaching recommendations. An appendix includes the diagnostic criteria for Asperger syndrome.
Descriptors: *Autism; *Behavior Modification; Case Studies; Class Size; Clinical Diagnosis; *Disability Identification; Elementary Education; Qualitative Research; Symptoms (Individual Disorders); Teacher Attitudes; *Teacher Student Ratio; Teacher Student Relationship; *Teaching Methods
Identifiers: Amendments; *Aspergers Syndrome; Individuals with Disabilities Educ Act Amend 1997; *New Jersey; Pervasive Developmental Disorders

EJ632553 EC628150
Asperger's Syndrome in Gifted Individuals.
Henderson, Lynnette M.
Gifted Child Today Magazine, v24 n3 p28-35 Sum 2001
Notes: Special Issue: Special Populations of Gifted Children.
ISSN: 1076-2175
Journal Announcement: CIJMAR2002
This article on Asperger syndrome (AS) in gifted individuals first reviews the history of AS, then describes the characteristics of persons with AS, discusses the identification of AS, and suggests educational modifications for AS individuals who are also gifted. The recommendations include: respecting individual differences, protecting the student from bullying, and working as a team with parents.
Descriptors: *Ability Identification; *Disability Identification; Elementary Secondary Education; *Gifted Disabled; Intervention; *Student Characteristics
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome

EJ626374 EC627298
Using Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations To Interpret Social Situations for an Adolescent with Asperger Syndrome.
Rogers, Mary Franey; Myles, Brenda Smith
Intervention in School and Clinic, v36 n5 p310-13 May 2001
ISSN: 1053-4512
Journal Announcement: CIJNOV2001
Social stories and comic strip conversations were successfully used to teach social skills to a 14-year-old student with Asperger syndrome. As a result of the training, the student's behavior changed. The student enjoyed using comic strip conversations and began to request their use from others at school and home.
Descriptors: Adolescents; *Autism; *Bibliotherapy; Cartoons; *Interpersonal Communication; Interpersonal Competence; Secondary Education; Social Development; Story Reading; *Teaching Methods
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; *Social Skills Training

EJ626373 EC627297
What's New in AS Research: A Synthesis of Research Conducted by the Asperger Syndrome Project.
Barnhill, Gena P.
Intervention in School and Clinic, v36 n5 p300-05 May 2001
ISSN: 1053-4512
Journal Announcement: CIJNOV2001
This article discusses findings from the Asperger Syndrome Research Project, which investigated the complex characteristics of children and youth with Asperger syndrome (AS). Intellectual, academic, social and emotional, and sensory characteristics are described, along with suggestions for professionals and parents for addressing these characteristics.
Descriptors: *Academic Accommodations (Disabilities); *Autism; Disability Identification; Elementary Secondary Education; *Intellectual Development; Interpersonal Communication; Interpersonal Competence; Psychological Characteristics; Sensory Integration; *Social Development; *Student Characteristics; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders)
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome

EJ626371 EC627295
Understanding the Student with Asperger Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers.
Williams, Karen
Intervention in School and Clinic, v36 n5 p287-92 May 2001
ISSN: 1053-4512
Journal Announcement: CIJNOV2001
To assist teachers, descriptions of seven defining characteristics of Asperger Syndrome are provided, including: insistence on sameness, impairment in social interaction, restricted range of interests, poor concentration, poor motor coordination, academic difficulties, and emotional vulnerability. Strategies for addressing each of these symptoms in the classroom are offered.
Descriptors: *Autism; *Classroom Techniques; Disability Identification; *Educational Strategies; Elementary Secondary Education; Interpersonal Communication; *Interpersonal Competence; Motor Development; Social Development; *Student Characteristics; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders)
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome

EJ626370 EC627294
Understanding the Hidden Curriculum: An Essential Social Skill for Children and Youth with Asperger Syndrome.
Myles, Brenda Smith; Simpson, Richard L.
Intervention in School and Clinic, v36 n5 p279-86 May 2001
ISSN: 1053-4512
Journal Announcement: CIJNOV2001
This article discusses the "hidden curriculum" in schools, its impact on social functioning, and strategies for helping children and youth with Asperger Syndrome learn the hidden curriculum. Strategies include using social stories, acting lessons, self-esteem building activities, cartooning, social autopsies, and the SOCCSS (Situation, Options, Consequences, Choice, Strategies,Simulation) strategy.
Descriptors: *Autism; Educational Strategies; Elementary Secondary Education; *Hidden Curriculum; Interpersonal Communication; *Interpersonal Competence; *Social Development; *Teaching Methods
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; Social Skills Training

EJ626368 EC627292
Transition to Middle and High School: Increasing the Success of Students with Asperger Syndrome.
Adreon, Diane; Stella, Jennifer
Intervention in School and Clinic, v36 n5 p266-71 May 2001
ISSN: 1053-4512
Journal Announcement: CIJNOV2001
This article outlines the numerous difficulties that students with Asperger syndrome (AS) may encounter during the transition to middle and high school. A range of specific supports and strategies are offered to assist students with AS in making a successful transition, including classroom adaptations and modifications.
Descriptors: *Academic Accommodations (Disabilities); *Autism; Classroom Environment; Classroom Techniques; *Educational Strategies; High Schools; Middle School Students; Secondary Education; *Student Needs; Symptoms (Individual Disorders); *Transitional Programs
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome

EJ626367 EC627291
What Is Asperger Syndrome?
Barnhill, Gena P.
Intervention in School and Clinic, v36 n5 p259-65 May 2001
ISSN: 1053-4512
Journal Announcement: CIJNOV2001
This article describes characteristics of individuals with Asperger Syndrome, a developmental disability defined by impairments in social relationships and verbal and nonverbal communication and by restrictive, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. Diagnostic criteria, essential features of the disability, and other notable characteristics are discussed.
Descriptors: Adults; *Autism; Children; *Clinical Diagnosis; Disability Identification; *Interpersonal Communication; Interpersonal Competence; Psychological Characteristics; *Social Development; *Student Characteristics; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders)
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome

EJ621425 EC626673
Asperger Syndrome: The Emerging Challenge to Special Education.
Safran, Stephen P.
Exceptional Children, v67 n2 p151-60 Win 2001
ISSN: 0014-4029
Journal Announcement: CIJAUG2001
This article provides a synthesis of recent literature on Asperger syndrome, a condition that has received little attention in American special education. The analysis addresses the syndrome's history, definition, differential diagnosis from other pervasive developmental disorders, screening procedures, and emerging educational interventions. Implications for special education practice are discussed.
Descriptors: *Autism; Children; Classification; Clinical Diagnosis; Disability Identification; *Educational Strategies; Elementary Secondary Education; *Etiology; *Screening Tests; Special Education; *Student Characteristics; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders)
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; Pervasive Developmental Disorders

EJ616395 EC626151
Gifted Children with Asperger's Syndrome.
Neihart, Maureen
Gifted Child Quarterly, v44 n4 p222-30 Fall 2000
ISSN: 0016-9862
Journal Announcement: CIJMAY2001
This article proposes that gifted children with Asperger syndrome may not be identified because their unusual behaviors may be wrongly attributed to either their giftedness or to a learning disability. Ways in which the syndrome might be missed and guidelines for differentiating characteristics of giftedness from Asperger characteristics are discussed.
Descriptors: *Autism; Behavior Problems; *Disability Identification; Elementary Secondary Education; *Gifted Disabled; Interpersonal Competence; Learning Disabilities; Sensory Integration; *Student Characteristics; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders); Teaching Methods
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome

EJ606513 EC624687
Strategies for Improving the Social Integration of Children with Asperger Syndrome.
Attwood, Tony
Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, v4 n1 p85-100
Mar 2000
Journal Announcement: CIJNOV2000
Discussion of strategies for improving the social integration of children with Asperger syndrome covers characteristic difficulties in social integration and specific strategies, such as providing opportunities to interact with normal children, providing knowledge of the nature of Asperger syndrome, teaching theory of mind skills, use of social stories and comic strip conversations, and encouraging friendship skills.
Descriptors: *Autism; Children; Empathy; Friendship; *Interpersonal Competence; *Interpersonal Relationship; *Peer Relationship
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; Theory of Mind

EJ597162 EC623555
Social Skills for Social Ills: Supporting the Social Skills Development of Adolescents with Asperger's Syndrome.
Marks, Susan Unok; Schrader, Carl; Levine, Mark; Hagie, Chris; Longaker, Trish; Morales, Maggie; Peters, Iris
TEACHING Exceptional Children, v32 n2 p56-61 Nov-Dec 1999
ISSN: 0040-0599
Journal Announcement: CIJJUN2000
This article shares some educational principles and strategies for teaching social skills to adolescents with Asperger syndrome. Educators are urged to teach coping strategies, how to read social cues, and how to interpret social behavior. Also, they are encouraged to provide ample social opportunities and to create a safe and accepting learning environment.
Descriptors: Adolescents; *Autism; *Coping; Interpersonal Communication; *Interpersonal Competence; Peer Relationship; Secondary Education; *Social Development
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; *Social Skills Training

ED419362 EC306451
Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for Educators and Parents.
Myles, Brenda Smith; Simpson, Richard L.
Pages: 140
Publication Date: 1998
ISBN: 0-89079-727-7
Availability: Pro-Ed, 8700 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78757-6897 (Order Number 8409).
Journal Announcement: RIEOCT1998
This book provides basic information about Asperger syndrome by addressing issues related to the characteristics of the disorder and outlining basic methods to facilitate the growth and development of children and youth with Asperger syndrome. Chapter 1, "Understanding the Meaning and Nature of Asperger Syndrome," provides the diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome and describes social interaction impairments, speech and communication difficulties, cognitive and academic problems, peculiar sensory stimuli responses, and physical and motor-skill anomalies. Chapter 2, "Assessing Students with Asperger Syndrome," describes norm-referenced measures appropriate for students with Asperger Syndrome, informal assessment, levels of skill acquisition, and translation of assessment results into meaningful procedures. In Chapter 3 "Teaching Academic Content to Students with Asperger Syndrome," the discussion is on characteristics that affect academic performances, effective instructional methods that include using visual strategies and structural strategies, and student motivation. Chapter 4, "Planning for Social and Behavioral Success," presents social skills development and behavior management options available to professionals and families. Chapter 5, "Planning for Life after School," describes transition assessment and a life-plan approach to transition planning. Chapter 6, "Understanding Asperger Syndrome and Its Impact on the Family," presents case studies of families of a child with Asperger Syndrome.
Descriptors: Academic Achievement; *Autism; *Behavior Modification; Clinical Diagnosis; Disability Identification; Education Work Relationship; Educational Strategies; Elementary Secondary Education; Evaluation Methods; *Family Relationship; Interpersonal Competence; *Student Evaluation; Student Motivation; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders); Transitional Programs
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; Individualized Transition Plans

ED422687 EC306649
Asperger's Syndrome--Educational Management Issues.
Jackel, Susan
Pages: 5
Publication Date: June 1996
Availability: World Wide Web http://www.ozemail.com.au/~prussia/asperger/teach.htm
Journal Announcement: RIEFEB1999
This paper is a synthesis of a number of documents relating to the educational issues confronting children with Asperger syndrome, autism, or a Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) in the autism spectrum. It is designed to provide teacher information and is equally useful for caretakers of children with the condition. Topics covered include the definition of Asperger's syndrome, characteristics of students with Asperger's syndrome, learning structures that will help children with Asperger syndrome successfully achieve in the classroom, and strategies to use with parents of children with Asperger syndrome. Recommended classroom techniques include: (1) structuring the physical environment to facilitate learning and minimize frustration; (2) considering isolating the student for short periods to teach new concepts or build on pre-existing knowledge in a distraction free setting; (3) providing a predictable environment and routine with preparation for any changes; (4) stating clearly what is expected; (5) breaking tasks up into manageable segments and training the student to schedule and plan; (6) presenting new concepts in a concrete manner; (7) using activity-based learning where possible; (8) using visual prompts as appropriate; and (9) having written instructions and including visual cues.
Descriptors: *Autism; Classroom Techniques; Cognitive Processes; Disability Identification; Educational Strategies; Elementary Secondary Education; *Etiology; *Inclusive Schools; *Parent Teacher Cooperation; Student Characteristics; Teaching Methods
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; Pervasive Developmental Disorders

ED436044 EC307507
Asperger Syndrome: Treatment and Intervention. Some Guidelines for Parents.
Klin, Ami; Volkmar, Fred R.
Pages: 13
Publication Date: March 1996
Journal Announcement: RIEMAY2000
This guide provides assessment, education, and treatment strategies for children with Asperger syndrome. It discusses assessment, and provides guidelines for securing and implementing services and determines appropriate placement. The following recommendations are also provided for general intervention strategies: (1) skills, concept, appropriate procedures should be taught in an explicit and rote fashion using a parts-to-whole verbal teaching approach; (2) specific problem-solving strategies should be taught; (3) social awareness should be cultivated; (4) generalization of learned strategies and social concepts should be taught; (5) the ability to compensate for typical difficulties in processing visual sequences by making use of equally typical verbal strengths should be enhanced; (6) the ability to interpret visual information simultaneously with auditory information should be strengthened; (7) self-evaluation should be encouraged; (8) adaptive skills to increase self-sufficiency should be taught; (9) the individuals should be instructed on how to identify a novel situation and to resort to a well-rehearsed list of steps to be taken; and (10) the link between specific frustrating or anxiety-provoking experiences and negative feelings should be taught in a cause-effect fashion. Strategies for communication intervention, behavior management, academic curriculum, vocational training, self-support, pharmacotherapy, and psychotherapy are provided.
Descriptors: Adaptive Behavior (of Disabled); *Autism; *Clinical Diagnosis; Delivery Systems; *Educational Strategies; Elementary Secondary Education; Interpersonal Communication; *Interpersonal Competence; *Intervention; *Problem Solving; Services; Student Evaluation
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome; Social Skills Training

EJ508319 EC611720
Understanding the Student with Asperger Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers.
Williams, Karen
Focus on Autistic Behavior, v10 n2 p9-16 Jun 1995
ISSN: 0887-1566
Journal Announcement: CIJDEC1995
Characteristics of Asperger syndrome are described, and behavioral and academic strategies are offered for addressing these symptoms in the classroom. Suggestions pertain to: insistence on sameness, impairments in social interactions, restricted range of interests, poor concentration, poor motor coordination, academic difficulties, and emotional vulnerability.
Descriptors: *Autism; *Behavior Problems; *Classroom Techniques; Elementary Secondary Education; Student Behavior; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders); Teaching Methods
Identifiers: *Aspergers Syndrome

The following books on Asperger Syndrome can be obtained from your local book store or public library:

Asperger Syndrome edited by Klin, Ami, Ed., Volkmar, Fred R., ed. And Sparrow, Sara S., ed. Guilford Publications, Inc., 72 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012. 212.431.9800; 800.365.7006. http://www.guilford.com.

Eating an Artichoke: A Mother's Perspective on Asperger Syndrome by Echo R. Fling. Available from: Marisa Kitsock, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, C/O Taylor & Francis, 325 Chestnut Street, 8th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19106. 215.625.8900. http://www.jkp.com.

Incorporating Social Goals in the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers and Parents of Children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome by Rebecca A. Moyes. Available from: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 325 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106. 215.625.8900. http://www.jkp.com.

You may also be interested in the following video:

Asperger Syndrome. Living Outside the Bell Curve. Available from IEP Resources. PO Box 930160. Verona, WI 53593-0160. 800.651.0954. http://www.iepresources.com

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