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High Functioning Aspergers

. . . Asperger syndrome is often considered a high functioning form of autism. People with this syndrome have difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and often are clumsy. Motor milestones may be delayed.

Hans Asperger labeled this disorder "autistic psychopathy" in 1944. The exact cause is unknown.

There is a possible link to autism, and genetic factors may also play a role. The condition appears to be more common in boys than girls. Working with children and adults with high functioning Asperger's takes people with very particular dispositions. If you are interested in working with individuals who have Asperger's syndrome, consider earning a master's in social work.

Although people with Aspergers syndrome often have difficulty socially and involved in social activities, many in-fact actually have above-average intelligence, thus the term "high functioning." They may excel in fields such as computer programming and the sciences, including difficult to learn and work in fields such as forensic pathology. There is no delay in their cognitive development, ability to take care of themselves, or curiosity about their environment.

Symptoms for "High Functioning Aspergers"

People with Aspergers often have problems with language in a social setting.

  • It may be difficult to choose a topic of conversation, their body language may be off or perhaps misdirected, and it may be difficult for them to recognize other people have lost interest in the topic being discusses so they may ramble on anyway.
  • They may speak in a flat monotone voice, and may not respond much to other people's comments or emotions.
  • They may have difficulty understanding sarcasm or humor.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Problems making eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, or gestures (nonverbal communication)
  • Singled out by other children as "weird" or "strange"
  • Difficulty developing relationships with children their own age
  • Inability to respond emotionally in normal social interactions
  • Not flexible about routines or rituals
  • Lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people
  • Do not express pleasure at other people's happiness
  • Preoccupied with parts of whole objects
  • Repetitive behaviors, including repetitive behavior that injures themselves
  • Repetitive finger flapping, twisting, or whole body movements
  • Unusually intense preoccupation with narrow areas of interest, such as obsession with train schedules, phone books, or collections of objects

Exams and Tests for High Functioning Aspergers

Physical, emotional, and mental tests are usually done to rule out other causes.

Treatment for High Functioning Aspergers

Aspergers syndrome treatment depends on the patient's level of function. People with a high IQ will have a better outlook than those with a below-average IQ. Because the patient may have average or above average intelligence, improvements in social function are particularly important.

For patients with severe impairment, treatment is similar to autism therapy.

Treatment strategy is based on using the person's strengths (such as intelligence or memory) to help compensate for their social or behavioral difficulties. It is also important for them to have the right living and social environment with as much support as possible.

Medications such as selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti psychotics, and stimulants may be used to treat problems such as anxiety, depression, and aggression.

Outlook for High Functioning Aspergers

The long-term outcome is based on the underlying problem and therapies used.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your child:

  • Does not respond to people
  • Has odd or peculiar speech
  • Has behavior that may lead to self-harm

Alternative Names for High Functioning Aspergers

Pervasive developmental disorder - Aspergers syndrome

Insomnia in Aspergers syndrome

Asperger syndrome (AS) and high-functioning autism (HFA) are pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) in individuals of normal intelligence. Childhood AS/HFA is considered to be often associated with disturbed sleep, in particular with difficulties initiating and/or maintaining sleep (insomnia). However, studies about the topic are still scarce. The present study investigated childhood AS/HFA regarding a wide range of parent reported sleep-wake behavior, with a particular focus on insomnia.


Thirty-two 8-12-yr. old children with AS/HFA were compared with 32-age and gender matched typically developing children regarding SLEEP and associated behavioral characteristics. Several aspects of sleep-wake behavior including insomnia were surveyed using a structured pediatric sleep questionnaire in which parents reported their children's SLEEP patterns for the previous six months. Recent sleep patterns were monitored by use of a one-week sleep diary and actigraphy. Behavioral characteristics were surveyed by use of information gleaned from parent and teacher-ratings in the High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire, and in the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.


Parent-reported difficulties initiating sleep and daytime sleepiness were more common in children with AS/HFA than in controls, and 10/32 children with AS/HFA (31.2%) but none of the controls fulfilled our definition of pediatric insomnia. The parent-reported insomnia corresponded to the findings obtained by actigraphy. Children with insomnia had also more parent-reported autistic and emotional symptoms, and more teacher-reported emotional and hyperactivity symptoms than those children without insomnia.

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Parental reports indicate that in childhood AS/HFA insomnia is a common and distressing symptom which is frequently associated with coexistent behavior problems. Identification and treatment of sleep problems need to be a routine part of the Aspergers treatment plan for high-functioning aspergers syndrome condition.

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