Description

AS was first described by Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist, in 1944. Asperger's work was unavailable in English before the mid-1970s; as a result, AS was often unrecognized in English-speaking countries until the late 1980s. Before DSM-IV (published in 1994) there was no officially agreed-upon definition of AS. In the words of ICD-10, the European equivalent of the DSM-IV, Asperger's is "a disorder of uncertain nosological validity." (Nosological refers to the classification

<u of diseases.) There are three major reasons for this lack "H of clarity: differences between the diagnostic criteria ™ used in Europe and those used in the United States; the fact that some of the diagnostic criteria depend on the observer's interpretation rather than objective measure-tu ments; and the fact that the clinical picture of Asperger's Asp changes as the child grows older.

Asperger's disorder is one of the milder pervasive developmental disorders. Children with AS learn to talk at the usual age and often have above-average verbal skills. They have normal or above-normal intelligence and the ability to feed or dress themselves and take care of their other daily needs. The distinguishing features of AS are problems with social interaction, particularly reciprocating and empathizing with the feelings of others; difficulties with nonverbal communication (such as facial expressions); peculiar speech habits that include repeated words or phrases and a flat, emotionless vocal tone; an apparent lack of "common sense" a fascination with obscure or limited subjects (for example, the parts of a clock or small machine, railroad schedules, astronomical data, etc.) often to the exclusion of other interests; clumsy and awkward physical movements; and odd or eccentric behaviors (hand wringing or finger flapping; swaying or other repetitious whole-body movements; watching spinning objects for long periods of time).

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