Learning About Disabilities: Information on Asperger's Syndrome

Though Asperger's Syndrome is clearly a psychological disorder, because of the prevalence of students on campus with this disorder, we have developed a separate section to provide more information.

Learning about Disabilities: Information on Asperger's Syndrome

Symptoms of Asperger's syndrome include: significant difficulty with social interaction, a strict adherence to rules or routines, and/or a fixation on a particular interest. These symptoms usually appear by the age of three; however, the symptoms are often overlooked because the youngster typically does not exhibit any cognitive or developmental deficits. Indeed, these young children may seem precocious because they tend to have well developed or even advanced vocabularies.

While people with Asperger's syndrome have a good grasp on the meanings and proper usage of words, they struggle with the other essential feature of communication; non-verbal cues. Eye-contact, tone of voice, volume, speed, and body language are not only difficult for the person with Asperger's to understand but also to utilize. A person with Asperger's will struggle with initiating conversation with peers or in social situations. Formal interactions can be more comfortable for those with Asperger's because of the structure or "script" called for in these situations.

Persons with Asperger's syndrome often:
  • Experience academic success
  • Withdraw from their peers/are socially isolated
  • Long for friends, but do not know how to make or keep them
  • Interrupt or interject with off-topic information
  • Speak in a manner/tone that is inconsistent with the emotions they are verbally expressing
  • Have poorly developed fine and/or gross motor skills
  • Exhibit repetitive behaviors
  • Have low frustration tolerance
  • Have difficulty staying organized
Treatment

There are no medications available to treat Asperger's syndrome, although some students with Asperger's may take medications commonly used to treat ADHD or depression because some students with Asperger's may also have ADHD or depression. The best method of treatment for a person with Asperger's syndrome is a combination of behavior modification, social skills training, and communication skills training.

Academic Adjustments and Services

Because of the difficulty experienced in social situations, a student with Asperger's syndrome may request to have a single room or to be released from mandatory on-campus housing requirements in order to live at home or in a nearby apartment.

Also, because of this social difficulty, group class work can be a source of stress. A professor may need to help the student with Asperger's syndrome identify an appropriate partner for group work.

Students with Asperger's syndrome might also benefit from weekly check-ins with a member of the Disability Resources staff to help keep them organized and thinking about what is coming next.

If students with Asperger's syndrome have poorly developed fine motor skills, they may benefit from using instructor handouts or another student's notes to supplement his or her own notes. This student might also use a computer to take notes.

Students with Asperger's syndrome may also need extended time to take tests and to take their tests in a reduced-distraction setting.

Students with Asperger's syndrome who have difficulty adjusting to change may need to tour the campus extensively, walk his or her schedule prior to the first day of classes, and/or set appointments to meet with professors before class.

Additional Information About Asperger's Syndrome

Organization for Autism Research - Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A Professor's Guide

The New York Times - Somewhere Inside, a Path to Empathy

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