Asperger’s Syndrome

“An Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a complex (lifelong) developmental disability that essentially affects the way a person communicates and relates to people. The term ‘autistic spectrum’ is often used because the condition varies from person to person. Asperger’s Syndrome is a condition at the more able end of the spectrum. At the ‘less able’ end of the spectrum is Kanner’s Syndrome, sometimes referred to as ‘classic autism’.

Report on the Task Group on Autism. Department of Education (2002).

There is much debate as to whether Asperger’s Syndrome is the same as Autism. Experts disagree. Some say that they should be classified separately; others argue that the core disabilities are the same, only the degree to which they are seen in the children actually makes the difference. The similarities between Asperger’s and Autism would appear to be enough to consider them both within the same spectrum of developmental disorders (Autistic Spectrum Disorder [ASD]), but with enough distinct traits and features to warrant considering them separately. A clear and accurate diagnosis is important.

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS):

AS is a developmental disorder falling within the autistic spectrum. In a child who has AS you may notice-

• Difficulties in social interaction, especially in group settings. Making friends is difficult and there is confusion around the rules that govern social interaction and behaviour.
• Difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, and lack of understanding of subtle cues.
• A literal interpretation of language.
• A reluctance to accept change.
• Inflexibility of thought and routines.
• A compulsive and narrow current area of interest.
• Good rote memory skills for facts and figures (Maths/Science/ I.T.)
• Difficulties thinking in the abstract and symbolic (English/ Religion)
• Difficulties with sensory processing around sound, touch, taste , smell, taste and movement
• Over-anxiety and frustration with seemingly minor changes.
• A preference for non-fiction books- encyclopaedias, timetables, books of facts.
• A compulsion to finish tasks they have begun.
• Difficulties in making choices

Helpful Strategies include:

• Provide routine structure and predictability in the day to minimise anxiety
• Build in elements of flexibility to routines so that the child with AS can learn to cope with small changes, then build on this
• Use turn-taking in games and social interaction so that the children can be included in groups and learn the rules around interaction, communication and timing.
• Directly and repeatedly teach emotions, body language and gestures, voice intonation and facial expressions.
• Try to identify stress triggers- and avoid them if possible, or teach coping strategies if stress trigger is unavoidable.
• Keep instructions simple- for more complicated jobs or tasks use a picture schedule or written list.
• When presenting choices, limit it to two or three items to avoid total confusion and overload.
• Use social stories to teach social communication/ interaction
• Make adjustments to the environment to take account of the child’s under sensitivity/ over sensitivity to noise, light, touch, movement, smell or taste.
• Use computers to support the child’s learning and maximise teaching opportunities.

Speaking at our upcoming "Understanding the child with ASD/Asperger's Syndrome" on March 13th, Carolann Jackson recently met with Sarah Brown, wife of the British Prime Minister to highlight her Asperger's Campaign in the UK.

Further Information:

(Special Education Support Service ) - use as a portal to range of sites associated with multiple disabilities including ASD. Also contains PDF formats of a number of significant reports including
Report of the Task Force on Autism (2001)- Department of Education and Science
Opening the Spectrum- Insights into Working with Pupils on the Autistic Spectrum, (2006) Monaghan: Special Educational Needs Cross Border Exchange Programme.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Guide to Classroom Practice, Belfast (2003), Department of Education, Northern Ireland
National Centre for Technology in Education has information on ICT with a range of disabilities including ASD - includes information about how to get an assessment and diagnosis -Irish Society for Autism - autism in northern Ireland, former PAPA site - information on ABA - The official site of the Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland. - portal to range of websites and references about autism -website of the National Autistic Society, UK - Dr. Temple Grandin’s website - portal to number of American sites on Autism -free games and resources which are autism specific -the original social story


Books can be ordered on line from: - Outside the Box - Jessica Kingsley publications