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Asperger's syndrome

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Asperger's syndrome is the former name of a developmental disability that affects how people behave, understand the world and interact with others.
  • Asperger's syndrome is now considered a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder.
  • People with Asperger's syndrome may have special interests, repetitive behaviours and find it more difficult to communicate and interact with others.
  • It is not clear what causes Asperger's syndrome, but it is likely that genetics and environmental factors are involved.
  • Doctors can diagnose Asperger's syndrome by asking questions about social and emotional abilities, communication skills, learning abilities, movement skills and special interests.

What is Asperger's syndrome?

Asperger's syndrome is the former name of a developmental disability that affects how people behave, see and understand the world. It also affects how they interact with others.

People with this developmental disability may:

  • have special interests
  • display repetitive behaviours
  • under or overreact to sensory input

Since 2013, people who were diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome have been diagnosed as having a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder. There is no longer a separate diagnosis known as Asperger's syndrome. However, some people may prefer to keep using this term.

People with a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder may have good cognitive and language skills. Despite this, they may still experience difficulties with communication and social interaction and show repetitive behaviours.

It's important to understand that every person with Asperger's syndrome is different and has different strengths and challenges. This is also true for autism spectrum disorder more generally. This is why people with these conditions are now referred to as being 'on a spectrum'.

What are the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome?

While people with Asperger's syndrome often have average or above average intelligence, good language skills and a lot of creativity, they may experience certain challenges. In particular, they can find it hard to communicate and interact with other people.

For example, they may:

  • not understand social rules or cues
  • speak in an unusual way, such as by using formal language, speaking too loudly or in a monotone
  • find it hard to make friends
  • find it hard to work out what others might be thinking

These difficulties can lead to feelings of anxiety, confusion and frustration. Sometimes their family and friends can experience these emotions, too.

Additionally, people with Asperger's syndrome often:

  • maintain a rigid routine or repeat certain behaviours
  • focus intensely on particular topics and become bored with other topics
  • are sensitive to bright light or loud sounds

What are the causes of Asperger's syndrome?

It is not clear what causes Asperger's syndrome. It's likely that genes and the environment play a part. It is not caused by a person's upbringing or social circumstances.

Vaccines do not cause autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger's syndrome.

How is Asperger's syndrome diagnosed?

Asperger's syndrome is usually diagnosed in childhood. It may take several years before symptoms are recognised and correctly diagnosed.

If you think your child may have Asperger's syndrome, you may want to talk to your doctor or child health nurse. They may refer you to:

  • a paediatrician who specialises in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder
  • a team of health professionals who work together in assessing children

There are no specific tests to diagnose Asperger's syndrome. A doctor or team of health professionals will talk to you and your child, and others in your family. They will observe your child to see if they meet certain criteria for Asperger's syndrome.

The assessment will usually include questions about:

  • social and emotional abilities
  • communication skills
  • learning abilities
  • movement skills
  • special interests

Sometimes people are only diagnosed with autism once they become adults. If you think you may have symptoms of autism, talk to your doctor or a psychologist about having an assessment. If you are diagnosed with autism, it may be easier to access support to help you in different areas of life.

How can I help my child manage Asperger's syndrome?

With support and encouragement, most children with Asperger's syndrome are able to lead a full and independent life.

You may find your child copes better if they spend some time alone. Your child may also find comfort in breathing techniques or relaxing music.

Treatments and therapies for autism spectrum disorder include:

  • therapies such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech pathology
  • psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which may reduce anxiety
  • programs that provide skills for parents and children
  • medicines for specific symptoms, such as hyperactivity, anxiety, aggression and tics

These therapies can help in very practical ways. For example, occupational therapy can help your child learn how to get dressed, talk to friends and complete school tasks.

Your child may need support at school. This is especially important in high school when there are more transitions between classes and a larger number of teachers. Maintaining regular contact with teachers or the principal can help identify any issues early and find support and coping mechanisms.

Resources and support

Support for people with Asperger's syndrome

The Raising Children Network has an online Disability Services Guide. This can help you understand how manage Asperger's syndrome and find help and resources along the way.

Adults may want help from a support group or service. Several organisations provide services for adults with Asperger's syndrome. You can also visit your state or territory's autism spectrum disorder association.

The Spectrum is an Autism SA initiative. It offers advice on autism support in the school years, tips, services and advocacy.

Autism Connect, the national autism helpline advises how to access services and support groups. Call 1300 308 699.

Please reach out to one of the free crisis and support helplines if you need support.

Support for carers of people with Asperger's syndrome

If you are caring for someone with Asperger's syndrome, you can find information and resources for carers on Carer Gateway. You can also learn about carer support and services in your state or territory through Carers Australia.

Do you prefer languages other than English?

For help in other languages, Autism Australia uses the National Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS). Call TIS on 131 450 to request an interpreter in your preferred language, and ask for Autism Spectrum Australia (1800 277 328).


Autism SA (What is the difference between autism and Asperger's?), Healthy WA (Asperger Syndrome), The Spectrum (Support professionals for autistic people), The Spectrum (Autism support in the school years), SKAI (What about autism?), The Spectrum (Getting an autism diagnosis for adults)

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Last reviewed: February 2024

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