The developmental disorder referred to as Asperger’s disorder – more commonly known as Asperger’s syndrome (AS) – was first described in 1944 by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, specifically as “autistic psychopathy”. The year before, Austrian-American psychiatrist Leo Kanner published his findings on what he dubbed “early infantile autism”; ironically, despite these similarities, the two were unaware of each other’s work. “In Asperger’s original description of autistic psychopathy, the children, all of whom were male with normal intelligence, exhibited a quantitative impairment in reciprocal social interactions and behavior oddities without delays in language development. Asperger also noted that these children had poor coordination with motor clumsiness, and extreme interest in memorizing all the detail of bus and train schedules in Vienna” (Khouzam, El-Gabalawi, Pirwani, and Priest, 2004, p. 184). On the other hand, Kanner’s findings focused on three key points: impairments in social interaction and communication, and restrictive interests and behaviors. It was not until 1981 that AS was considered to be a variant of autism rather than a distinct disorder, similar if not equivalent to high-functioning autism.
Even to this day, the exact causes of AS are undetermined. However, research has gleamed several possible candidates; genetic, metabolic, infectious and peripheral factors have been suggested, as have structural abnormalities in the right hemisphere of the brain. Disturbances in the dopaminergic and serotonergic neurochemical systems have also been implicated. According to Asperger’s findings, a large majority of patients with the disorder appear to be male. However, “it ...
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...ccur, teach new skills, and generalize behaviors to new environments or situations” (Myers & Johnson, 2007, p 1,164). Most ABA programs are highly structured, and children who participate in these sessions early on are shown to have made noticeable improvement in terms of cognitive and social behavior.
Overall, ASD has a significant focus both in psychological research and in the popular media. While the disorder can seem daunting in terms of its persistent effects on behavior, as well as the etiology and cure remaining elusive, the existing data and research suggests that many patients have been able to establish close relationships and maintain self-independence. Awareness of the disorder’s clinical features and background may eventually lead to improved treatment and evaluation of affected patients, and hopefully improve their long-term prognosis in the process.
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