Asperger’s is considered a mild form on the autism spectrum, since a person with Asperger’s will often be able to function in situations that someone with a more severe form of the illness will not be able to handle. A person with classic autism will act inappropriately at times, and often engage in strange repetitive motions such as hand flapping or spinning. A person with mild Asperger’s may merely be considered eccentric or socially inept.
This syndrome is classified as a pervasive developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. A pervasive developmental disorder is an illness that is defined by a delay in a child’s ability to function in normal situations involving basic skills such as socialization and communication. Autism spectrum disorder affects a child’s ability to interact with others and to react appropriately to social situations and other stimuli. There are varying degrees of illness on the autism spectrum, and this disorder can be severe, as in autism, or mild, as in Asperger’s syndrome.
Most children on the autism spectrum usually manifest symptoms by the age of three, but children with mild Asperger’s may not be diagnosed until they are older. The reason for this is that children with mild Asperger’s may reach their developmental milestones at the usual age, so any problems might not become obvious until they start school. This is when children with mild Asperger’s may begin to demonstrate difficulties in social interaction due to their inability to read body language, make eye contact, and respond to social cues. They may have difficulty following instructions and carrying on a conversation.
A child with Asperger’s may want to have friends but be unable to form relationships because of his or her difficulty in recognizing social cues. For example, the child may not recognize when the other person isn’t interested in the topic of conversation and wants to leave, or may not recognize the concept of personal space. A child with mild Asperger’s may become obsessed with a single topic, and bore others by speaking about it nonstop. The Asperger’s child may not be able to comprehend another person’s emotions and might respond inappropriately with such behaviors as laughing when someone is upset or walking away while the other person is still speaking. With therapy, a person with mild Asperger’s can learn how to respond appropriately in social situations, and most people with mild Asperger’s are able to become successful, functional adults.