Asperger Syndrome (also called Asperger's disorder) is one of the autism spectrum disorders - a pervasive developmental disorder which, according to the diagnostic criteria listed below, "causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."
These days, many adults who grew up before the inclusion of Asperger syndrome in the diagnostic literature are discovering themselves in articles about the disorder. Some are seeking a professional diagnosis, but these are tough to come by if you're not in a major metropolitan area. As a result, many are diagnosing themselves - based not on "clinical" criteria but on quizzes or a simple recognition that the symptoms match their own experience.
Not surprisingly, a large and growing number of adults are recognizing themselves or loved ones as being affected by what Wired Magazine famously called the Geek Syndrome. They're smart, super-focused, socially awkward, and often quite lonely. Many have a talent for digital technology, and many are involved with similar pastimes: video and internet gaming, science fiction, and - often - music.
The problem is that self-diagnosis is tough. Few non-professionals have a clear vision of what "clinically significant impairment" really looks like. Quite a few don't really know whether or to what degree their language was delayed when they were under three years old. Thus, while many adults may have the overall symptoms described below to one degree or another, it's hard to determine whether they do, in fact, qualify for an "official" Aspergers diagnosis.
The following criterion are from the DSM-IV:
Asperger's disorder is one of five specific "Pervasive Developmental Disorders" listed:
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
- marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
- failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
- lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
- lack of social or emotional reciprocity
B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
- encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity of focus
- apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
- stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
- persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language e.g., single words used by age two years, communicative phrases used by age three years).
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
F. Criteria are not met for another specific pervasive developmental disorder or schizophrenia.
Are you a self-diagnosed adult with Asperger syndrome, or do you know someone who has diagnosed him or herself? How did you determine you were "officially" on the autism spectrum? What steps have you taken to act on your self-diagnosis? Add your story to the About.com site!
For more information about Aspergers diagnosis and resources, explore this article and its associated links.