Who is affected by Asperger syndrome?
There are over half a million people in the UK with an autism spectrum disorder – that’s around 1 in 100. People with Asperger syndrome come from all nationalities, cultures, social backgrounds and religions. However, the condition appears to be more common in males than females; the reason for this is unknown.
Causes and cures
What causes Asperger syndrome?
The exact cause of Asperger syndrome is still being investigated. However, research suggests that a combination of factors – genetic and environmental – may account for changes in brain development.
Asperger syndrome is not caused by a person’s upbringing, their social circumstances and is not the fault of the individual with the condition.
Is there a cure?
There is currently no ‘cure‘ and no specific treatment for Asperger syndrome. Children with Asperger syndrome become adults with Asperger syndrome. However, as our understanding of the condition improves and services continue to develop, people with Asperger syndrome have more opportunity than ever of reaching their full potential.
There are many approaches, therapies and interventions, which can improve an individual’s quality of life. These may include communication-based interventions, behavioural therapy and dietary changes. Information about many of these can be found at: www.autism.org.uk/approaches
Because Asperger syndrome varies widely from person to person, making a diagnosis can be difficult. It is often diagnosed later in children than autism and sometimes difficulties may not be recognised and diagnosed until adulthood.
The typical route for getting a diagnosis is to visit a GP. He or she can refer an individual to other health professionals who can make a formal diagnosis. Most frequently they will be psychiatrists or clinical psychologists and, in the case of children, paediatricians.
Some people see a formal diagnosis as an unhelpful label; however, for many a diagnosis:
- helps the individual, families, friends, partners, carers, professionals and colleagues to better understand and manage their needs and behaviour
- is the key needed to open the door to specialised support, eg supported living or finding suitable employment.
There are diagnostic differences between conditions on the autism spectrum. Sometimes people may receive a diagnosis of autism or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), high-functioning autism (HFA) or atypical autism instead of Asperger syndrome. Alternatively, they may be given a diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) or semantic pragmatic disorder. However, people who have been given these diagnoses will have similar difficulties and similar support needs to those who have Asperger syndrome.
You can find more information about diagnosis and how to get one here.
If you would like to read more about the different types of autism (including Asperger syndrome) and the diagnoses that people get, see:
- High-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome: what’s the difference?
- The use and misuse of diagnostic labels.