What is Asperger Syndrome?

What is Aspergers?  These 10 characteristics help describe this form of autism spectrum disorder.

Asperger’s Characteristics

  • Intellectual or Artistic Interest
  • Speech Differences
  • Delayed Motor Development
  • Poor Social Skills
  • The Development of Harmful Psychological Problems
  • Detail-oriented
  • Persistence
  • Not Socially-driven
  • High Integrity
  • Masters of Routine

In 1994, the American Psychiatric Association published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV).  Using the DSM-IV, individuals suspected of having an autism-related disorder could be diagnosed as having:

  • Autistic Disorder
  • Asperger’s Disorder
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

Asperger Syndrome was a diagnosis that described someone with autism that needed limited supports.  It was also known as high functioning autism. In 2013, the DSM- removed Asperger’s as its own distinct diagnosis.  The DSM-5 created a general umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder with varying levels of severity.  While the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer made, the term is still used by many people to describe some individuals with Level 1 ASD or those who were diagnosed prior to the changes in 2013.

So, what is Asperger Syndrome?  Individuals who were diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome may have a number of challenges.   For example, they have difficulty with communication in a variety of ways. They may have self-imposed rules or patterns that are usually very restrictive.  While this is not an exhaustive list and not all individuals with Asperger’s have the same characteristics, we discuss 10 signs of Asperger’s in adults and adolescents.

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Related resource: Top 15 Online Applied Behavior Analysis Bachelor’s Degree and BCaBA Coursework Programs

Intellectual or Artistic Interest

Intellectual or Artistic Interest in people with autism

Many individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome will have at least one particular field of intellectual or artistic interest and talent. They show great skill in their area of interest at an early age and proceed to effectively excel at it later in life. Wolfgang A. Mozart is a great example of a historical figure with Asperger’s traits. Mozart was extremely skilled at composing music; he was known to compose as a young child and continued doing so late into life. Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome or Level 1 autism spectrum disorder may thrive in fields such as:

  • photography
  • webpage design
  • accounting
  • engineering
  • data entry

See Also: What are the 10 Most Common Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Speech Differences

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders like Asperger’s may have speaking differences such as:

  • lack of verbal rhythm
  • monotone pitch
  • a peculiar inflection on certain words

Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have the same characteristics since many do not outgrow it. They are often unable to control their voice’s volume according to their surroundings. It is not uncommon to hear individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome speak loudly in quiet places such as a place of worship or a library.  Speech therapy can be a beneficial tool to help individuals with Asperger Syndrome who have problems with speech or communication skills.

Delayed Motor Development

Delayed Motor Development in people with autism

Some children with Asperger syndrome have delayed development with fine and gross motor skills. Children with delayed fine motor skills may struggle to hold a pencil correctly or when grasping objects with their fingers. Delayed gross motor skills may include the inability to throw a ball overhand or swing on monkey bars even after repeated demonstration. This characteristic varies widely and can be seen in both mild and more severe cases.  An individual with Asperger’s may benefit from occupational therapy.

Poor Social Skills

Because of their limited fields of interest and low emotional ability, an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome may feel isolated through most of their childhood and into adulthood. They do try to make friends, but they are often either temporarily successful or completely unsuccessful due to their lack of social skills. In the end, they sometimes display a lack of interest or even curiosity for the discussions, thoughts, and opinions of the people they temporarily befriend.

Since autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that targets social and communication skills, it is not surprising that an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome might need support in this area.  While they don’t typically have language delays as seen in classic autism, they may still face challenges in social situations.  Some children with Asperger’s Syndrome benefit from social skills training or other therapeutic supports.

The Development of Harmful Psychological Problems

The Development of Harmful Psychological Problems in people with autism

The potential for the development of harmful psychological disorders typically occurs during puberty or immediately thereafter. The most common disorders are anxiety and depression. A small cohort study in the UK studied suicidal ideation in men and women diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Adults were significantly more likely to report suicidal ideation over the course of their life than the general population.

In 2021, a study conducted by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention found that teenagers and young adults with autism spectrum disorders were more likely to attempt suicide and die by suicide than teens who aren’t diagnosed with ASD.  Obviously more research is needed in this area.

Some individuals with Asperger’s benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to address anxiety and depression.

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Many of the above-mentioned traits are not always the easiest to deal with, but there are also many, great traits that can accompany this initial step on the autism spectrum. Detail orientation that is above the likes of the average person is one of those very useful perks. There are countless occupations, sports, hobbies, and other pursuits in which a high degree of attention to detail directly translates to the potential for great success.

An individual with Asperger’s Syndrome or Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder may have the ability to notice small details found in:

  • ideas
  • number patterns
  • books
  • visual images
  • music

People with Asperger’s Syndrome may have a strong work ethic and a commitment to a job well done.  They may excel in areas like equipment design and accounting where every detail matters.


No matter what pursuit one may choose to take in life, one of the utmost important, underlying attributes that can help in all things is persistence. The ability to persist where many others might fail is a common perk to having Asperger’s Syndrome. Accomplishing the mission at nearly any cost and weathering any kind of storm can truly get someone to incredible places vocationally and personally.

Not Socially-Driven

On one hand, being socially driven can be a great source from which to gain personal motivation in this ever increasingly social world. On the other hand, this can be a considerable drawback in certain situations. This is not a hurdle likely encountered by those with Asperger’s Syndrome, as social concerns are often lower on this population’s priority list than with many others.

High Integrity

High Integrity in people with autism

Another key trait that many with Asperger’s have that many others admire is a high level of integrity. Many with this condition do not get involved in complex and unnecessary “drama”, do not play “head games” with others, and can be quite straightforward in their intentions and loyalties. This, in itself, is a great feature to have in a:

  • personal friend
  • partner
  • business associate
  • employee

Masters of Routine

daily routine is a common characteristic of someone with autism

One of the most common signs of Asperger’s in adults is that of regimen and a great propensity to flourish in matters of routine and patterns. Whereas the average person may struggle to conform to certain routines or components of certain routines, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome will typically take quite well to such pattern and make significant strides therein.

The benefits of this propensity are also many. Routines can help bring comfort to situations that could cause anxiety.  They can help an individual with Asperger’s deal with depression or uncertainty in life.  Most individuals with Asperger’s face some level of discomfort with change but not all will display outward signs.

Additional Resources for Characteristics of a Person with Asperger Syndrome

For those with further interest in Asperger’s Syndrome, there are a number of great, online resources with which follow-up is highly suggested. The following represent some of those very contacts.

Psychology Today

Psychology Today is arguably the foremost psychology journal and free, online information source out there right now. Among its many, valuable assets, there is plenty to also learn just on Asperger’s Syndrome alone.

Autism Speaks

Anyone looking for information on autism or Asperger’s Syndrome should be certain to spend some time at the website for Autism Speaks. This organization is a leader in autism and Asperger’s awareness, lobby, education, networking resources, and more.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke offers the US government’s public resources and stance on Asperger’s Syndrome and autism spectrum disorders today. From treatment information to organizational links, clinical trial info, and more, this government resource is a virtual one-stop-shop.

The Asperger Syndrome diagnosis has moved through an evolution in the way it’s viewed, treated, and studied in recent times. Those with this condition, however, have always displayed many of the same types of characteristics throughout time. This Asperger’s symptoms checklist includes some of the most commonly seen characteristics in those with Asperger Syndrome, no matter how the science itself evolves.