Syndrome is a condition all but unheard of just a few years ago but
which seems to have become a prevalent buzzword in recent times. 
With Asperger’s entering our consciousness at an increasingly alarming
rate it is important that we understand both what it is and why it
appears to be on the increase. 

Asperger’s is a
neurological disorder identified in 1944 by Viennese physician, Hans
Asperger in a paper he published outlining behavioural patterns of a
study group of young boys who possessed a normal level of language
development and intelligence but displayed behaviour similar to autism
and a depletion of social and communication skills.

the publication of Asperger’s study in the 1940s, it wasn’t until 1994
that Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) gained official medical recognition and
this wasn’t extended to professionals and parents until the late 1990s. 

covers a spectrum of symptoms and the condition can range from mild to
severe according to the individual.  Those with AS may show a
significant lack of social skills or struggle with transitions or
change, preferring the comfort of the familiar and showing distress
when their personal routines are interrupted.  They often have
heightened sensory skills and may be particularly affected by smells
and noise: children with AS will often cover their ears in distress in
a noisy classroom.

A classic symptom is a preoccupation with a particular subject of interest that borders on obsession.

Ward, a former primary school and Special Needs teacher who has worked
extensively with AS pupils, recalls one pupil who had a fixation with
vacuum cleaners and always came to school with a nozzle or other
attachment in his bag: “One day, when we went to change his
reading book, the teaching assistant noticed that there was no bulge in
his schoolbag.  We were delighted as it appeared that he had
managed to break the habit of bringing something vacuum-cleaner related
into school with him every day.  However, when we looked inside,
neatly tucked in behind his reading book was a vacuum cleaner bag!”

10 year old AS pupil had a fixation with London buses and his knowledge
was so extensive that teachers would ask him which bus routes to use
into the city for school trips. 

An AS individual may
perceive the world differently from the rest of us and it is this which
sometimes gives them difficulty fitting into social groups as they can
unintentionally appear rude. 

Obviously this can
pose some problems in the classroom and before a child is officially
diagnosed as having AS, they may find themselves unpopular with other
children.  One reason is that they often have problems empathising
with other people and therefore do not display a normal level of
sympathy for a friend’s plight. The other problem is that AS pupils
often do not understand the pupil-teacher relationship, seeing
themselves as being on an equal footing with teachers while their peers
perceive them as goody-goodies.  But this doesn’t mean that they
can’t be integrated into their peer group.  Frances explains,
“Once the other children are aware of why they are behaving in that
way, they are very accepting and often protective of AS classmates,
frequently pointing out when they’ve done something which shows

Being diagnosed with AS is by no means a
death toll to leading a fulfilled, successful life: Jane Austen and
Einstein are among the historical figures that experts have identified
as potential AS individuals.

Causes of AS are
difficult to identify in most cases and are often controversial. 
There appears to be a genetic link – though not in all cases – and
there have been incidents when a child has been diagnosed and the
parent has realised that they too have a form of Asperger’s.   
MMR vaccine has caused widespread alarm as some parents are convinced
that their child only developed symptoms of AS following
inoculation.  Pollution and chemicals in food have also been
mooted as having possible links to Asperger’s and autism.  What is
clear, however, is that a great deal of research is urgently needed
into the causes of this condition: let’s hope the government turns its
full attention to it.