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Asperger syndrome is mostly a hidden disability; this means that you can’t tell that someone has the condition from his or her outward appearance.

While there are some similarities between the two people with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average or above average intelligence. They do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism but they may have specific learning difficulties. These may include dyslexia and dyspraxia or others such as ADHD and epilepsy.

Three main areas of difficulty

Asperger syndrome tends to vary from one person to another but their characteristics are generally divided into three main groups.

Difficulty with social communication

For people with Asperger syndrome, understanding conversation is like trying to understand a foreign language.

People with Asperger syndrome sometimes find it difficult to express themselves emotionally and socially. For example they may:

  • Have difficulty understanding certain gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice.
  • Have difficulty knowing when to start or end a conversation and choosing topics to talk about
  • Sometimes use complex words and phrases but not always understand fully what they mean.
  • They can be very literal in what they say and can have difficulty understanding jokes, metaphors and sarcasm.
  • In order to help a person with Asperger syndrome understand you, keep your sentences short (be clear and concise).

Difficulty with social interaction

Many people with Asperger syndrome want to be sociable but have difficulty with initiating and sustaining social relationships, which can make them very anxious. People with the condition may:

  • Struggle to make and maintain friendships, not understand ‘social rules’ that most of us will pick up without thinking, for example they might stand too close to someone or may start talking about an inappropriate topic of conversation.
  • They may find other people unpredictable and confusing
  • Become withdrawn and seem uninterested in other people, sometimes appearing almost aloof
  • Behave in what may seem an inappropriate manner.
  • Difficulty with social imagination

People with Asperger syndrome can be imaginative in the conventional use of the word.

For example, many are accomplished writers, artists and musicians. But people with Asperger syndrome can have difficulty with social imagination. This can include:

  • Imaging alternative outcomes to certain situations and finding it difficult to predict what will happen next.
  • Understanding or interpreting other peoples thoughts, feelings or actions. The subtle messages that are put across by facial expression and body language are often missed
  • Having limited range of imaginative activates, which can be pursued rigidly and repetitively, eg lining up toys or collecting and organising things related to his or her interest.
  • Some children with Asperger syndrome may find it difficult to play 'let's pretend' games or prefer subjects rooted in logic.

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