What is Asperger syndrome?

Asperger syndrome (also known as Asperger's) is a condition on the autistic spectrum. An autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong developmental condition that means we often have some difficulties with relationships, and communication, and that we think very differently to others. This can sometimes lead to problems understanding people, communicating effectively, especially non-verbally, and thinking flexibly.

With Asperger's there are less problems with thinking compared to people at other points on the spectrum. Our ability to think differently can even produce advantages such as seeing solutions others don’t and sometimes being able to focus for longer periods of time.

What causes Asperger syndrome?

Like most other psychological conditions disorders on the autistic spectrum (including Asperger's) are thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Any environmental triggers of the underlying predisposition however appear to occur very early in life.

Differences in the brain and nervous system of an individual with Asperger’s can lead to differences in how sensation is perceived. Often we are more sensitive than others. Sometimes this can be extremely uncomfortable. This hypersensitivity can also mean that sounds and smells can be very distracting. However, even though it can get overwhelming at times it means that we have a much richer and deeper and possibly more enjoyable experience of the world.

Why is Asperger syndrome a problem?

Asperger's can give us many strengths, such as an ability to concentrate for long periods of time, but here are also many weaknesses to be managed. Our preference to be alone with our own thoughts can lead to us becoming isolated if we are not careful. And an over-reactive autonomic nervous system can be too ready to take us into ‘flight or fight’ mode with any little disturbance, leading to us being more vulnerable to stress as well as other mental health problems.

Our differences from the majority mean that we nearly always have had experiences of being marginalised. We have been laughed at for being different. We’ve been bullied. Others have been angry with us for reasons that we cannot understand. But these negative experiences can overcome. With help to develop positive attitudes and to make the most of the strengths of Asperger's coaching and mentoring can encourage you along the way to discovering meaning and purpose to your life.

Useful links

Asperger syndrome: by the National Autistic Society

Lesser known things about Asperger syndrome: one of the BBC's Ounch articles on disability