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Asperger syndrome (a specific autism spectrum disorder): Clinical features and diagnosis in children and adolescents

Author
L Erik von Hahn, MD
Section Editors
Carolyn Bridgemohan, MD
Marc C Patterson, MD, FRACP
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD

INTRODUCTION

The American Psychiatric Association recognized Asperger disorder (also called Asperger syndrome) as a specific entity by publishing diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV) in 1994 [1]. A modest literature on Asperger disorder has emerged since then, though there are no specific clinical features that establish Asperger disorder as distinct from the autism spectrum as a whole [2-4] and its status as a separate entity is uncertain. In the DSM-5, published in 2013, Asperger disorder is encompassed within the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder [5]. In contrast, Asperger syndrome remains a distinct entity in the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) [6].

This topic review summarizes the modest literature that describes Asperger syndrome as a separate entity. The terms “Asperger syndrome” and “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) will be used interchangeably to acknowledge the two classification systems. Most of the information in this topic review will apply to children with ASD of Level 1 severity who do not have intellectual impairment, but may have language impairment. This approach is consistent with research that shows that subtypes of autism differ primarily on the basis of IQ [7,8]. (See 'Terminology' below and "Autism spectrum disorder: Diagnosis", section on 'Diagnostic criteria'.)

The clinical features and diagnosis of Asperger syndrome will be reviewed here. The management and prognosis are discussed separately. (See "Asperger syndrome (a specific autism spectrum disorder): Management and prognosis in children and adolescents".)

Overviews of the clinical features and diagnosis of ASD also are provided separately. (See "Autism spectrum disorder: Clinical features" and "Autism spectrum disorder: Diagnosis".)

TERMINOLOGY

Asperger syndrome is considered to be an "autism spectrum disorder" (ASD). ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that has diverse etiologies. It is characterized by a constellation of symptoms that includes deficits in reciprocal social interaction, social communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior (including stereotyped interests and activities) [5,6,9]. (See "Autism spectrum disorder: Diagnosis", section on 'Diagnostic criteria'.)

                     

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Literature review current through: Nov 2016. | This topic last updated: Tue Nov 29 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2016.
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