I was just recently diagnosed with Asperger's (I also have OCD). Asperger's is a form of high-functioning autism, although it's thought that high-functioning autism (HFA) is a separate condition from Asperger's, and includes many of the same symptoms as normal autism. There are social deficits, differences in communication, and repetitive activites. I'm only going to read you the symptoms that apply to someone who's old enough to be on this website, and will not, for example, talk about how people with Asperger's sometimes don't properly engage in "imaginative play." Anyway, for social deficits, these people just don't know how to act in social situations. They may say inappropriate things as a result of blunt honesty, misinterpret signals, or simply just not care about interactions with people. Lack of eye contact while speaking is a big issue, as well as not understanding how to read body language. Many want to be able to have friends, but they just don't naturally know how to keep them, others are perfectly content with being friendless, and still others have a handful of friends, but would much prefer to be alone than with their friends. If they have friends, they are almost always someone significantly older or younger than they are. The problems with social activity are mostly with their peers. Problems with communication only heighten the social awkwardness experienced. People don't know how to start or end a conversation, don't know how to keep a conversation going when there's a lull, often interrupt because of this, and talk on-and-on for long periods of time because they don't understand something called "social reciprocity," or taking turns in conversations. Many ramble on about their "special interest," also called obsessive fixations, and don't know when to quit because they can't tell if someone's getting bored with them. Sometimes, there's a literal interpretation of what someone says, and the Aspie may get confused with figures of speech like, "I'm going out for a bite." They often have a strange manner of speaking, too, either with their rhythm, volume, or tone. They may sound monotone, speak too softly, speak too loudly, or have an up-and-down, "singsong" style to their voice. The obsessive fixations are areas of intense interest to the Aspie, which they research to no end, and memorize all sorts of facts and figures about. Hans Asperger, the discoverer of the condition now named for him, called kids "little professors" because they knew as much about their interests as a college professor, and Aspies have a pedantic, formal way of speaking from early on. Areas of academia are classic obsessive fixations, and no matter what the origin of the perseveration happens to be, it is always advanced and odd for the person's age. Some are obsessed with astronomy, some are fixated on models of vacuum cleaners. It all depends on the person. My main fixations are I Love Lucy
, Frank Sinatra's music, neuroscience/neuropsychology (this is my major), specifically OCD, bipolar disorder, and Asperger's, and American history (this is my minor), specifically 1920-1945. Aspies have an extraordinary capacity for memory, and many actually have a photographic memory (I do). Thus, memorizing trivia about their special interest comes naturally to them, and it isn't uncommon for them to go up to someone they barely know and start rattling off facts. (If you couldn't already tell, that's why I come on here- so I can talk about the psychiatric illnesses that I'm fixated on. It probably seems to you that I'm listing these criteria directly from a book, but it's all from memory. I've just read the symptoms so many times that it's an internalized "monologue," and I spit back the facts pretty much as written.) Aspies are very dependent on routine, and if there's a slight upset of change, they react very strongly. Many have outbursts of frustration and from being overwhelmed, while others have great anxiety, even panic attacks. Others may react both ways. Sensory issues are prevalent, with loud noises and bright lights being the most common things that bother Aspies. (Being wet is one of my biggest sensory issues.) Aspies have poor motor coordination, and appear clumsy while walking/running. They may have/had trouble with handwriting, catching/kicking a ball, or cutting with scissors. Unlike Kanner's ("classic") autism, there isn't any problem with the use of language, and Aspies usually speak at a very early age, and are sometimes precocious with reading or math skills. For reading, it's called hyperlexia- the hyperlexic can pronounce words perfectly, but has poor comprehension of what they read. It seems they just memorize what the word looks like, but can't spell it or use it out-of-context. (I was hyperlexic as a child.) Remember, that Asperger's is an autism spectrum
disorder, so there are varying degrees of the condition, and no two Aspies present the same form of the condition. Good luck, God bless, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!