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28th Jul 2015

Asperger Syndrome: Do you know the signs?


There has been a recent trend of popular TV shows, such as the Big Bang Theory and Hannibal, featuring characters on the Autism Spectrum. While some feel these shows tend to portray a stereotypical notion of the condition, their popularity has forced autism into the limelight, creating a new level of awareness.

While there are no definitive figures in Ireland just yet, it is thought that autism affects approximately 1 in 100 people. Asperger Syndrome (or ‘high functioning’ Autism) is a neurological condition on the autism spectrum. This basically means that people with a diagnosis think differently, and this can have a significant impact on the way that they view the world and the people around them.

How does it affect people…

People with AS can be very intelligent but experience significant challenges in social interaction, communication, flexible thought and sensory perception. Living with Asperger Syndrome has been described as landing in a strange county, not knowing the language, the culture and the social norms, yet being expected to get on with daily life regardless.

How is it diagnosed…

It’s typically diagnosed from four years of age, but it’s not often recognised until much later than that. In children, parents and teachers may notice that the child finds it difficult to approach and play with others, has an extensive vocabulary but has difficulty communicating with others, is able to retain huge volumes of information about subjects of interest and speaks incessantly about those topics. They may have a limited diet, be sensitive to sounds, light or smells and have difficulty understanding facial expressions, body language and personal space in others. They may also come across as overly honest and lacking a filter (don’t ask how you look in your new jeans if you don’t want an honest opinion!).

It’s not just for children….

There’s an increase in the amount of adults seeking assessment, when challenges arise in college, employment or relationships. As the saying goes, if you have met one person with Asperger Syndrome, you have met one person with Asperger Syndrome. It impacts on every person’s life in a different way – it’s important to learn how the diagnosis relates to the person, rather than understanding it as a set criteria.

What happens once it’s diagnosed

With the right supports, children and adults with Asperger Syndrome can live very happy and fulfilling lives. These supports include things like counselling, speech and language, play and drama therapy, occupational therapy and educational support. They can vary depending on the person or child. An assessment provides specific information about the diagnosis, pointing to the most appropriate supports you should avail of. Your GP or local health centre can refer you to the HSE to start the assessment process. Alternatively, you can contact a private professional directly to arrange an appointment.

Aileen Cruise is an Education and Development Officer with Aspire Ireland, established by a group of parents to address a need for support of Asperger Syndrome sufferers and their families. If you feel you or a family member may have Asperger Syndrome, check out