Difficulty with Reciprocal Social InteractionsThose with Asperger's syndrome display varying difficulties when interacting with others. Some children and adolescents have no desire to interact, while others simply do not know how. More specifically, they do not comprehend the give-and-take nature of social interactions. They may want to lecture you about the Titanic or they may leave the room in the midst of playing with another child. They do not comprehend the verbal and nonverbal cues used to further our understanding in typical social interactions. These include eye contact, facial expressions, body language, conversational turn-taking, perspective taking, and matching conversational and nonverbal responses to the interaction.
Impairments in Language Skills
Those with Asperger's syndrome have very specific problems with language, especially with pragmatic use of language, which is the social aspect. That is, they see language as a way to share facts and information (especially about special interests), not as a way to share thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The child will display difficulty in many areas of a conversation processing verbal information, initiation, maintenance, ending, topic appropriateness, sustaining attention, and turn taking. The child's prosody (pitch, stress, rhythm, or melody of speech) can also be impaired. Conversations may often appear scripted or ritualistic. That is, it may be dialogue from a TV show or a movie. They may also have difficulty problem solving, analyzing or synthesizing information, and understanding language beyond the literal level.
Narrow Range of Interests and Insistence on Set Routines
Due to an Asperger child's anxiety, his interactions will be ruled by rigidity, obsessions, and perseverations (repetitious behaviors or language) transitions and changes can cause. Generally, he will have few interests, but those interests will often dominate. The need for structure and routine will be most important. He may develop his own rules to live by that barely coincide with the rest of society.
Many individuals with Asperger's syndrome have difficulty with both gross and fine motor skills. The difficulty is often not just the task itself, but the motor planning involved in completing the task. Typical difficulties include handwriting, riding a bike, and ball skills.
Mindblindness, or the inability to make inferences about what another person is thinking, is a core disability for those with Asperger's syndrome. Because of this, they have difficulty empathizing with others, and will often say what they think without considering another's feelings. The child will often assume that everyone is thinking the same thing he is. For him, the world exists not in shades of gray, but only in black and white. This rigidity in thought (lack of cognitive flexibility) interferes with problem solving, mental planning, impulse control, flexibility in thoughts and actions, and the ability to stay focused on a task until completion. The rigidity also makes it difficult for an Asperger child to engage in imaginative play. His interest in play materials, themes, and choices will be narrow, and he will attempt to control the play situation.
Many Asperger children have sensory issues. These can occur in one or all of the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste). The degree of difficulty varies from one individual to another. Most frequently, the child will perceive ordinary sensations as quite intense or may even be underreactive to a sensation. Often, the challenge in this area will be to determine if the child's response to a sensation is actually a sensory reaction or if it is a learned behavior, driven mainly by rigidity and anxiety.
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