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Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger's syndrome or Asperger disorder (AD), is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.
It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. The syndrome is named after the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, studied and described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy.
There is doubt about whether it is distinct from high-functioning autism (HFA); partly because of this, its prevalence is not firmly established. It has been decided that the diagnosis of Asperger's be eliminated in DSM-5, to be replaced by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder on a severity scale.
The exact cause is unknown. Although research suggests the likelihood of a genetic basis, there is no known genetic etiology and brain imaging techniques have not identified a clear common pathology. There is no single treatment, and the effectiveness of particular interventions is supported by only limited data. Intervention is aimed at improving symptoms and function.
Most children improve as they mature to adulthood, but social and communication difficulties may persist. Some researchers and people with Asperger's have advocated a shift in attitudes toward the view that it is a difference, rather than a disability that must be treated or cured.