The Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger first described the syndrome named after him in the 1940s, when he observed autism-like behaviors and difficulties with social and communication skills in boys who had normal intelligence and language development. Asperger's diagnoses weren't received well by his colleagues and psychologists, who felt Asperger’s syndrome was simply a milder form of autism and used the term “high-functioning autism” (HFA) to describe these individuals.
It wasn't until the late 1980s — after Asperger's death in 1980 — that Asperger's Syndrome (AS) came into focus again, and only in 1991 his original paper was translated into English by Uta Frith. In 1994 AS was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which is the bible for psychological disorders. In 2013 DSM-IV's successor, DSM-V, was published, and Asperger's Syndrome was removed again as a separate diagnosis, and instead placed under the umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Asperger’s Disorder in DSM-IV (299.80)
The essential features of Asperger’s Disorder are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, and activity. The disturbance must clinically show significant impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning. In contrast to Autistic Disorder, there are no clinically significant delays in language. In addition there are no clinically significant delays in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior, and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
Lack of social or emotional reciprocity
B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals
Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.
Why a diagnosis could be important
On quora.com someone who thought his/her 6-year old son might have asperger's asked about the advantages of getting an official diagnosis.
Peter Flom, LD adult, answered: “If your son is in the Autism — It's Not a Spectrum, It's a Ballpark — then he will get labeled. Do you want the label to be "Asperger's" or do you want it to be "lazy, crazy or stupid"? (Those were the ones given to me).”
50 Positive Characteristics of Asperger's [source]
Most kids, teens, and adults with Asperger's (high functioning autism) have a bunch of positive traits that more than make-up for any negative ones. One Aspie asserted, “Thank God I have Asperger's!”. Let’s look at just a few of the positive traits associated with the Asperger's condition...
are able to easily forgive others,
are conscientious, reliable, and honest,
are enthusiastic and have a propensity for obsessive research, thus developing a broad and deep base of knowledge in subjects of interest,
are free of prejudice,
are intelligent and talented,
are less inclined to be fickle or bitchy than their neurotypical counterparts,
are more likely than those of the general population to pursue a university education,
are not inclined to lie to others,
are not inclined to steal from others,
are not likely to be bullies, con artists, or social manipulators,
are not motivated by an intense social drive to spend time with whoever happens to be available,
are persistent, and when they set their minds to something or make a promise, they can usually be trusted to follow through,
are unlikely to launch unprovoked attacks, verbal or otherwise,
are untainted by the judgments that people often make regarding one another's social position or social skills,
are very accepting of the quirks and idiosyncrasies of others,
bring a highly original perspective to problem solving,
can be selective, choosing honest, genuine, dependable people who share their interests,
can bring up a variety of interesting facts,
can listen to people’s problems and provide a fresh perspective, offering pure assessments based on the information provided,
can recall fine details that others miss,
can relax and be themselves without fearing social censure,
don’t attack the reputations of those around them,
don’t discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, age, or any other surface criteria,
don’t force others to live up to demanding social expectations,
don't have hidden agendas,
don’t play head games,
don’t take advantage of others’ weaknesses,
don't usually recognize hierarchies, and so are unlikely to give someone superior status simply because that person is wealthy or has attained a high position in an organization,
have a good work ethic,
have a lot of passion when engaging in activities they like, which may translate into a talent for certain athletic pursuits,
have a tendency to adhere to routines,
have above-average intelligence,
have an acute sensitivity that supports creative talents,
have exceptional memories,
have extreme endurance,
have high integrity,
have no interest in harming others,
have one or more highly developed talents,
have talents for swimming, rowing, running, bodybuilding, or other activities that require sustained physical effort,
have values that aren't shaped by financial, social, or political influences,
judge people based on their behavior – not the color of their skin or socioeconomic status,
like to spend time alone and are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves,
loathe small talk and trivialities, preferring instead to talk about significant things that will enhance their knowledge base,
make very good employees if able to control their pace and work within either a solitary or socially supportive environment,
pay attention to detail,
stick to their positions, even in the face of intense social pressure,
tend to become proficient in the technological media required for lucrative employment in the “information age”,
tend to prefer individual sports to team sports, as there are no social demands and they can exercise complete control over the activity,
who develop an interest in sport or fitness are likely to work at it every day, often for long periods of time,
will not go along with the crowd if they know that something is wrong.