Professionals say that just like people with autism, people with Asperger's syndrome have trouble fitting in at school. Although the syndrome is a neurological and pervasive developmental disorder, it creates some challenges socially.

"(Those with Asperger's) are often ostracized for their odd behavior, which is repeating words over and over and becoming preoccupied (over focused) with a topic or theme for an hour," said Dr. Andres Pumariega, chair of the Department of Psychology at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center.

He said that when people with the syndrome have problems when they feel very isolated.

"They may have a family that loves them but they have a hard time connecting with people."

People with Asperger's Syndrome have normal or above intelligence and want to talk to other people, Pumariega said.

"Typically they won't look like they have a disorder on the surface," Pumariega said.

He said the difference between autism and Asperger's Syndrome is that someone with autism brushes a person aside just like they would a chair. Those with Asperger's will recognize people and try to talk with them.

Pumariega said that he sees people with the disorder frequently at the hospital, most often in the outpatient clinic and not all of them have acted out aggressively.

Some have been referred by a school official or they suffer from depression.

Other characteristics include a "very formal manner or sometimes monotone, or taking figures of speech literally, problems with non-verbal communication, including the restricted use of gestures, limited or inappropriate facial expressions, or a peculiar, stiff gaze, clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements," according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's web site,

Dania Jekel, executive director of the Asperger's Association of New England, said, "The misconception is that they don't want friends," Jekel said. "This isn't the case. Generally they want to have friends. They have trouble with communication such as small talk and have interests that are different from their peers. They are very bright but a little behind their behavioral age"

"They have a hard time keeping friends. They may feel isolated and stop trying to make friends," she said. with Asperger's do get bullied and teased in school.

"They get teased because they may seem clumsy and they are quirky kids" she said. "This has a huge impact on how they feel about themselves."

Jekel said that schools should make policies that this kind of treatment will not be tolerated because it's very hurtful and stays with the student for a long time.

"We encourage that people with Asperger's Syndrome get involved in a club to make friends such as an astronomy or train club so they can make friends through interests," Jekel said.


Professor Emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, Eugene Arnold said, the syndrome is more prevalent in boys and the boys are more physically aggressive. "Boys in general are more physically aggressive than girls but girls can be verbally aggressive," Arnold said.

"Not everyone with Asperger's Syndrome is aggressive," he said.

Some people with Asperger's Syndrome can be irritable in their moods.

"They may express frustration in dealing with the rest of the world," Arnold said. "Their perceptions are different. They are afraid of things that don't bother other people."

Pumariega said that people with the syndrome can have "very short fuses" and don't respond well to changes in routine.

"They have trouble with they are expected to shift gears (in their routine) and at these times they can be explosive," Pumariega said.

Bullying can also make them aggressive and can lead to the student ending up in juvenile court settings, Pumariega said.

Pumariega said he thinks that Cho Seung-Hui, the student who shot 33 students at Virginia Tech in April 2007 showed an example of someone who had Asperger's syndrome even though he wasn't diagnosed with it.

He said CNN showed interviews with Cho Seung-Hui's grandmother in Korea who said "he was austistic and that he was never loving and didn't relate to family."

Pumariega said this is abnormal because Korean families are close.

He said that schools and communities should provide help for people with Asperger's.

"Cho Seung-Hui was doing ok in high school (with treatment) but it's when he went off to college (and didn't have help anymore) is when there was a problem," Pumariega said.

Treatment and support

Pumariega said people with the disorder can be helped with-psychotherapy and that families can also conduct therapy at home.

He said the psychotherapy can help reduce the repetitveness of words and help with social skills.

Medication can also help with matters of irritability, he said.

Pumariega said that schools should also offer behavioral therapy for students.

According to a 2005 Centers for Disease Prevention report, 1 in 500 people have an autistic spectrum disorder.

Asperger's Syndrome is named after Hans Asperger, a man who is believed to have discovered the disorder in 1944.

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