Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism: research concerns and emerging foci

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Purpose of reviewThis review focuses on papers that pertain to recent work on Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism. We noted areas in which there was a preponderance of research published over the last year, including: social communication, sensory characteristics, eye gaze, neurocognitive aspects, comorbidity, and treatment and intervention studies.Recent findingsChildren, adolescents, and even adults with Asperger syndrome/high functioning autism appear to be deficient in social skills that involve self-referencing, empathy, determination of emotions in others or inferring the thoughts of others. Some neurocognitive studies suggest that Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism are distinct disorders. A variety of social-behavioral interventions appeared in the literature, with generally positive outcomes. Comorbidity of Asperger syndrome and other psychiatric conditions (e.g. attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or depression) continues to be identified.SummaryStudies focusing on descriptions and specific sequelae of social deficits in Asperger syndrome/high functioning autism dominated the literature of the past year. With the decoding of the human genome it is also likely that the search for genetic pathways to Asperger syndrome/high functioning autism will continue. Finally, based on the almost total lack of information in this area, there is a clear need to develop better understanding of the experience of families raising children with high functioning autism or Asperger syndrome.

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