Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Autism and Asperger Syndrome are both part of a range of related developmental disorders known as Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). They begin in childhood and last through adult hood. It is a spectrum condition, which means that while all people with autism share difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. The symptoms are grouped into three categories. ASD’s are characterised by significant problems with language, social interaction, social imagination, and behaviour. Many people with an autistic disorder also have learning difficulties/below average intelligence. Another category of diagnoses known as pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PD-NOS) is given to those individuals who display symptoms that fall between an autistic disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. They share some, but not all of the traits of an Autistic Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome.

Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to present with milder symptoms that affect social interaction and behaviour but language development is usually not affected. They do often have problems in areas of language such as understanding humour or figures of speech.

Individuals on the autistic spectrum are not able to maintain eye to eye contact, as they find this painful and intimidating. They can misinterpret social situations and this can often leave them feeling socially isolated and at times resorting to social media sites to engage in social interchange. Failure to understand the behaviors and intentions of others can lead to individuals with an ASD to get involved or be influenced into participating in illegal activities, which in their mind is likely to be considered normal behavior (because they have not understood the intention of the person or persons involved).

Autistic individuals typically have processing delays, and as a result, need extra time to respond to questions or instructions. They take things very literally, and may not fully understand instructions unless they are concise and clear.

While the person with an ASD may have, in the literal sense, committed a criminal offence, they usually do not understand the question of intent. For example, they can be very literal in the way they obey instructions instead of thinking about the impact their actions can have on another person/s.

People with an ASD often do not understand the implications of their behaviour due to their difficulties with social imagination and they may require support to understand the consequences or implications of his/her actions and decisions.

It is very possible that an individual with an ASD may not comprehend ‘intent’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘conspiracy’ because they tend to be concrete and ‘rule oriented’ in their interpretation of their outer world. For example, the individual may accept the meaning of the word ‘intent’ but not understand how this might apply to their current situation.