The World Health Organization defines Asperger syndrome (AS) as one of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), which are a spectrum of psychological conditions that are characterized by abnormalities of social interaction and communication that pervade the individual’s functioning, and by restricted and repetitive interests and behavior. ASD begins in infancy or childhood, has a steady course without remission or relapse, and has impairments that result from maturation-related changes in various systems of the brain.
Asperger syndrome is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than a single symptom. It is characterized by qualitative impairment in social interaction, by stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests, and by no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or general delay in language. Intense preoccupation with a narrow subject, one-sided verbosity, restricted prosody, and physical clumsiness are typical of the condition, but are not required for diagnosis.
Individuals with AS experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include a failure to develop friendships or to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others (for example, showing others objects of interest), a lack of social or emotional reciprocity (social “games” give-and-take mechanic), and impaired nonverbal behaviors in areas such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gesture.
People with AS may not be as withdrawn around others compared to those with other, more debilitating, forms of autism; they approach others, even if awkwardly. For example, a person with AS may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favorite topic, while misunderstanding or not recognizing the listener’s feelings or reactions, such as a wish to change the topic of talk or end the interaction. This social awkwardness has been called “active but odd”. This failure to react appropriately to social interaction may appear as disregard for other people’s feelings, and may come across as insensitive.
However, not all individuals with AS will approach others. Some of them may even display selective mutism, speaking not at all to most people and excessively to specific people. Some may choose to talk to only people they like.
The cognitive ability of children with AS often allows them to articulate social norms in a laboratory context, where they may be able to show a theoretical understanding of other people’s emotions; however, they typically have difficulty acting on this knowledge in fluid, real-life situations. People with AS may analyze and distill their observations of social interaction into rigid behavioral guidelines, and apply these rules in awkward ways, such as forced eye contact, resulting in a demeanor that appears rigid or socially naive. Childhood desire for companionship can become numbed through a history of failed social encounters.
People identifying with Asperger syndrome may refer to themselves in casual conversation as aspies (a term first used in print by Liane Holliday Willey in 1999). The word neurotypical (abbreviated NT) describes a person whose neurological development and state are typical, and is often used to refer to non-autistic people. The Internet has allowed individuals with AS to communicate and celebrate diversity with each other in a way that was not previously possible because of their rarity and geographic dispersal. A subculture of aspies has formed. Internet sites like Wrong Planet have made it easier for individuals to connect.
Autistic people have advocated a shift in perception of autism spectrum disorders as complex syndromes rather than diseases that must be cured. Proponents of this view reject the notion that there is an “ideal” brain configuration and that any deviation from the norm is pathological; they promote tolerance for what they call neurodiversity. These views are the basis for the autistic rights and autistic pride movements. There is a contrast between the attitude of adults with self-identified AS, who typically do not want to be cured and are proud of their identity, and parents of children with AS, who typically seek assistance and a cure for their children.
Some researchers have argued that AS can be viewed as a different cognitive style, not a disorder or a disability, and that it should be removed from the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, much as homosexuality was removed.
(all above text excerpted from Wikipedia)