Asperger’s Disorder is characterized by a severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior.
It is often present an inability to use non-verbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression and body postures, to regulate social interaction and communication. The failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level is another key feature of the disorder.
You can take a look here If you are interested in the “more specific” diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s Disorder. However, take in mind that for the upcoming new edition of the DSM, it was proposed that this disorder should be “subsumed into an existing disorder: Autistic Disorder (Autism Spectrum Disorder)”.
According to the DSM-V, studies have not demonstrated the validity of the subtypes of DSM-IV, especially that of Asperger disorder. The main reason most studies have not been able to distinguish between Asperger disorder and autism is that the DSM-IV criteria were vague and difficult to use.
For these vague criteria Asperger’s Disorder have an history of over-diagnosis.
Benjamin Nugent tells his story:
For a brief, heady period in the history of autism spectrum diagnosis, in the late ’90s, I had Asperger syndrome. […]
I exhibited a “qualified impairment in social interaction,” specifically “failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level” (I had few friends) and a “lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people” (I spent a lot of time by myself in my room reading novels and listening to music, and when I did hang out with other kids I often tried to speak like an E. M. Forster narrator, annoying them). I exhibited an “encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus” (I memorized poems and spent a lot of time playing the guitar and writing terrible poems and novels). […]
The thing is, after college I moved to New York City and became a writer and met some people who shared my obsessions, and I ditched the Forsterian narrator thing, and then I wasn’t that awkward or isolated anymore. According to the diagnostic manual, Asperger syndrome is “a continuous and lifelong disorder,” but my symptoms had vanished.
He was diagnosed when he was 17, but later, in his adult life it “became clear” that he didn’t have asperger’s disorder. He point out that:
Under the rules in place today, any nerd, any withdrawn, bookish kid, can have Asperger syndrome.
The definition should be narrowed. I don’t want a kid with mild autism to go untreated. But I don’t want a school psychologist to give a clumsy, lonely teenager a description of his mind that isn’t true.
I recently have had an experience that made me think about this diagnosis. After a 7 days-long neuropsychological screening, the doctors said to the mother of a kid I know, that he needed to see an asperger’s specialist, to see if he has asperger’s disorder, or if he’s just shy.
When you can’t understand if a kid is just shy or if he has asperger’s disorder, there’s something wrong.