Asperger syndrome, sometimes referred to as Asperger's or AS, is part of a group of autism spectrum disorders that is usually noticeable in children by the age of 3. Being part of a spectrum disorder means that symptoms of Asperger's can range from very mild to extreme. The Yale University School of Medicine's Developmental Disabilities Clinic notes that AS is characterized by problems with social interaction, isolated interests and unusual behavior.
A common aspect of Asperger syndrome is demonstrated by poor social interactions. Young children with autism may seem to have one-sided social interaction and limited ability to form friendships. Non-verbal behaviors are also notable in children with AS, such as unusual facial expressions, failure to gesture, aloofness or the inability to make eye contact. These symptoms become more apparent by the age of 3, and most children are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9.
One of the most apparent symptoms of Asperger syndrome in young children is their intense interest in a single topic, such as trains or maps. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that children with AS want to know and spend a lot of time trying to learn about their hobby or interest, and they may use an advanced vocabulary and exhibit a high level of expertise on the subject. Some children with AS need to establish rigid repetition and routine in their daily activities.
Problems with motor skills are a common symptom of Asperger syndrome in children. Delayed learning in playing catch, potty training, learning to ride a bike or walking on tip toes are usually noticeable in children by the age of 3. Their movement may be described as clumsy or uncoordinated.
While symptoms are sometimes noticeable as early as infancy, many parents sense something different about a child with AS by the child's third birthday. In some cases, early language skills are retained, but the lag in motor development may be the first sign that something is different than "typical" 3-year-old behavior.
Sensitivity to Stimuli
Some but not all young children with Apserger syndrome will have an unusual sensitivity to loud sounds or lights. They may also be bothered by other physical stimuli; for example, they may be sensitive to the way certain clothing or material feels or need their socks to be on their feet in a particular way.