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S32 Step By Step Guide

Asperger's disorder

    Asperger's disorder is one of the autism spectrum disorders and is classified as a developmental disorder. People with Asperger's disorder commonly have:
  • average or above average intelligence (IQ)
  • problems with reasoning, problem solving, anticipating consequences
  • difficulty empathising with others or recognising another person's point of view
  • difficulty with social interaction
  • problems controlling feelings - for example, anger, anxiety
  • reliance on routines and schedules that can result in anxiety and acting out if disrupted
  • difficulty understanding social codes of conduct

Although Asperger's disorder cannot be cured, appropriate intervention and experience can help individuals to develop their abilities, compensatory strategies and coping skills. Social skills training and counselling, including cognitive behaviour therapy, can help people with Asperger's disorder.

Adapted from Fact Sheet, Asperger's Syndrome and Adults,

Definitional confusion

Legal, medical and general definitions do not always coincide. It is important that lawyers are alive to the definitional confusion around classifications. It may be relevant to point out these differences to experts preparing reports in your client's matter and to the magistrate.

The case of Ryan illustrates the difficulties with the current criteria. The presiding magistrate deemed a young person diagnosed as having Asperger disorder to be suffering from a mental condition (as opposed to a developmental disability) and subsequently dismissed charges under section 32(3)(a) of the MHFPAMental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 NSW. Outside of the law, autism spectrum disorders and Asperger's disorder are regarded as developmental disabilities.

(See Police v Ryan (Children's Court of NSW at Bidura, 3 February 2005), reported in Children's Law News 2005 CLN 2)

AutismADD & ADHD

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