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Review of "A Guide to Asperger Syndrome"

By Christopher Gillberg
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Review by Lynda Geller,Ph.D. on Oct 6th 2004
A Guide to Asperger Syndrome

With the incredible proliferation of books about Asperger Syndrome, it is gratifying to read one that is written by a well respected researcher in the field, yet is quite approachable in its style to a variety of readers.  While the book would not be considered to be popular press, it is written clearly and concisely.  Dr. Gillberg, himself, states that he intends this book for families and clinicians who are encountering a plethora of newspaper and magazine articles about the disorder that seldom allude to important research bases.

The chapters are organized to lay out critical information, review areas of important discussion in the field, and summarize the important points in an understandable format.  Each chapter includes a number of references so that readers may search out primary sources of information, but not at the overly inclusive level one might find in a journal article.  Thus, one feels generally informed and able to pursue additional supporting information, without experiencing the cluttered style of typical journal writing.  Some of the chapters might be hard going for parents, such as “Cognitive neuropsychology,” but the concluding remarks at the end of each chapter summarize the salient points in a useful way.  Other chapters, such as “Attitudes, interventions, and treatment” are useful guides in their entirety for parents seeking to understand basic mental health and educational interventions.

For clinicians, this book is a well conceived review of current issues.  It has more detail in its presentation of evolving issues than the well known Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Tony Attwood, the milestone book that made the disorder understandable to the general reader.  The differences are due partially to the burst of research in the four years between the publications of the two books and partially to the orientations of the authors, Attwood being an experienced clinician and Gillberg having an extensive research career.  One hopes that readers of the first guide will read this guide for the latest information and to gain an understanding of the many controversial issues in the field today.

After reading the chapters about symptoms, diagnosis, underlying developmental issues, comorbidity, and treatments, Gillberg changes gear with a chapter about famous geniuses and one including case vignettes and interpretations.  The case vignettes include descriptions of individuals from young childhood to mature adult and comments about how their various presentations represent Asperger Syndrome in all its variability across severity and development.  These two chapters humanize the face of what Gillberg has been so aptly, but clinically describing and give an appreciation of the great inconsistencies in manifestation of the syndrome. 

The Appendix includes the ASDI (Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Interview), the ASSQ (The High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire,) and the ASDASQ (Autism Spectrum Disorders In Adults Screening Questionnaire.)  These instruments may be particularly helpful to the general clinician as a guideline in assessing a patient or to an individual or family wondering if they should be seeking a specialized diagnosis.

Clinicians reading this book will discover it to be somewhat European in its content, with discussions of such disorders as DAMP (Deficits in Attention, Motor Control, and Perception) which is not commonly utilized in the United States and allusions to health and educational systems as they occur in Europe.  Those seeking more detailed descriptions of therapeutic approaches to help children and adults with Asperger syndrome will find them only briefly summarized and will need to look elsewhere for more specific guidelines to treatment.

In summary, A Guide to Asperger Syndrome is a well written source of basic research and clinical information presented at a level generally accessible to a variety of clinicians and interested readers.  Its references provide an excellent listing of many of the important books and papers in the field that offers a helpful foundation to those interested in expanding their knowledge through a more detailed exploration of primary source material.


© 2004 Lynda Geller


Lynda Geller, Ph.D., Executive Director, Asperger Foundation International, 501 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10022

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