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I know a 7 year old who will hug anyone, including complete strangers, is friendly, doesn't seem to quite get social cues that others his age would. This kid is very smart, essentially doing work a grade more advanced than he should be, and he's doing great at it. It seems to me to be something I've heard of, but I can't quite put a name, it's on the tip of my tongue... What disorder is this?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's difficult to give any definite indication over the internet, but the symptoms you describe are all found in Asperger's syndrome. The problem is that they could all equally be symptoms of other disorders too. Social awkawardness is a feature of Asperger's, but is experienced by many people, including myself and certainly could be a response to 'sensory processing disorder.' Similarly the 'hugging' which again could be a feature of Asperger's, could also be a self - stimulatory' response to a need for tactile stimulation which again is a feature of sensory processing disorder. Difficulty focussing again might be incorporated into a diagnosis of Asperger's but is also seen in children who have AD(H)D.

I am a child neuro-developmentalist and trust me, the only way to truly find out is to get a professional assessment.

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+1 "the only way to truly find out is to get a professional assessment" – Bill Dec 13 '11 at 18:11

Sounds very much like Asperger syndrome - an autism spectrum disorder.

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In my opinion, calling Asperger's a disorder is too negative. A society of only Aspergers could be a perfectly functioning society, it would just different from what we're used to. The social awkwardness is not curable, but if the kid is smart enough, we will compensate for his challenge using his intellect. You can help him by explicitly explaining the rules of social behavior to him, just like you would explain the rules of <your favorite sport>. Life to an Asperger is similar to a complicated sport. – Koert Apr 24 '11 at 21:01
@Koert: That's what I've always thought about it. It's a really interesting syndrome, or whatever you want to call it, it's worth knowing about because it can help you better fit in the world, but I do agree that people who have it aren't fundamentally wrong, or anything like that. – PearsonArtPhoto Apr 24 '11 at 23:55
+1 for Aspergers, -1 for calling it a form of autism. It's a "spectrum" from normal, via computer nerd to Aspergers to autism. The fact that there is not a clear line between Aspergers and autism does not make Aspergers a form of autism. If it is a form of anything, it's an extreme form of nerdiness. :-) – Lennart Regebro Apr 25 '11 at 8:35
@Lennart, @Koert - Current medicine classifies Asperger's as a form of autism, and it is consistently referred to as a disorder. See 1, 2, etc. I don't think these words need to reflect negatively on the individual. "Disorder" simply means the condition comes with some difficulties. I understand the desire to avoid stigmatizing the condition, but it seems unfair to criticize the original poster or this answer for using terms that are correct by current medical definitions. – sjohnston Apr 25 '11 at 14:31
@Lennart - Ah, good point. I retract my statement. – sjohnston Apr 25 '11 at 22:04

Based off the information given, it wouldn't be difficult to associate these characteristics to several disorders (please forgive me for not listing them here). Is it possible there is no disorder involved? Sounds like a wonderful child.

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You could easily be describing my daughter. She is now 13, and last year was diagnosed with Aspergers. There is a really great blog run by a father that has Aspergers, and has two children with the disorder. The blog is well written and well worth the read.

Take the time to learn about the disorder, it will help considerably. Not all Aspergers (aspies) present with the same conditions. With me, my daughter's desire to hug everything in sight threw me, it seems contrary to the stereotypical view of the anti-social aspie. There are some very positive things about having a aspie child, but there are challanges.

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It's impossible to diagnose a child--especially with no relevant expertise--from only a brief description. Asperger's is considered part of the Autism Spectrum. Hugging strangers is not typical of the condition, although obviously there are exceptions. On the other hand, excessive displays of affection to strangers might be a symptom of attachment disorder.

There's a huge difference between these two problems in terms of overall consequences to the life of the individual affected and those who care for them. If this child is in any distress--they seem unable to cope with their school life, they are excessively unhappy, they are unable to maintain friendships, they lack empathy to humans or animals, etc--then I would encourage his parents (if you appropriately can) to seek professional help.

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The hugging of strangers reminds me of Williams Syndrome.

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Well, I think that we're getting slightly off the original subject here. "What disorder is associated with social awkwardness, hugging, intelligence, and difficulty focusing?"

When I was young, under the age of 9, I vaguely remember my mother always yelling at me to leave people stop hugging everyone I saw, to not talk to total strangers, to quit fidgeting in social settings, to pay attention and listen, and there were times she would have to walk up to me and smack me on the back of the head to get my attention because I never heard her even talking to me until I was smacked...amongst other many issues I had and have to deal with on a moment by moment basis for the rest of my life.

~ What disorder is associated with social awkwardness, hugging, intelligence, and difficulty focusing? ~

This is the main issue, not if the answer to it is correct or not, as only a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor should be the judge of the symptoms.

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I can't find the "answer" in your answer. Could you perhaps revise the post to be clearer? – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 2 '11 at 17:35

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