Six case histories of children referred and admitted to a psychiatric inpatient unit at a tertiary referral centre because of concerns about poor functioning and possible emotional abuse are presented. On initial assessment the children appeared to be well functioning and the impression was confirmed that their emotional needs were not being met by their parents. After detailed inpatient appraisal the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome was made in all six cases, exemplified mainly by a formal concrete way of thinking and an inability to identify and understand human emotions and relationships. The impact of the diagnosis on the parents and their consequent relationships with their child and their willingness to work with professionals is discussed.
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