What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's syndrome (AS) is a neurobiological disorder that is part of a group of conditions called autism spectrum disorders. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome share many of the same symptoms as those with “high-functioning autism.” While Asperger’s is often difficult to diagnose, with today’s awareness and early identification, milder cases are being identified more frequently. Therefore, the prevalence of AS appears to be on the rise. More than 400,000 families are estimated to be affected by this affliction.
About Asperger's Syndrome
The Syndrome was first described by a Vienese pediatrician named Hans Asperger in 1940. He noticed that some of his patients had a set of behavior patterns that set them apart from their peers. This occurred mostly in males and was characterized by normal intelligence and language development but severely impaired social schools. These children were generally lacking in coordination and did not communicate effectively.
AS is generally diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9 and is characterized by poor social interactions, obsessions, odd speech patterns, and other peculiar mannerisms. These children tend to display unusual sensitivity to external stimuli such as light and sound and may display other obsessive behaviors.
While those suffering from AS tend to be a bit eccentric and somewhat immature, they are capable of functioning in society. Asperger’s tends to last throughout life with symptoms waxing and waning. Other symptoms of AS include peculiar preoccupations, eccentricities, poor social skills and clumsiness.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of AS?
Because the symptoms of AS are often hard to differentiate from other behavioral problems, AS is often misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is best to let a doctor or other health professional evaluate your child's symptoms. These signs and symptoms might be present in a child with AS:
- inappropriate or minimal social interactions.
- conversations almost always revolving around self rather than others.
- “scripted,” “robotic,” or repetitive speech.
- lack of “common sense.”
- problems with reading, math, or writing skills.
- obsession with complex topics such as patterns or music.
- average to below-average nonverbal cognitive abilities, though verbal cognitive abilities are usually average to above-average.
- awkward movements.
- odd behaviors or mannerisms.
Treating Asperger Syndrome
Because there are no “typical” Asperger’s patients, treatment modalities vary from patient to patient. They include:
- parent education and training.
- specialized educational interventions for the child.
- social skills training.
- language therapy.
- sensory integration training for younger kids, usually performed by an occupational therapist, in which they are desensitized to stimuli to which they're overly sensitive.
- psychotherapy or behavioral/cognitive therapy for older children.