Tell Me About Aspergers Syndrome

Definition

Asperger Syndrome is a neurological condition resulting in a group of social and behavioral symptoms. It is part of a category of conditions called Autism Spectrum Disorders, though the revised DSM-V leaves Asperger Syndrome out of it’s manuel and places the symptoms under Autism Spectrum Disorder(s) or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified,” or PDD-NOS. The name, Asperger Syndrome is still used among the community as there has not otherwise been a name to specifically fit the diagnosis. Children with Asperger Syndrome usually have normal to above normal intelligence and do not have the language problems typical of autism. It can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.

High-Functioning Autism vs. Asperger Syndrome

The noticable difference between High Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome is in the early ability of speech. Children diagnosed with High Functioning Autism are typically non-verbal until the age of 4 while those diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome have an unusual ability to form ‘big’ words by age three giving them the titled of ‘ the little professors syndrome’.  By age 6, both High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome are treated much the same both with parallel conditions throughout adulthood.

Causes

Hans Asperger labeled this disorder “autistic psychopathy” in 1944. The exact cause is unknown. More than likely, an abnormality in the brain is the cause of Asperger syndrome.

Genetic factors may play a role, since the disorder tends to run in families. A specific gene has not been identified.

Asperger Syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The main difference between Asperger Syndrome and autistic disorder is that children with Asperger Syndrome do not have speech or cognitive delays.

The condition appears to be more common in boys than in girls.

Symptoms

People with Asperger Syndrome become over-focused or obsessed on a single object or topic, ignoring all others. They want to know everything about this topic, and often talk about little else.

  • Children with Asperger Syndrome will present many facts about their subject of interest, but there will seem to be no point or conclusion.

  • They often do not recognize that the other person has lost interest in the topic.

  • Areas of interest may be quite narrow, such as an obsession with train schedules, phone books, a vacuum cleaner, or collections of objects.

People with Asperger do not withdraw from the world in the way that people with an autistic disorder do. They will often approach other people. However, their problems with speech and language in a social setting often lead to isolation.

  • Their body language may be unusual.

  • They may speak in a monotone, and may not respond to other people’s comments or emotions.

  • They may not understand sarcasm or humor, or they may take a figure of speech literally.

  • They do not recognize the need to change the volume of their voice in different settings.

  • They have problems with eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, or gestures (nonverbal communication).

  • They may be singled out by other children as “weird” or “strange.”

People with Asperger Syndrome have trouble forming relationships with children their own age or other adults, because they:

  • Are unable to respond emotionally in normal social interactions

  • Are not flexible about routines or rituals

  • Have difficulty showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people

  • Do not express pleasure at other people’s happiness

Children with Asperger Syndrome may show delays in motor development, and unusual physical behaviors, such as:

  • Delays in being able to ride a bicycle, catch a ball, or climb play equipment

  • Clumsiness when walking or doing other activities

  • Repetitive finger flapping, twisting, or whole body movements

Many children with Asperger Syndrome are very active, and may also be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Anxiety or depression may develop during adolescence and young adulthood. Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and a tic disorder such as Tourette syndrome may be seen.

Exams and Tests

A health care provider experienced in diagnosing and treating autism is usually needed to make the actual diagnosis. Because there is no physical test for Asperger Syndrome, the diagnosis will often be based on very specific criteria from a certain medical handbook.

Most doctors look for a core group of behaviors to help them diagnose Asperger Syndrome. These behaviors include:

  • Abnormal eye contact

  • Aloofness

  • Failure to turn when called by name

  • Failure to use gestures to point or show

  • Lack of interactive play

  • Lack of interest in peers

Symptoms may be noticeable in the first few months of life. Problems should be obvious by age 3 years.

Physical, emotional, and mental tests are done to rule out other causes and look more closely for signs of this syndrome. The team that will see your child may include a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who are experts in diagnosing children with Asperger Syndrome.

Informal Childhood Developmental Checklist

Treatment

There is no single best treatment for all children with Asperger Syndrome. Most experts feel that the earlier treatment is started, the better.

Programs for children with Asperger Syndrome teach skills by building on a series of simple steps, using highly structured activities. Important tasks or points are repeated over time to help reinforce certain behaviors.

Types of programs may include:

  • Cognitive behavior or talk therapy, to help children manage their emotions, repetitive behaviors, and obsessions

  • Parent training, to teach techniques that can be used at home

  • Physical or occupational therapy, to help with motor skills and sensory problems

  • Social skills training, often taught in a group

  • Speech and language therapy, to help with the skill of everyday conversation

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, and stimulants may be used to treat problems such as anxiety, depression, problems with paying attention, and aggression.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With treatment, many children and their families can learn to cope with the problems of Asperger Syndrome. Social interaction and personal relationships may still pose a problem. However, many adults with Asperger Syndrome work successfully in mainstream jobs and are able to have an independent life, if they have the right kind of support available.

Resources

Dr. Tony Attwood, world renowned Asperger Syndrome expert, offers a complete and in-depth understanding of Aspergers Syndrome in his best seller The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome.  As he  once told me during an interview: “When I learn someone has just been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome I shake their hand and say….Congratulations! You have Aspergers!”

Asperger Syndrome

Although people with Asperger Syndrome often have difficulty socially, many have above-average intelligence. They may excel in fields such as computer programming and science. There is no delay in their cognitive development, ability to take care of themselves, or curiosity about their environment.

Aspergers101 produced a low-budget but extremely credible overview of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome titled: Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-Age Children Diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome.

This one-hour documentary offers a glimpse into the medical diagnosis as well as the challenges that often are attributed to Aspergers. Excellent view for newly diagnosed families or the caregivers that want to learn more! Coping to Excelling DVD

Aspergers101

Website: http://www.aspergers101.org

Asperger’s Association of New England
Website: http://www.aane.org
E-Mail address: info@aane.org
Phone: (617) 393-3824

ASPEN (Asperger Syndrome Education Network)
Website: http://www.aspennj.org
E-Mail address: info@AspenNJ.org
Phone: (732) 321-0880

Autism Women’s Network, Inc
Website: http://autismwomensnetwork.org
E-Mail address: info@autismwomensnetwork.org
Phone: (402) 512-3610

Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Website: http://www.autisticadvocacy.org
E-Mail address: info@autisticadvocacy.org
Phone: (202) 596-1056

GRASP – The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership
Website: http://www.grasp.org
Phone: (888) 474-7277

My Asperger Child
website: http://www.myaspergerschild.com/
My Asperger’s Child is a blog that highlights how parents can best cope with children who have Asperger’s Syndrome and best accommodate for the specific needs associate with it.

OASIS (Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support) 
MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome
Website: http://www.aspergersyndrome.org
E-Mail address: info@aspergersyndrome.org
Phone: 219-662-1311

US Autism & Asperger Association
Website: http://www.usautism.org
E-Mail address: information@usautism.org
Phone: (888) 928-8476

Other Resources:

The Family Center on Technology and Disability

A resource designed to support organizations and programs that work with families of children and youth with disabilities. We offer a range of information and services on the subject of assistive and instructional technologies.

Auties

Website for the first global employment service by people on the spectrum for all people on the autistic spectrum.

Yale University Learning Disability Clinic

The major center in the United States for research on Asperger’s Syndrome is at Yale University. Read about their general research on this topic or go directly to the Asperger’s Syndrome page.

Pacer Center

The mission of the PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) Center is to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents.

IEP Listserv on YAHOO!

A ListServ allows you to join an on-going e-mail “chat” on a specific topic. This particular ListServ consists of a group of parents discussing IEP-related issues.

First Signs, Inc.

A non-profit organization dedicated to educating parents and physicians about the early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders in early childhood.

MAAP Services, Inc.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information and advice to families of More advanced individuals with Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Through its quarterly newsletter, The Maap, the organization provides the opportunity for parents and professionals to network with others in similar circumstances and to learn about more advanced individuals within the autism spectrum.

The Friendship Circle Listserv For Kids

A support list for kids with neurological disorders, as well as, kids who have siblings with neurological disorders. This is a safe place for kids to seek support, or just make friends and talk about kid stuff. The list is moderated by the mother of a child with Asperger’s’s Syndrome.

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