A developmental disorder affecting primarily children, Asperger’s Syndrome affects one’s ability to socialize, communicate with others and the use of one’s imagination. Asperger’s is part of a group of developmental disorders called pervasive developmental disorders, which are disorders that involved issues with social skills and communication. Though Asperger’s is in many ways similar to autism, there are a few key differences. Children with Asperger’s generally function better in day to day activities, they have normal intelligence and near-normal language development during childhood, though they may develop issues communicating with others as they get older.
The three most common symptoms of Asperger’s are issues with social interactions and relationships, verbal and/or nonverbal communication and limited interests in playing with others or activities.
- Social Interactions and relationships
- Problems developing nonverbal communication skills such as eye contact, body posture and facial expressions.
- Having one-sided or long-wined conversations without noticing if the listener is paying attention or attempting to change the subject.
- Lack of empathy. Appearing to not understand or be sensitive to another person’s feelings.
- Delay in or lack of learning to talk.
- Difficulty understanding another perspective.
- Repetitive use of language, repeating a phrase over and over.
- Issues starting up a conversation or continuing a conversation once it as begun.
- Playing with others/activities
- Preoccupation with certain topics. Individual will be fascinated and fixated on certain games, movies or activities.
- Need for routines.
- Unusual focus on pieces such as a certain part of a toy versus the toy itself.
- Stereotyped behaviors such as body rocking and hand gestures.
There presently is not a set cause for Asperger’s syndrome. Through research, doctors have detected that there seems to be a genetic link to Asperger’s. In addition, there seems to be a link among those suffering with Asperger’s with structural abnormalities in a number or regions in the brain.
Early detection of Asperger’s is crucial to ensure successful development of the child. If detected in its early stages, there are a number or activities and treatments that ensure the child reaches his or her full potential. Tests to diagnose Asperger’s include a number of behavioral and physical assessments. Behavioral assessments such as observing the interactions with other children, whether or not the child points out objects, delayed reactions as well as intelligence tests are all used to test the interactions the child has with their surroundings. Physical assessments include standard physicals to measure height, weight and head circumference, hearing tests and testing for lead poisoning, a common cause that can be treated.
The core symptoms of Asperger’s cannot be cured. Early intervention if the disorder is detected in its first stages helps to lessen the symptoms. There are also a number of therapies that can help maintain the symptoms of Asperger’s though there are no medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common treatment for the disorder. These techniques focus on helping the child focus on recognizing troublesome situations and working past them rather than resulting in angry outbursts, meltdowns or interrupting. Also helping with anxiety issues, these treatments help children deal with a number of social demands. Other treatments include social skills and communication training in which children are taught the unwritten social rules and communication skills. They learn to speak in a smoother, natural rhythm and learn how to interpret nonverbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language.