Asperger’s syndrome is an “Autism Spectrum Disorder” that is named after Doctor Hans Asperger. What he found was certain kids had normal levels of intelligence and language development, but fell short in social skills and communication with others. It was first diagnosed as mild autism, but then found to be a disorder in its own right.
The syndrome is four times more prevalent in boys. Asperger’s syndrome statistics are not widely known, but 1 in 88 children that are 8 years of age or older are estimated to have an “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” There have not been any studies to see if Asperger’s is present in adults, but children are known to develop more problems and disorders as they reach their teen and adult years. This article will help you understand more about Asperger’s Syndrome and how to effectively manage it.
It is a normal social skill for humans to interact and judge each other’s behaviors. We learn to read body language, expressions on faces, and vocal tones early on in life. We can tell if others are happy or sad and how to respond properly to those social cues.
In Asperger’s syndrome, sufferers are not sure what social cues mean. They tend to respond inappropriately or not respond at all in certain situations. It is different from Autism because Asperger’s kids speak very well and are very intelligent. They are actually above average in verbal skills. Some may have slight learning disabilities, but not from low IQ. Often, Asperger’s kids need to be taught differently than other children.
Asperger’s kids enjoy interaction with others, they just don’t understand social rules. They may be over intrusive or lack empathy towards others. They tend to make very little eye contact or do not gesture or use facial expressions when speaking.They also show signs of “Sensory Processing Disorder.” With this, they also tend to get overstimulated and some show signs of hyperactivity, some may just shut down. This happens when there are too many lights and sounds to process. They may also not like certain textures of food or clothing.
What Are the Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome?
The symptoms of Asperger’s usually appear when children go into groups of other children. This may happen as early as preschool or daycare, but often after kindergarten. Symptoms include:
Inability to read social cues from others. Cannot start conversations or take turns.
Needs strict structure and routines.
Lack of empathy towards others.
Cannot read different speech tones. Doesn’t laugh at jokes or gets upset with sarcasm.
Speaks in very advanced vocabulary. “That is quite breathtaking.” Instead of just, “That’s pretty.”
Tends to over talk about one thing and conversations are one-sided.
Inappropriately verbalizes internal thoughts. Blurts things out.
Lack of eye contact with others. May stare at others or stare into space.
Uses different facial expressions. For example, smiling when told a sad story, frowning when told something funny.
Uses odd postures.
Preoccupation with one activity.
May be obsessed with one topic. Knows everything about the planets, certain animals, etc.
Delayed motor skills. May not be able to zip zippers, button a button, or ride a bike. Writing is illegible and they may be very clumsy.
They get very overstimulated by lights, sounds, crowds, textures, and tastes.
Causes of Asperger’s Syndrome
The causes of Asperger’s syndrome have not completely been determined. The only clue is that Autism spectrum disorders tend to run in families. If a sibling has an Autism spectrum disorder, there is a chance that another child may have one.
There are some speculations that the cause may be environmental from exposure to chemicals, pregnancy complications, or infection in the mother during pregnancy. Other possibilities look at the question of whether exposure to vaccines may be a factor, but these have been discredited.
Risk Factors for Asperger’s Syndrome
Since there is no known cause of Asperger’s, there are no identifiable risk factors. The only exception is if a sibling has an Autism spectrum disorder chances are another sibling may have one too.
Testing & Diagnosis for Asperger’s Syndrome
Children with suspected Asperger’s syndrome need to start with a visit to their regular pediatrician to rule out other causes for their symptoms. They are then referred for psychological and psychiatric testing.
Psychiatrists check to see if they meet these criteria:
Lack of social skills
Highly intelligent vocabulary skills
Able to perform daily tasks
To see if a child meets the above, they perform the following tests:
Psychological Testing IQ testing, intellectual testing, ability to learn, and motor skills assessments. They also test the child’s personality.
Ability to Communicate They take a look at the child’s ability to speak and use of vocabulary. They look to see how well they can communicate an idea to others. They examine gestures and non-verbal communication. Ability to understand humor and sarcasm are also assessed.
Psychiatric Evaluation Psychiatrists usually do observations of the child at play and during interactions. They will check the ability of your child to react and process certain situations. They also look for anxiety, hyperactivity, and depression.
What is the Treatment for Asperger’s Syndrome?
There are a few different options for treating Asperger’s syndrome:
Parents and family members will learn how to deal with Asperger’s and understand the disorder completely. Parents can learn social skills and behavior training for the child and put it into practice in the home.
Social Skills-Speech Training
With proper training, Asperger’s kids can learn proper social skills and conversational techniques. They will learn appropriate gestures and good ways to express thoughts in conversation.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Kids with Asperger’s tend to have poor impulse control. CBT can help them regulate their behavior, emotions, and control any anxiety. They can be trained to reduce outbursts, blurting, obsessive behaviors, and interrupting others.
Occupational Therapy/Sensory Integrative Therapy
Sensory processing disorder is common with Asperger’s and can be controlled with a sensory diet. Kids and parents participate in a program to learn how to control the sensory load. This can help improve social skills, reduce anxiety, and other behaviors.
Treatments for Asperger’s Syndrome
There are no specific medications for Asperger’s syndrome. Some of these children are responsive to medications for anxiety or depression. They may also need medication for attention disorders. Decision to use medication is a decision the treatment team makes with the parent for the best interest of the child.
Lifestyle Changes For Asperger’s Syndrome
There are things you can do in the home to improve the quality of life and behaviors in a child with Asperger’s:
Keep routines the same for mealtimes, bedtime, homework, and chores.
Be very direct and concise about what you want from your child.
Break everything into small pieces. They have trouble looking at “big tasks.”
Use visual aids and things to help keep organized.
Keep the house quiet and low-lit. Try not to have too many TV’s on, radios, and things going on at once.
You may notice your child is obsessed with TV, video games, and electronics. Try to give them a “cut-off” time and keep these devices out of the bedroom at night. Lack of sleep makes symptoms worse. Asperger’s causes slow maturity times. They may not “act their own age” and don’t expect that of them. This can cause frustration.
Reduce stressful triggers in the home. Keep routines the same, avoid crowds of people, and prepare them well for any changes that may take place.
Alternative Medicine for Asperger’s
A few alternative natural remedies have shown to help Asperger’s syndrome symptoms. These include:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids In studies, some kids showed improvement in their symptoms with Omega-3 fatty acids. However, there were no control studies done so this has not been proven.
Vitamin B6 It is suggested that 500 mg of vitamin B6 may be helpful.
Magnesium Magnesium may also be helpful and suggested dose is 400mg daily. Use caution because 400 mg can cause side-effects and toxicity.
Vitamin C Vitamin C can be helpful with brain function, cognition, and improve depression.
Always check with your child’s doctor before using alternative medicine.
Prevention of Asperger’s
There is no way of preventing Asperger’s syndrome and there is no cure.
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