Asperger’s Disorder

Asperger’s Disorder

Asperger’s Disorder

Asperger’s or Asperger syndrome (AS) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by having difficulty in interacting socially with other people. Most cases are diagnosed in childhood, with signs showing by the time the child is two years old, but Asperger’s can also be diagnosed in adulthood.

The symptoms of Asperger’s can cause significant impairment in functioning at home, work, school, or social settings, so the earlier the diagnosis and treatment plan, the better prepared someone can be for the future.

Asperger syndrome is considered to be the mildest condition on the autism spectrum. When diagnosed in adults, it can be due to the condition being missed or incorrectly diagnosed as something else when the individual is younger.

“Autism Spectrum Disorder”National Institute of Mental Health.

Prevalence

Asperger’s affects approx. 0.5% of the global population and affects more males than females, which may in part be due to females showing a different mix of symptoms to males.

Symptoms of Asperger’s Disorder:

Asperger’s is generally identified in people with difficulty in typical everyday social interactions. As with autism, early diagnosis and intervention for Asperger’s is very important for the future quality of life of the individual.

Early signs

In the first year, a child with Asperger’s has no significant delay in learning language, intellectual development, behavior, curiosity about their surroundings, or the development of age-appropriate self-help skills.

Between the ages of two and five, other symptoms may appear like:

  • Various sensitivities to:

    • Taste and smell
    • Sound – Loud sounds other children are not upset by
    • Tactile – Disliking how certain clothes or sheets feel
    • Touch – Disliking getting hugs from people
  • A reduced or no capacity for empathy in response to other children in distress
  • A sudden loss of language skills
  • A change in how they act and react to people compared to other children their age
  • An extreme interest in numbers and letters, and an ability to explain words without understanding them
  • An early aptitude for talking (in some cases before the child can walk)

Asperger’s is demonstrated by a minimum of two of these symptoms during social interaction:


Teenagers and adults

  • Serious difficulty with eye contact
  • Difficulty with communicating using facial expressions or other nonverbal communication skills
  • Awkward or clumsy body language – postures and gestures
  • Difficulty or inability to make friends with kids the same age
  • Failure to express empathy or portray other emotional responses such as interest during social interaction
  • Repetitive behaviors or limited range of activities or interests, demonstrated by at least one of the following:

    • An uncommonly intense obsession with one or two topics, such as NFL game stats or spaceships
    • Repetitive hand or finger gestures or whole-body movements like rocking
    • A hyper-focused level of interest in parts of objects, accompanied by an uncommon understanding and significant vocabulary on the topic, and sometimes an insistence on bringing up the topic when talking with people
    • A relentless adoption of rituals or routines that seem unimportant to other people
  • May speak at great length without being aware of the listener’s interest, nor are they able to pick up on their social cues.
  • Potential difficulty comprehending humor or reading people

These symptoms can lead to people with Asperger’s mistakenly seeming insensitive.

Treatment of Asperger’s Disorder:

Asperger’s is a complex syndrome, and there is no single treatment. While it affects each person differently, having the child enter the right treatment method, once identified, will help them function better in challenging social settings, as well as help them identify and operate in their strengths.

Assessments examine symptoms, communication patterns, current and past behaviors, social interaction skills, motivations, and expectations. They also look at how the individual’s brain and nervous system influence their thought process and behavior.

Treatment options include non-pharmacological approaches such as:

  • Parent education and training – Effective treatment is dependent on parents supporting it and implementing it at home. Parents and other caregivers work with the child to build on their strengths and interests, and to establish structure. The more consistency the caregivers give, the greater the changes are for seeing improvements in the child’s behavior.
  • Speech-language therapy and social skills training – With a lot of training and practice, children with Asperger syndrome can work to appropriately and effectively communicate their feelings and thoughts with others.


    Social skills training methods can include using:

    • exercises that place the children in social settings
    • visual techniques like social stories
    • putting the child in a group of peers

    These skills include increasing both the child’s understanding of gestures, humor, eye contact, and voice inflection, as well as their use of these skills themselves where needed.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – An effective tool in helping with regulating emotions; establishing control around one’s impulses; and alleviating fear, anxiety, or depression. CBT helps by changing the child’s thoughts about particular situations, and these changes produce improvements in the child’s behavior.

    The more tailored the CBT is, the more effective the treatment will be to successfully address the specific challenges the person with the condition is facing, enabling them to have more appropriate responses in particular settings by preparing for those situations.

  • Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) – In addition to working on a reduction in the number of behavioral problems in those with autism, applied behavior analysis has been used to teach a range of skills in play, social settings, communication, academics, self-care, and reading. ABA also teaches skills applicable to a successful work life like fine motor skills, punctuality, and hygiene, etc. through highly-structured programs.

    ABA has a three-step teaching process that includes:


    • A command or request initiator delivered by physical or verbal means by the patient or another person
    • A response that acknowledges or ignores the command or request
    • A conditioning delivered by a consequence like a positive reinforcement, or no reaction, which correlates to the response behavior
  • Sensory integration / occupational therapy – Some children may need help to establish or increase the degree of control they have over their own bodies and their reactions to external stimuli. This can be accomplished by working with occupational therapists.

    Results from successful treatment include:


    • Increased control over emotions, sounds, and bodily motion
    • Reduced awkwardness, instability, or clumsiness
    • Improved response to various sounds or touches
    • Improved social skills and ability to blend in

In addition to crafting a comprehensive treatment plan, a doctor will seek to gain a full understanding of the child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to best help them navigate the now and work toward a successful future.

Many children with Asperger’s have symptoms can actually be strengths, and with the right guidance and support, these can be leveraged later in their career.

Remarkable skills commonly found in people with Asperger’s are:


  • Rote memory skills
  • Uncommon academic skill
  • Visual thinking
  • Recognizing patterns and order
  • Following rules
  • Conviction and passion
  • Comfort and compatibility with adults
  • Adults often have a remarkable ability to focus and solve problems.
 

Symptoms of Asperger’s Disorder:

Asperger’s is generally identified in people with difficulty in typical everyday social interactions. As with autism, early diagnosis and intervention for Asperger’s is very important for the future quality of life of the individual.

Early signs

In the first year, a child with Asperger’s has no significant delay in learning language, intellectual development, behavior, curiosity about their surroundings, or the development of age-appropriate self-help skills.

Between the ages of two and five, other symptoms may appear like:

  • Various sensitivities to:

    • Taste and smell
    • Sound – Loud sounds other children are not upset by
    • Tactile – Disliking how certain clothes or sheets feel
    • Touch – Disliking getting hugs from people
  • A reduced or no capacity for empathy in response to other children in distress
  • A sudden loss of language skills
  • A change in how they act and react to people compared to other children their age
  • An extreme interest in numbers and letters, and an ability to explain words without understanding them
  • An early aptitude for talking (in some cases before the child can walk)

Asperger’s is demonstrated by a minimum of two of these symptoms during social interaction:


Teenagers and adults

  • Serious difficulty with eye contact
  • Difficulty with communicating using facial expressions or other nonverbal communication skills
  • Awkward or clumsy body language – postures and gestures
  • Difficulty or inability to make friends with kids the same age
  • Failure to express empathy or portray other emotional responses such as interest during social interaction
  • Repetitive behaviors or limited range of activities or interests, demonstrated by at least one of the following:

    • An uncommonly intense obsession with one or two topics, such as NFL game stats or spaceships
    • Repetitive hand or finger gestures or whole-body movements like rocking
    • A hyper-focused level of interest in parts of objects, accompanied by an uncommon understanding and significant vocabulary on the topic, and sometimes an insistence on bringing up the topic when talking with people
    • A relentless adoption of rituals or routines that seem unimportant to other people
  • May speak at great length without being aware of the listener’s interest, nor are they able to pick up on their social cues.
  • Potential difficulty comprehending humor or reading people

These symptoms can lead to people with Asperger’s mistakenly seeming insensitive.

 

Treatment of Asperger’s Disorder:

Asperger’s is a complex syndrome, and there is no single treatment. While it affects each person differently, having the child enter the right treatment method, once identified, will help them function better in challenging social settings, as well as help them identify and operate in their strengths.

Assessments examine symptoms, communication patterns, current and past behaviors, social interaction skills, motivations, and expectations. They also look at how the individual’s brain and nervous system influence their thought process and behavior.

Treatment options include non-pharmacological approaches such as:

  • Parent education and training – Effective treatment is dependent on parents supporting it and implementing it at home. Parents and other caregivers work with the child to build on their strengths and interests, and to establish structure. The more consistency the caregivers give, the greater the changes are for seeing improvements in the child’s behavior.
  • Speech-language therapy and social skills training – With a lot of training and practice, children with Asperger syndrome can work to appropriately and effectively communicate their feelings and thoughts with others.


    Social skills training methods can include using:

    • exercises that place the children in social settings
    • visual techniques like social stories
    • putting the child in a group of peers

    These skills include increasing both the child’s understanding of gestures, humor, eye contact, and voice inflection, as well as their use of these skills themselves where needed.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – An effective tool in helping with regulating emotions; establishing control around one’s impulses; and alleviating fear, anxiety, or depression. CBT helps by changing the child’s thoughts about particular situations, and these changes produce improvements in the child’s behavior.

    The more tailored the CBT is, the more effective the treatment will be to successfully address the specific challenges the person with the condition is facing, enabling them to have more appropriate responses in particular settings by preparing for those situations.

  • Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) – In addition to working on a reduction in the number of behavioral problems in those with autism, applied behavior analysis has been used to teach a range of skills in play, social settings, communication, academics, self-care, and reading. ABA also teaches skills applicable to a successful work life like fine motor skills, punctuality, and hygiene, etc. through highly-structured programs.

    ABA has a three-step teaching process that includes:


    • A command or request initiator delivered by physical or verbal means by the patient or another person
    • A response that acknowledges or ignores the command or request
    • A conditioning delivered by a consequence like a positive reinforcement, or no reaction, which correlates to the response behavior
  • Sensory integration / occupational therapy – Some children may need help to establish or increase the degree of control they have over their own bodies and their reactions to external stimuli. This can be accomplished by working with occupational therapists.

    Results from successful treatment include:


    • Increased control over emotions, sounds, and bodily motion
    • Reduced awkwardness, instability, or clumsiness
    • Improved response to various sounds or touches
    • Improved social skills and ability to blend in

In addition to crafting a comprehensive treatment plan, a doctor will seek to gain a full understanding of the child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to best help them navigate the now and work toward a successful future.

Many children with Asperger’s have symptoms can actually be strengths, and with the right guidance and support, these can be leveraged later in their career.

Remarkable skills commonly found in people with Asperger’s are:


  • Rote memory skills
  • Uncommon academic skill
  • Visual thinking
  • Recognizing patterns and order
  • Following rules
  • Conviction and passion
  • Comfort and compatibility with adults
  • Adults often have a remarkable ability to focus and solve problems.