Asperger’s Syndrome

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Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger's syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics.

 

Doctors group Asperger's syndrome with other conditions that are called autistic spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders. These disorders all involve problems with social skills and communication.

Causes:

It's not clear what causes Asperger's syndrome, although changes in certain genes may be involved. The disorder also seems to be linked to changes in the structure of the brain.

Symptoms:

  • Engaging in one-sided, long-winded conversations, without noticing if the listener is listening or trying to change the subject
  • Displaying unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures
  • Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects, such as baseball statistics, train schedules, weather or snakes
  • Appearing not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others' feelings
  • Having a hard time reading other people or understanding humor
  • Speaking in a voice that is monotonous, rigid or unusually fast
  • Moving clumsily, with poor coordination

Unlike children with more-severe forms of autism spectrum disorders, those with Asperger's syndrome usually don't have delays in the development of language skills.

Toddlers and school-age children with Asperger's syndrome may not show an interest in friendships. Youngsters with Asperger's often have developmental delays in their motor skills, such as walking, catching a ball or playing on playground equipment.

In early childhood, kids with Asperger's may be quite active. By young adulthood, people with Asperger's syndrome may experience depression or anxiety.

All kids have their quirks, and many toddlers show a sign or symptom of Asperger's syndrome at some point. It's natural for small children to be egocentric, and many children show a strong interest in a particular topic, such as dinosaurs or a favorite fictional character. These generally aren't reasons to be alarmed.

Treatment:

The core signs of Asperger's syndrome can't be cured. However, many children with Asperger's syndrome grow into happy and well-adjusted adults.

Most children benefit from early specialized interventions that focus on behavior management and social skills training.

Children with Asperger's syndrome may be able to learn the unwritten rules of socialization and communication when taught in an explicit and rote fashion, much like the way students learn foreign languages. Children with Asperger's syndrome may also learn how to speak in a more natural rhythm, as well as how to interpret communication techniques, such as gestures, eye contact, and tone of voice, humor and sarcasm.

Cognitive behavioral therapy encompasses many techniques aimed at curbing problem behaviors, such as interrupting, obsessions, meltdowns or angry outbursts, as well as developing skills such as recognizing feelings and coping with anxiety.

There are no medications that specifically treat Asperger's syndrome. But some medications may improve specific symptoms, such as anxiety, depression or hyperactivity.

Asperger's syndrome can be a difficult, lonely disorder, both for affected children and their parents. The disorder brings difficulties socializing and communicating with your child. It may also mean fewer play dates and birthday invitations and more stares at the grocery store from people who don't understand that a child's meltdown is part of a disability, not the result of bad parenting.

Luckily, as this disorder gains recognition and attention, there are ways to treat Asperger’s syndrome such as therapy and medication to treat symptoms. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome grow into happy and well-adjusted adults.

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