Asperger Syndrome: A Developmental Disorder on the Autism Spectrum

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Asperger Syndrome, also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. It was identified by Dr. Hans Asperger, a physician from Vienna in 1944. He published papers that identified certain patterns of behavior in young boys during the 1940s. However, Asperger Syndrome was not recognized in North America until 1994.

Though Asperger Syndrome is more prevalent in boys, girls also suffer from the disorder. These children can exhibit a variety of distinctive qualities that range from mild to severe.

Those with Asperger Syndrome often have difficulties with social skills and interacting and communicating with their peers. The dislike change, cling to sameness and experience problems with transition. They often become obsessed with particular things and follow a routine that is almost ritualistic.

Asperger children do not understand body language and often get in the body space of others. They do not make eye contact and sometimes do not respond to their name. They are hypersensitive to sights, sounds smells and tastes. They may reject certain clothing or food or become upset by lights or sounds that others don't seem to see or hear.

People who have Asperger Syndrome perceive the world differently than non-Asperger individuals. They are sometimes described as eccentric, odd or quirky. They may see the world in black and white with no gray areas. This sometimes make them seem rude or belligerent. These behaviors, that seem odd to non-Asperger individuals are caused by neurological differences. Asperger Syndrome has been described as a short in the wiring of the brain.

Asperger Syndrome children often have a normal IQ. Often they possess exceptional skills or talents in one specific area of interest. Though high functioning, they are often naive or immature and because of this, are often bullied and teased by their peers.

Individuals who have Asperger Syndrome may have an extraordinary vocabulary when very young that causes them to be dubbed, "little professors." These children may sometimes gain a reputation for being troublemakers because of their perception of events.

Symptoms

No two children with Asperger Syndrome will be alike. The disorder is often overlooked until the child attends school. Toddlers with Asperger Syndrome often come off as "cute" when they display symptoms. When they attend kindergarten, symptoms are noticed because of the way they interact with their peers. They are deemed antisocial or described as being loners.

Childhood Symptoms

When children are young, they exhibit symptoms of Asperger Syndrome differently. Not all symptoms must be present for a child to suffer from the disorder. Here are some symptoms that appear in childhood.

The child may appear to lack empathy.

Unable to read body language and speech tone and pitch.

Take figures of speech literally and not recognize sarcasm.

Speech may lack accent, pitch and tone.

May exhibit a dislike for changes in routine.

Often lacks inborn social skills.

Doesn't pick up on social cues or may not be able to start or continue a conversation.

Interrupts constantly and when admonished doesn't understand what he has done wrong.

The child may speak formally and talk in terms that are far advanced for his age.

May avoid eye contact.

May be obsessed with only a few or even one subject and have extensive knowledge of unusual subjects. Asperger children often are interested in architecture, the workings of machines, intricate puzzles and astronomy. They may talk extensively about their obsession even when others aren't interested.

May use odd or unusual facial expressions. Children with Asperger's don't usually smile when asked to do so. Instead, they open their mouths to show their teeth in a kind of grimace.

May talk to themselves in one-way conversations.

May experience delayed motor skills and be late learning to walk, use eating utensils, catch a ball or ride a bike.

May have no interest in sports.

Have an awkward gait and appear to be clumsy.

Flap hands when excited.

Experience overwhelming emotions and meltdowns over small events.

Be over-stimulated by lights, noise, tastes and textures.

May memorize and have advance rote of numbers, baseball statistics, formulas, names, phone numbers or dates. Details are usually accurate and concise.

May display symptoms of other disorders or conditions, which will be specified later in the article.

Adolescent Symptoms

Asperger Syndrome is a life-long disorder. Children do not "outgrow" Asperger's, though they can be taught to lead very productive lives. Still, communication with peers is difficult at any age. Even as adults, they will continue to have problems reading body language and facial expressions.

Teens who suffer from Asperger Syndrome have a burning desire to have friends and be accepted. This may be difficult, as they are often shy or easily intimidated. Trying to fit in with their peers can be emotionally draining and very frustrating. They may be too trusting, seem immature and very naive, which makes them a target for bullying and teasing. This can lead to excessive anxiety and unacceptable touching. The child may become depressed or withdrawn because of circumstances that he faces at school on a daily basis.

Through their school years, some teens that suffer from Asperger Syndrome are able to make a few close friends and maintain those relationships. Some Asperger's traits may be beneficial to your teen. People with Asperger's aren't overly interested in conventional thinking, fads or social norms. They are free-thinking individuals who often blaze their own trail. They are seldom followers and often leaders who pursue their own goals, interests and dreams. They are brutally honest and prefer to follow rules rigidly. This often enables them to excel at school and become leaders of their community as they step into adulthood.

Hand-in-Hand with Asperger Syndrome

There are several conditions and disorders that go hand-in-hand with Asperger Syndrome. They include:

Hyperactivity.

Attention Deficit Disorder.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety Disorder.

Non-verbal Learning Disorder.

Panic Disorder.

Bipolar Disorder.

Agoraphobia.

Depression.

Symptoms of withdrawal.

Conclusion

If your child or teen is experiencing a number of these symptoms, ask that he be assessed in order to find out if he has Asperger Syndrome.

If your child has already been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and becomes paranoid or experiences a high level or anxiety or panic, be sure he sees a health professional immediately. A reassessment may be needed.

Remember, every child and teen that is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome is different. The most important gift you can give them is to learn to know and understand them as individuals. This will take them a long way in their uphill struggle throughout childhood and their teen years.

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