Aspergers syndrome affects approximately 2 out of every 10,000 children. The condition falls under a group of conditions known as autistic spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders along with autism, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), Rett syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Asperger syndrome affects a child's ability to socialize and communicate with other children and is considered a developmental disorder. Cases of Asperger are three to four times more likely to occur in boys, and children with Aspergers often exhibit the symptoms of autism.
What is Aspergers Syndrome?
Aspergers syndrome is a developmental disorder that is considered to be one of the milder conditions categorized under autistic spectrum disorders. Asperger syndrome characteristically affects the child's social skill development leading to social awkwardness that includes physical movements or gestures.
A child with asperger syndrome is also likely to exhibit all-absorbing interest in a specific topic characterized by repetitive behaviors and interests. The individual may often be viewed as odd or eccentric by others.
Signs and Symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome
There are a variety of symptoms associated with Asperger's syndrome. Signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome behavior can be similar to the symptoms of autism and can include the following:
- Taking part in long, one-sided conversations that do not take the listener's interest into account
- Long-winded conversations that focus on one topic with no subject change
- Unusual nonverbal communication such as lack of eye contact, little facial expression, and awkward body posture and gestures
- Intense obsession with specific and narrow subjects such as sports statistics or snakes
- Appearing to show no understanding, empathy, or sensitivity towards others' feelings
- Difficulty understanding humor
- Difficulty "reading" others
- Monotonous, rigid, or fast speech
- Rigid movement when walking
It is important to remember that most children will show eccentricities at some point in their lives and many will have a focused interest in particular topics. However, when a child's eccentricities begins to interfere with learning and social development that often leads to problems at school and difficulty making friends, it may be appropriate to seek evaluation.
Asperger Syndrome Cause
There seems to be a strong genetic component to the Asperger syndrome cause; however, doctors and researchers are not exactly sure as to what causes this condition. The Aspergers disorder, however, has been linked to structural abnormalities in certain regions of the brain.
Diagnosing Aspergers Syndrome
A diagnosis of Asperger syndrome can be difficult since the symptoms and severity of the disorder vary in each case. A comprehensive assessment by a team of professionals may be recommended if your child shows signs of Asperger. Children with Asperger's are unfortunately often misdiagnosed as having ADHD, an emotional-behavior disorder, or simply labeled as troublemakers prior to appropriate diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Asperger's may involve observation of the child and his or her behavior as well as consultation with parents to assess the child's developmental history and current symptoms. Your child may also be tested for academic and intellectual abilities, speech, language, visual-motor skills, and emotional, behavioral and psychological issues.
Typical treatment of Asperger's syndrome, particularly in young children, will include behavior management and social skills training.
Social skills training is aimed at improving a child's communication skills by explicitly teaching him or her the rules of socialization that are typically assumed or sensed by others. This can include formal teachings on how to interpret gestures, eye contact, tone of voice, humor and sarcasm. Your child may also be taught to speak in a more fluid rhythm.
Behavior management, or cognitive behavior therapy, will depend on the Asperger's symptoms experienced by the child. This therapy can include learning to manage behaviors such as obsessions, interruptions, and outbursts as well building skills such as learning to recognize feelings and how to cope in stressful situations. Your child would also learn how to identify certain situations and any related social demands in order to select an appropriate coping strategy that corresponds to these demands.
Medications to treat certain symptoms or related conditions associated with Asperger are available and include depression, anxiety and hyperactivity medications.
To learn about activities to foster your special needs child's development, visit our Activities for Children with Asperger Syndrome section.