Understanding Aspergers Syndrome

 

Aspergers syndrome is one of the autism spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). This neurological disorder makes it difficult for children to make friends and interact with others because they are socially awkward. It is different from autism in that children with Aspergers usually have normal speech development, talk by age two and have few if any delays in developmental milestones. They often have excellent auditory and visual perception and possess a average to above average IQ.  

SYMPTOMS:

  • Poor social skills, have a hard time relating to others, lack the instinct and skills needed to express thoughts and feelings, and have the inability to empathize or return emotion. 
  • May not recognize verbal or non-verbal cues or understand social norms like eye contact or personal space
  • May have flat speech patterns that lack pitch, tone and accent or may speak very formally.
  • May use language literally and not understand humor or sarcasm, or the may speak without much emotion.
  • Might lack coordination, have unusual facial expressions, body postures, poor handwriting, poor balance, and difficultly with motor skills. Some may flap their hands.
  • May only have a few interests or focus intensely on a specific topic or subject.
  • Might be bothered by loud noises, lights, strong tastes or textures.
  • Crave routine, schedules, and rigidity or feel that the world is out of control.
  • Have sleep problems, nocturnal awakenings, or early morning awakenings.

DIAGNOSIS:

Because children with Aspergers Syndrome usually speak on time and have no significant delays in developmental milestones, a diagnosis is often not made until the child is between the ages of 4-11. Usually, parents notice unusual symptoms and bring these to the attention of their pediatrician. If the disorder is suspected, your doctor may refer you to a specialist to assess your child’s speech and language abilities, IQ, social skills level and motor abilities.

TREATMENT:

Treatment usually includes a variety of interventions including speech and language therapy, behavior modification, social skills training and educational interventions. Because children with PDD often have other conditions like ADHD, depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, medications may also be prescribed.

SPECIAL EDUCATION:

Specialized services can help a child with Asperger's Syndrome by assisting them with social and behavioral difficulties, issues with organization, self care and social relationships. Sometimes, these children experience anxiety if their schedule is disrupted or can become agitated if they are placed in situations that don’t have a clear schedule or expectations.

GOALS:

Children with Aspergers Syndrome can have behavioral goals in place of academic goals in their individual education plan (IEP) if the child is not experiencing academic difficulties. Or, a combination of behavioral and academic goals may be needed.

If your child has been recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, you should contact your school and request a special education evaluation. Treatment recommendations from your doctor should be shared with the IEP team when determining your child’s goals and modifications.

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To obtain more information about Aspergers I'd also recommend visiting the site Asperger's Syndrome Parent.