Asperger Syndrome
all information

Asperger Syndrome

(Asperger Disorder)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Asperger syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder resulting in social and behavioral problems. Autism is another condition within this category. Asperger syndrome is viewed by some scientists as a distinct disease and by others as a less severe type of autism. Children with Asperger syndrome usually have normal intelligence and do not have the language problems typical of autism.

Causes

The cause of Asperger syndrome is unknown. Some experts believe a variety of factors may be responsible for the faulty brain development.

Infant Brain—Period of Rapid Development

Infant Brain and skull

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Asperger syndrome is more common in boys.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually become noticeable around 2½ or 3 years of age. Symptoms may range from mild to severe.

Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty interacting with others
  • Trouble making friends
  • Poor understanding of other people's feelings
  • Insensitivity to social cues and facial expressions
  • Inappropriate social and emotional responses
  • Preoccupation with one's own world
  • Not sharing enjoyment, interests, or achievements with others
  • Following repetitive routines
  • Single mindedness
  • Limited interests, usually one or two subjects
  • Repeating words or phrases over and over
  • Intense interest in a few topics
  • Good rote memory without understanding the information
  • Limited verbal skills or using words in odd ways
  • Difficulty imagining things or thinking abstractly
  • Taking things very literally
  • Focusing on small details and having trouble seeing the bigger picture
  • Ability to read without understanding the words
  • Problems with nonverbal communication
  • Poor eye contact
  • Few facial expressions, except for anger or unhappiness
  • Impaired body posturing or use of gestures
  • Clumsy movements
  • Hand flapping
  • Poor coordination
  • Inflexibility or trouble accepting change
  • Difficulty accepting loss or criticism
  • Desire to finish any tasks that are started

Diagnosis

There are no tests for Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis is based on observations of the child's behavior. Neuropsychological and IQ tests may be given. Medical tests may be ordered to help rule out other conditions. Children and their families can benefit from early intervention. Knowing what is wrong also helps families understand why the child acts differently than other children.

Treatment

There is no treatment to cure Asperger syndrome. Treatments aim to control symptoms and improve social skills. Patients often learn to function independently as adults. However, they usually continue to experience problems with social interaction. They also may develop mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety . Children with Asperger syndrome need love and understanding, as well as a structured schedule.

Therapies include:

Medication

Drugs to help control symptoms may include:

  • Stimulants
  • Mood-altering drugs
  • Drugs to control seizures

Counseling

Behavior modification therapy and training can help children develop social skills. Learning how to make and keep friends is difficult for these children. As they grow up, many find the lack of friends troubling.

Family Care

Caring for a child with Asperger syndrome can be a high-stress job. Counselors help parents learn how to manage their child's behavior. Suggestions include:

  • Give warnings that an activity is about to end and provide ways to "save" the task for later. For instance, a favorite television show may be taped for later viewing.
  • Try to incorporate some flexibility into the day.
  • Set limits on the amount of time the child can spend on a single, obsessive activity.
  • Keep directions simple.
  • Use precise words.
  • Limit choices to two or three things.
  • Avoid using figures of speech.
  • Make lists.
  • Do not assume a child with this disorder understands what has been said simply because he or she can repeat it back to you.
  • Start explaining at an early age what is appropriate behavior for public and private places.
  • Do not make idle threats or promises.
  • Give praise for accomplishments, especially social skills.

Educational Needs

Children with Asperger syndrome usually have a normal IQ but have special educational needs. They often can attend regular schools. Educators should be informed of the child's needs. Asperger children are often teased or bullied, because they seem different.

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing Asperger syndrome and other pervasive developmental disorders.

RESOURCES:

Asperger Syndrome Coalition of the United States
http://www.asc-us.org

Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support
http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Autism Society Canada
http://www.autismsocietycanada.ca/index_e.html

Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support
http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/suppCAN.html

References:

Asperger Syndrome Coalition of the United States website. Available at: http://www.asc-us.org .

Cashin A, Sci DA. Two terms-one meaning: the conundrum of contemporary nomenclature in autism. J Child Adolesc Psychiatr Nurs. 2006;19:137-144.

The National Autistic Society website. Available at: http://www.nas.org.uk/ .

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/ .

National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: http://www.rarediseases.org/ .

Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics .16th ed. WB Saunders Company; 2000.

Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support website. Available at: http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/ .



Last reviewed November 2007 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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