What is ASPERGER’S SYNDROME: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. Asperger’s syndrome was once used to define high functioning autism and the incidence has continued to rise globally in the past 40 years. We really shouldn’t take it lightly.
While the best child specialists and other medical and scientific institutions are on a mission to eradicate this issue, it is fortunate that the ongoing in-depth studies regarding the management and treatment of Asperger’s syndrome have been of great help. More and more options are now being used to treat its symptoms.
But first, what is Asperger’s Syndrome?
It is a type of autism belonging to a broader category referred to as ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder and was once discovered by a pediatrician in Vietnam called Hans Asperger.
Asperger’s is a mental health issue where children diagnosed with it usually show deficits in social communication and interaction as well as restricted and repetitive behaviors, especially when compared to another child with normal language and intelligence development.
For example, such children might find it difficult to read the facial expressions of their mates or to comprehend the emotional content of an ongoing conversation. Also, the child might enjoy doing the same activity over and over again, even if the activity is the same one each time.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of this syndrome usually appear very early in the child’s life and if you as a parent note any of the following symptoms, it is best to consult a healthcare specialist as soon as you can.
A child with Asperger’s might face challenges in interpreting both nonverbal and verbal communication, such that they might find it challenging to understand or properly use:
- Tone of voice
- Facial expressions
- Abstract concepts
- Sarcasm, vagueness, and jokes
When it comes to their interactions with people close to them like their family and friends, kids with the syndrome might:
- Seem to be insensitive
- Choose to spend time alone after interacting with other people
- Behave in a way that comes across as socially inappropriate
They may also:
- Have challenges making eye contact
- Dislike changes
- Have restricted interests – usually in subjects that other people find unusual – but possess distinctive strengths
- Have a strong desire for sameness or repeat the same sentence or movement over and over.
How is it Diagnosed?
Once you notice any of the symptoms listed above and you visit a healthcare specialist, they would first ask the following questions before referring you to a mental health expert.
- What symptoms the child is experiencing.
- When the symptoms were first noticed.
- Whether your child has friends
- Whether your child likes to interact with others.
- How well your child communicates and focuses on tasks.
What are the Causes of Asperger’s Syndrome?
Studies have suggested that abnormalities in the baby’s brain during its development throughout the mother’s pregnancy is one of the likeliest causes of Asperger’s. This, coupled with advanced parental age, maternal health, exposure of the mother to some types of pesticides and air pollution during pregnancy and birth difficulties or premature birth – babies born before the 26th week – which lead to deprivation of oxygen are prime suspects.
Other risk factors include the child’s sex because researchers have found that boys are at least 4 times more likely to develop Asperger’s than girls as well as having some other disorders like the fragile X syndrome.
There has also been speculation that genetics may be involved as cases of Asperger’s have been found to run in families.
Can Asperger’s be Treated?
Definitely! But there is often more than one approach to treatment. These treatment programs usually combine various strategies to address the major symptoms of Asperger’s such as the challenges with social skills and any limited or repetitive routines. It could be one or a combination of the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT which helps the child to think better and to better control his repetitive behaviors and his emotions.
- Social skills training where the therapist teaches the child how to improve his social interaction and how to properly express himself.
- Speech and language therapy which helps the child to improve communication skills, to understand social cues as well as being able to keep up a two-way conversation with someone else.
- Applied behavior analysis which uses positive reinforcement to encourage positive communication skills and social interactions in the child
- The use of medicines such as stimulants and antipsychotic drugs, which are prescribed to help the children with other related symptoms like anxiety and depression
- Parental training and education to cultivate techniques that help the children work on their social skills while at home.
Always remember that Asperger’s syndrome is only a slightly impaired ability and not a disability so don’t treat your children as if they are disabled, instead be there to enable them.
While there isn’t any one treatment for the syndrome available, you as a parent can your part in providing the child with all the emotional and academic support he or she needs in order to succeed.
Stick to a schedule, be consistent with routines, create a safety zone in your house, search for nonverbal cues so that you can communicate more effectively, figure out the motivation behind tantrums – instead of beating the child black and blue to make them stop – create time to play, pay attention to any hypersensitivities and most importantly reward good behavior. For a child in their formative years, nothing beats overcoming a difficult challenge like having positive reinforcement.
People with Asperger’s have been known to be able to live independently and are able to do anything they set their minds to. Why? Because the diagnosis does not in any way define them and if you as a parent have done your part in assisting them in their childhood including taking them through the proper therapies and treatments, they are able to reduce any symptoms they may experience.