As of DSM 5 in 2013, Aspergers is now considered a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Today, 1 out of 110 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some of these children may never talk, play, or really interact with anyone else nor will they show the desire to.
Other children may be labeled "high functioning" with Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as Aspergers Syndrome. These children may develop cognitively the same or above others as well as be an expert in a certain field or skill. However, their social abilities will range anywhere from socially awkward to socially impaired.
People of all ages are socially awkward, that don't necessarily mean they have Aspergers. A diagnosis is only made when symptoms become a dysfunction in the person's daily life and impair their ability to perform their usual tasks. When parents, teachers, and caregivers are educated about Aspergers, they are able to help the child live a successful and fulfilling life.
15 What Is Aspergers?
Aspergers is a neurobiological disorder. It is now considered a type of Autism Spectrum Disorder and ranges on the mild side. Aspergers is also known as a "high-functioning" type of Autism Spectrum Disorder because it involves less severe symptoms. Children with Aspergers are often described as awkward and socially immature. They are completely capable of functioning in daily life.
Although Aspergers is currently categorized as Autism Spectrum Disorder, the two have quite a few differences. Children with Aspergers do not display delays in language development. They also have average to above average cognitive development, but may have difficulty with their attention spans. The difficulty with attention spans is a result of an obsessive focus on a specific topic unlike Attention Deficit (Hyperactive) Disorder.
14 What to Watch For
Being a child who is simply different is not at all the same as having Aspergers Syndrome. It is common for a child to display average to above average language and cognitive developments, so Aspergers is not something that is always spotted right away.
Children with Aspergers often have social issues. They are usually isolated socially because they have different interests, which are often obsessions for a child with Aspergers, than other kids. They do not pick up on the social cues that most kids their age would. One common sign is if the child does not make eye contact in conversation or when talked to. He or she will have trouble comprehending nonliteral phrases as well as interpreting social and emotional issues and situations.
Many children with Aspergers Syndrome exhibit awkward and repetitive mannerisms or movements. In addition, their motor skills are delayed making them clumsy and sometimes uncoordinated. Some children with Aspergers exhibit symptoms similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They favor routine and like things to be in a certain order, and they are very bothered by change.
13 It's Not About Intelligence
Children with Aspergers have average or even above average cognitive development. It is the same case with language development. Many often focus on one or a couple specific interests. They will even obsess about such interests and can usually become experts on that topic.
Since children with Aspergers do not display any intellectual deficits and in fact, usually excel, their symptoms can be missed and diagnosis delayed. These children want knowledge and crave perfection. These focuses can often become obsessive which is usually a symptom of Aspergers.
Although Aspergers Syndrome is mainly composed of emotional and social issues, some students may struggle when it comes to late middle school-high school. If they have difficulty, it will most likely be due to reading comprehension and writing. This stems from the child's lack of understanding on nonliteral phrases and emotional/social issues. It is difficult to comprehend and truly get the full picture of a book when the student is unable to empathize at all with the characters.
12 The Diagnosis
Aspergers is often difficult to diagnose right away. Many children get a diagnosis first in Attention Deficit (Hyperactive) Disorder because the symptoms can appear similar.
Another delay in diagnosis comes from the issue that the problems lie mostly in a social setting. A child with Aspergers will often display average or above average language and cognitive development as well as having satisfactory test scores meaning no "red flags" are usually raised at school.
As reported by the Asperger Syndrome Coalition of the United States, most kids are diagnosed with Aspergers after the age of three but mostly between the ages of five and nine. A diagnosis can be difficult because people with Aspergers are completely able to function in daily life; although, they do appear to be socially and emotionally different.
Some signs to look for include: poor eye contact, difficulty with motor skills, obsessive tendencies, lack of sociability and trouble reading social cues, anxiety, and anger management problems.
11 Sensory Issues
Those with Aspergers can often be irritated by certain sensory objects. Children are more aware and even hyper-vigilant of sounds and sights. A child with Aspergers may be bothered by a buzzing noise that the rest of us don't even notice. If items do not fit in a certain order, it may also be bothersome to them. Certain lights such as ones that are bright, blinking, or flashing are a common instigator.
Clothing can also pose as another obstacle. Certain fabrics may be a bother to a child with Aspergers. It's not even simply that it's a bother. It's an irritation. It's a distraction, a frustration. Imagine the button on your jeans rubbing against your skin all day and how after awhile you feel like you want to crawl out of your skin or throw your pants across the room.
But instead of an occasional occurrence, it's rather common. That feeling is a common thing.
10 What Causes Aspergers?
"Were you emotionally available to your son/daughter?" "You must've been a bad parent." That's almost like asking someone if he/she loved his/her child. These are actual accusations that have been made to parents of children with Aspergers.
People really believed that a child's parents were the reasons for him/her having Aspergers. THERE IS NO KNOWN CAUSE FOR ASPERGERS SYNDROME. Can we repeat that for those way in the back?
It is believed that there may be a genetic component to Autism disorders including Aspergers, which is a neurological disorder. This genetic component could be linked to blood relatives having other mental disorders such as depression. None of this is supported by significant research. There are only theories so for dramatic effect I'll repeat, there is no known cause for Aspergers Syndrome.
9 The Emotional Aspect
Children with Aspergers are commonly labeled "immature" and "different." This is a result of the social and emotional issues common with this syndrome. It is extremely common for those with Aspergers Syndrome to lack empathy. They simply do not understand the social and emotional situations the way most of us would.
Many also struggle with the ability to understand nonliteral phrases as well as non verbal communication. Anxiety and anger management are often coupled in Aspergers. Children with Aspergers may get inappropriately upset meaning their emotions do not match the situation.
Something that may be a mild annoyance to most kids is a serious frustration or disappointment for a child with Aspergers. It's just how their minds work. They may not fully understand the reasoning right away for the situation or its change.
As difficult as it can be for the parent, it is important to remain calm and understanding. It can be easy to get frustrated and upset when your child is throwing a meltdown because they can't stay at the store or Grandma's when it's time to go home. Your calmness will not only help you get through the meltdown, but it will help to defuse the situation.
Children are known to play off and reflect their parents' emotions from birth on, this is no exception.
8 The Social Aspect
Children with Aspergers Syndrome are often described as being socially lacking. Just as with Autism Spectrum Disorder, these children would often rather play by themselves. Sometimes this is because they have a specific focus that is unusual from other children so nobody else wants to play the same thing as them.
Children with Aspergers are also more self-focused. When having a conversation, it is usually very one-sided. They will more likely discuss themselves, their life, or specific interests rather than have the typical reciprocative or two-sided conversation. It is also reported that sometimes children with Aspergers do not make eye contact when spoken to or when having a conversation.
It is common for a children with Aspergers Syndrome to miss social cues. This is usually due to the fact that he/she has difficulty reading and understanding non verbal means of communication such as another person's body language. In schools, this can often be misunderstood as an act of disobedience because the student may not understand the "come here" motion or "stop."
Balance is so important when dealing with children in general, but especially important when dealing with a child with Aspergers. One difficulty a child with Aspergers has is when it comes to change.
Heck, the majority of us have problems with change! A change in routine or order can pose a major challenge when dealing with Aspergers. Change shakes up a situation that the child would usually understand. They would know what to expect and now it's different. Structure, order, and routine are great assets in helping a child with Aspergers Syndrome keep steady and function normally.
Balance is also important in the family unit. Is a child with Aspergers different? Yes. But that does not mean he or she should generally be treated any differently. He/she should be treated just the same as the rest of the children in the family. He/she should be praised and punished just the same. It is best to implement the same routine and structure for all of the children.
6 Talk Therapy
Social skills training can be helpful in teaching a child to interact with others. They will also learn more appropriate ways to express themselves. This is often done either in groups or one-0n-one between the child and a therapist. The behaviors will be learned by "modeling." A method of teaching that has the therapist or another child model typical behaviors and the child follow the model.
Speech-language therapy is used to improve the child's communication skills. They are taught to work on having a two-way conversation rather than just focusing more on themselves or having a one-sided conversation.
Another thing that is worked on is fluctuating in tone versus speaking in monotone which is common with Aspergers Syndrome. A part of this therapy is also teaching children non verbal communication skills such as understanding social cues like hand gestures and the use of eye contact.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also used to teach the child how to better handle their emotions and emotional outbursts and meltdowns. This therapy is also helpful in learning how to deal with obsessions and repetitive behaviors. This is commonly combined with Applied Behavior Analysis which uses positive reinforcement and encouragement. Positive social and communication skills are encouraged through this method.
5 Drug Therapy
There are no medications used specifically for Aspergers Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder that are approved by the FDA as of right now; although, there are some medications that can help with related symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
Consult a doctor for a prescription if it is recommended and always feel free to get a second, third, or even fourth opinion. Medications often need to be adjusted in dosage a couple of times before it is successful. Doctors often prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, antipsychotic drugs, and stimulant medicines.
The reuptake inhibitors are often used to treat depressive symptoms. Anxiety is treated with antipsychotic drugs. Stimulant medications are prescribed for attention disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
4 Special Diets and Other Alternative Treatments
There are special diets and supplements that can be used as a means to manage a child's symptoms. The most common diet is the gluten free and casein free diet. This means wheat, rye, barley, milk, and dairy products are cut from the child's daily diet.
Some believe that the child may have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten or casein and that they are having flash opiate-like effects on the brain thus causing the child to behave in such a way. As of today, there is no medical research to support whether or not such diets are effective.
Dogs are used as a form of social therapy for many mental and physical illnesses today. There are dogs used for diabetes, post traumatic stress disorder, and even as a therapy for Aspergers Syndrome. Since a large aspect of this syndrome is social issues, a pet in general can be a helpful aide. Pets are used as a form of social therapy.
The child is more likely to interact with dog which will lead to eventually being more comfortable in any social environment.
3 As the Parent(s)
Being a parent in general can be a tough job. There is no parent who probably hasn't considered pulling out his/her own hair. Parenting a child with any mental illness, including Aspergers Syndrome, isn't a walk in the park. It can be easy to feel out of touch with other parents whose children don't have the same problems and difficulties.
You are not alone though. There are support groups online and in person for parents and family members of children with Aspergers Syndrome. It can be so helpful to talk to someone else who actually gets it. It can also be helpful to learn other parents' techniques and tricks for improving their social, emotional, and communicative skills.
As a part of group therapy or one-on-one therapy, many therapists will teach parents what their children are learning. This way the parents will know what their child was taught and should be doing. They can also encourage their children to work on what they learned at home.
2 Aspergers and Puberty
Puberty is one of the most awkward times in any person's life. But imagine if you are already feeling different than peers and having trouble understanding social cues and situations. Add into that the fact that you are changing both physically and emotionally. Puberty can be an exceptionally difficult time for a child with Aspergers Syndrome creating extra anxiety about fitting in.
There are some things that can be done to help a child with Aspergers adapt to the changes of puberty more easily. First, it is important he/she learn what puberty is, what's going to happen, and what to expect. This way it is easier to prepare for such changes. Therapy can be useful in helping the child to learn new social cues.
During this transition, it is important to watch for depression or attention problems. These may develop during puberty. If these are noticed, it is important to talk to your child's doctor and/or therapist.
1 A Life with Aspergers Syndrome
There is no cure for Aspergers. It is a disorder that a child will have into adulthood; however, that does not mean that a person can't live a happy, successful, fulfilling life with Aspergers. With proper education and a good support system, this disorder can be well managed.
It starts at home. As a parent, it is essential to know everything possible about your child's disorder including how to handle it, what triggers him/her, and how to manage an academic curriculum. Be informed. Inform others. Some schools can often seriously lack communication. Make sure your child's teachers know of his/her diagnosis and how to handle it.
"It takes a village." Seriously, it really does take a village when raising a child. Aspergers is no different. A team approach is key to helping a child with Aspergers be successful. Parents, teachers, and the child all need to be on the same page. Other team members can be brought onboard such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician, and occupational therapist.