It is difficult to know precisely how many people have Asperger’s syndrome. In fact, while many still use the term Asperger’s, it is no longer considered a separate diagnosis. People formerly diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder today. Some professionals, however, estimate that roughly 1 in every 250 people have an Asperger profile.
Has your child been exhibiting behavioral issues such as obsessions, limited facial expressions, poor social interactions, or odd speech patterns? If so, you might be wondering if your child has Asperger’s syndrome.
People with what was known as Asperger’s syndrome can live fulfilling lives with proper treatment. This is true even though there isn’t a cure for the disorder.
What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome (AS) was once a neurological disorder that belonged to a group of developmental disorders such as autism.
Asperger’s is on the mild end of the autism spectrum. The primary symptoms that are exhibited by people who have Asperger’s syndrome are:
- Engaging in repetitive behavior
- Having difficulty in social interactions
- Focusing on routines and rules
- Standing firm on what they think
It is common for people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome to have average or above-average intelligence. They are often able to hold jobs and be educated in traditional classrooms.
Some individuals with this disorder are classified as high functioning. This means that their cognitive development and language skills were not delayed, as is common for other types of autism spectrum disorder.
There is no cure for Asperger’s syndrome. However, diagnosing the condition early can help individuals in a number of ways. These include helping them achieve their potential and make social connections.
What Is the Difference Between Asperger’s and Autism?
Technically, Asperger’s syndrome is no longer a specific diagnosis. Instead, the symptoms and signs of AS now fall under the broader diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Someone who might have received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome in the past might now be diagnosed as having autism. Children with Asperger’s disorder have less severe symptoms than other children on the autism spectrum. They also might not experience a language delay in their development.
A child with a more severe form of autism might appear much more uninterested and aloof than a child with Asperger’s syndrome.
Another difference between Asperger’s syndrome and other levels of autism has to do with cognitive ability. Some autistic individuals might have intellectual disabilities. However, people with Asperger’s almost always possess normal to above-normal intelligence.
Asperger’s Syndrome Symptoms
Different people will show different symptoms when they have Asperger’s. However, it is common for children with Asperger’s syndrome to have a narrow topic of interest that they are obsessively focused on.
For example, a child might develop an interest that is all-consuming in things like dinosaurs or train schedules. You might notice that these interests are the main topics they discuss with peers and adults, usually in a one-sided manner.
This obsessive focus on a narrow topic is one of the reasons that children with Asperger’s might have a hard time with social interactions. They are often unaware of the attempts of their conversational partner to change the subject.
Individuals that have Asperger’s syndrome are not able to read body language and facial expressions. They often will not make eye contact when they are talking to other people. They also have difficulty recognizing the feelings that other people have.
This disorder can also result in symptoms such as repetitive rituals or routines. Symptoms can also sometimes lead to inappropriate behavior. Uncoordinated and awkward motor movements can also be a symptom.
A person with Asperger’s syndrome might also not display very many facial expressions and might talk in a monotone voice. It is possible that they will also have a hard time recognizing that they should speak more quietly in certain locations. They also might find it very difficult to understand what other people are thinking.
Asperger’s in children can also result in difficulty with certain essential motor skills. They might not be able to do certain tasks because of a lack of coordination. This can show up as difficulty running, walking, riding a bike, or climbing.
Asperger’s Syndrome Causes
Many of the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome are caused by changes in the brain. At this point, what is responsible for causing these changes is not known to doctors and researchers.
Some potential contributors to the development of Asperger’s syndrome have been identified. These include exposure to environmental toxins and genetic factors. Some of the environmental toxins that have been suggested to create these changes in the brain include viruses or chemicals.
It appears that Asperger’s syndrome tends to run in families, which suggests the disorder might be hereditary in some cases.
Girls are less likely to have Asperger’s syndrome than boys. However, many experts feel they are simply misdiagnosed.
Asperger’s Syndrome Tests
There is not one specific Asperger’s syndrome test that can identify whether or not an individual has this condition. There are a number of tests that can be run, including blood tests, hearing tests, or X-rays to help rule out other potential health issues. Through these tests, you can make sure that there isn’t a physical disorder that is causing the symptoms you’ve noticed.
Asperger’s syndrome is often diagnosed after parents report behavioral or developmental difficulties. It is possible that your child’s teacher might notice some developmental problems in your child and inform you about them.
If any of these issues should come up, you should talk to your doctor about them. A medical professional will be able to assess key areas of your child’s development, including:
- Social interaction
- Interest in interacting with others
- Language development
- Motor coordination and motor skills
- Facial expressions when talking
- Attitudes toward change
It is not uncommon for people to be misdiagnosed with other health issues since there are no specific tests for diagnosing AS. It is possible that your child could be misdiagnosed as having a different disorder. For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common misdiagnosis.
Asperger’s Syndrome Treatment
As mentioned earlier, there is not a cure for Asperger’s syndrome. There are, however, a number of different treatments that can decrease the symptoms and allow your child to thrive. The specific symptoms of your child will typically dictate which treatments they receive.
Often, Asperger’s syndrome symptoms are treated with medication. These include aripiprazole, SSRIs, guanfacine, naltrexone, olanzapine, and risperidone.
Medications can help to control behavioral problems that your child might display. There are also non-medication treatments that can help as well. A number of symptoms can be improved through treatments such as:
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy
- Speech and language therapy
- Social skills training
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
Some of the best results for children with autism spectrum disorder can be found through early intervention. This is particularly true using ABA therapy. This is a form of therapy that can help individuals:
- Decrease problem behaviors
- Improve attention, social skills, focus, academics, and memory
- Increase communication and language skills
ABA therapy can be adapted to meet the needs of each person. This is a therapy that is very customizable and can be provided in a number of different locations, including school, home, or in the community. It helps individuals learn skills that are useful in everyday life.
It is common for parents to undergo therapy also when their child has Asperger’s syndrome. ABA therapy can help parents cope with the challenges that typically accompany raising a child that suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.
Does Your Child Have Asperger’s Syndrome?
It is completely normal to feel concerned, anxious and confused if your child is displaying Asperger’s syndrome symptoms. It is important to get in touch with your doctor if you notice any of the signs and symptoms. They can rule out other potential causes and help determine a diagnosis.
One of the best things that you can do for children with Asperger’s syndrome is to get them help as early as possible. The earlier treatment is started, the sooner your child can be on a path to living their best possible life.
At ABA Centers of America, we specialize in helping families create the brightest future possible. We are here to help children, teens, and adults grow, learn, and lead fulfilling lives.
Our therapists are licensed and board-certified. We have experience with all forms of autism across the spectrum and with people of all ages.
If you have any questions about what to do to help your child or a loved one with Asperger’s, call us for a free consultation.