Asperger Syndrome has been become a more common diagnosis in recent years. According to Answer Minnesota, an Aspergers network support website, about one in 88 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. About 75 percent of these children have Aspergers. This means about 32,000 children are born with this condition every year. For this reason, it is important for parents to educate themselves on the definition of this disease, its treatment and causes and other important information so they can identify potential issues and help their child get the help they need.
What Is Asperger Syndrome?
The first question is what the condition actually is. As stated above, it is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that affects a large number of children who are diagnosed with ASD. It is considered a developmental disability and can have an impact on many areas of a child’s life, including social skills, communication and behavioral issues. If a child is diagnosed with this condition, the severity of the symptoms will vary dramatically. Some children are able to function normally with this condition, while others suffer from serious problems socializing with other people, learning and communicating with others. For those on the severe end of the spectrum, it can have a dramatic impact on their ability to function normally in society.
Because of the specifics of Aspergers Syndrome, It isn’t uncommon for most children to be diagnosed around age five or six. This is because unlike other autism spectrum disorders, those who suffer from Aspergers are likely to have normal language development. Boys are four times as likely to be diagnosed with this condition as girls.
Identify Asperger Syndrome Symptoms
If you suspect your child may be suffering from this condition, it is important to learn what warning signs you should look for. Those who are familiar with autism spectrum disorders often think about the stereotypical symptoms, such as an uncanny ability to remember things, lack of eye contact, communication issues and random behaviors. While these can all be signs of a problem, many young children exhibit some of these symptoms, even when there isn’t a problem at all. Therefore, it is necessary to gain a better understanding of some of the signs of Aspergers in children.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- A lack of social skills — Children with this condition often have difficulty playing with other children and may avoid social interactions because they feel awkward.
- Strange or repetitive behaviors — Many people associate lining up cars or other toys as a symptoms. However, any unusual or repetitive behavior can be a sign of Aspergers.
- Reluctance to change routine — Children who suffer from Asperger Syndrome are likely to experience difficulties if their routine is interrupted. For instance, they may demand to get dressed in a certain order or go through a certain routine before leaving the home.
- Difficulties in communication — Many people with Aspergers won’t make eye contact with other people and may use inappropriate gestures or language when speaking to others. They are also more likely to take language literally instead of figuratively as the speaker intends.
- Obsessive interests — Aspergers patients have a tendency to focus in on one or two interests. However, they tend to know these interests quite well.
- Coordination problems — Those who have Aspergers Syndrome may experience coordination problems, making their movements awkward or clumsy.
- Exceptional skills or abilities — Many children and adults who have Aspergers exhibit a special ability that allows them to outshine others in a certain subject or activity.
- Focus on self — These individuals are also more likely to focus conversations on themselves instead of being able to discuss others.
Some of these symptoms may not indicate a problem in all children. However, if you notice several of these symptoms in your child, it may be necessary to have your child evaluated. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to determine what the next step may be so you can get your child the help he or she needs.
What Causes Asperger Syndrome?
One of the biggest questions parents have when it comes to this condition is what causes it. Just like many other conditions, there is no clear answer based on studies that have been conducted. However, it is clear that nothing a parent has or hasn’t done can cause this disorder. Many people attribute autism spectrum disorders to vaccinations. These links have widely been disproved, though, which means there are likely other causes.
Some studies have suggested there is an element of genetics involved in the development of this disorder. A family history doesn’t guarantee any future children will have Aspergers, though. It is thought that the condition results from a change in the genes or even in the structure of the brain. In addition to this, some experts feel Aspergers could be linked to other mental health issues, such as depression and bipolar disorder. For this reason, many doctors will also test children and adults for these conditions to ensure all aspects are treated properly.
In the past, there have been other causes many people mistakenly believed, similar to the thought that vaccines could cause these problems. For instance, some felt a lack of emotional support in young children could lead to Aspergers. This idea was developed because the behavior of many with this condition may come across as rude, which many people attribute to poor parenting.
Unfortunately, this is not the case and simply served to make parents feel unnecessarily inadequate.
How Is It Diagnosed?
If you suspect your child may have Aspergers Syndrome, it is important to talk to a medical professional about an Aspergers Syndrome test and other diagnostic tools. In many cases, simply looking at the child and asking questions is not enough to create a valid diagnosis. Even blood tests won’t tell medical professionals if someone has Aspergers. Instead, there are other tools doctors and specialists use to determine whether a child or adult is suffering from this condition.
Behavioral assessments are among the most common diagnostic tools doctors can use to identify if a child may have Aspergers. It all begins with a medical history where the doctor will ask patients about any diagnoses of close family members, as well as other general health problems that may exist in the family tree. They will also match up any symptoms to the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They may even ask to observe the child in various situations to see how the child reacts. Finally, the doctor may conduct developmental and intelligence tests to gauge whether Aspergers is a good diagnosis or there may be another issue in play.
Sometimes physical conditions can exhibit many of the same signs as Asperger Syndrome. It is important to rule these conditions out because treating the Aspergers when another condition is responsible will not be an effective treatment plan. A full physical exam can identify any potential issues for your child. In addition to this physical exam, your pediatrician may also conduct a hearing test and lead poisoning test to ensure these are not the causes.
In certain circumstances, the pediatrician may decide to order other tests to determine if there is another underlying problem. Chromosomal testing can identify serious issues in the genetics that can result in many of the same symptoms. An EEG can help the doctor rule out any seizure disorders. Finally, an MRI may be used to check the brain for any abnormalities. Once these issues are ruled out, an Aspergers diagnosis is likely to be more accurate.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Asperger Syndrome. Those who have been diagnosed with this condition will continue to battle with the symptoms for the rest of their lives. Treatment lies in helping children and their families learn how to change their behaviors and work toward a positive outcome. There are many treatment options available, many of which must be used together for the best possible outcome.
Early intervention is important with this condition, just like so many others. Unfortunately, because it often takes time to diagnose a child with Aspergers, often after the age of five or six, early intervention often isn’t possible. However, this doesn’t mean treatment isn’t possible. Individual and group therapy can help children learn coping skills and brush up on their communication skills. Parents can also benefit from therapy and specialized training so they can help their child. In many cases, medication may also be needed to manage some of the symptoms.
If you suspect your child may be suffering from this or another autism spectrum disorder, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to guide you through the diagnostic process so you can get your child the help he or she needs. This condition doesn’t have to mean a negative stigma for the rest of your child’s life.