Living With Asperger Syndrome
Asperger syndrome (AS) is a neurobiological disorder that is part of a group of conditions known as autism spectrum disorders. The disorder was named after Hans Asperger, a Viennese pediatrician, who, in 1940, first described a set of behavior patterns, such as impaired social skills, the inability to communicate effectively with others, and poor coordination, that he found in some of his patients.
It's estimated that more than 400,000 families in the U.S. are affected by AS. The disorder affects more boys and girls and is most often diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9, according to the Asperger Sundrome Coalition of the United States.
Although children with AS have average—and sometimes above average—intelligence and, unlike those with autism, have no delay in language development and usually possess good grammatical skills, they may have trouble using language in a social context. AS is often characterized by:
- Poor social interactions
- Obsessions with complex topics, such as patterns or music
- Odd speech patterns and other peculiar mannerisms
- Motor delays
- Limited interests
These children often exhibit few facial expressions and have difficulty reading the body language of others and may experience an unusual sensitivity to sensory stimuli. For example, a child with AS might be bothered by a light that no one else notices or he may cover his ears to block out sounds.
Causes of Asperger Syndrome
Although the exact causes of AS, like autism, is unknown, there appears to be a hereditary component to the disorder and research indicates that it may be associated with other mental health problems, including depression and bipolar disorder.
Additionally, researchers are studying whether environmental factors that affect brain development also play a role in AS onset. Although there is currently no cure for AS, many children with the disorder grow up to lead full and happy lives.
Treatment for Asperger Syndrome
Because the patterns of AS behaviors and problems can vary from child to child, there is currently no typical treatment plan for the disorder. However, there are several forms of treatment available that may be effective for your child, including:
- Parent education and training
- Specialized educational interventions
- Social skills training
- Language therapy
- Sensory integration training for younger children, usually performed by an occupational therapist, in which children are desensitized to stimuli to which they are overly sensitive
- Psychotherapy or behavioral/cognitive therapy for older children
Your pediatrician will help you develop the best treatment plan for your child.
K12 Academics. "Living with Aspergers." Web.
Kids Health. "Asperger Syndrome." Web.
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