When you are worried that your child may have Asperger's syndrome, it is important to learn Asperger characteristics. Aspergers is often confused with autism and other autism spectrum disorders. Getting a correct diagnosis is important because early intervention allows affected people to live a healthy and productive life.
About Asperger's Syndrome
Austrian doctor Hans Asperger, who witnessed a distinctive behavior in his patients in 1944, first discovered Asperger's syndrome. Yet it was not until the 1990s that Aspergers was accepted as a true diagnosis. Even today some doctors consider Asperger symptoms to be a part of high functioning autism.
The condition is a neurological disorder that impairs communication and social skills. It is often overlooked in early childhood because the disorder mainly affects social interactions and communication.
Asperger's syndrome is categorized as a part of the autism spectrum of disorders along with autism, Rett's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), the standard classification system of American mental health professionals, classifies the syndrome as a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Aspergers is one of five PDD disorders. The other four are autism, PDD-NOS, Rett Syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder
Common Asperger Characteristics
While each case of pervasive developmental disorders is unique and no two people share identical symptoms, there are some common Asperger characteristics.
Characteristics can include:
- A large vocabulary but does not understand how to have a two-way conversation
- Has trouble making friends
- Little to no pretend play
- Fixates on an activity or talks about a single subject for hours
- Has a limited range of interests and may be obsessed with the details of favorite subjects
- Focuses on the small details of objects or subjects that do not interest the average person
- Prefers a strict routine
- Experiences anxiety when a routine is interrupted
- Has trouble with both fine and gross motor skills used in activities such as riding a bike, sports and handwriting
- May have poor posture and uncoordinated body movement
- Does not understand others emotions and may give inappropriate responses
- May not like physical contact
- Experiences general difficulties with problem-solving and analyzing information
- Can have sensory problems and may react differently to certain tastes, sounds, smell and sights than other people
Problems with Language and Communication
A person with Asperger disorder may speak well and know many words. However, he has trouble understanding how to use the language when communicating with others. He may not understand what others are trying to communicate to him in a conversation and cannot sustain a two-way conversation. His conversations may seem scripted and do not follow a natural rhythm of sharing and receiving information. He may seem to talk at people while presenting facts of favorite topics without engaging in natural conversational exchanges. He may follow strange speech patterns with his voice and word choices.
Difficulties with Social Skills
A person with Asperger characteristics may be interested in people but does not know how to make friends. Since she has trouble communicating with others, she has trouble connecting with peers. Humor and figurative language are significant barriers that can be difficult to process.
Understanding the emotions of others is challenging and she may respond inappropriately to social situations. This inability to understand another person's emotional state may make her appear cold or rude at times. She may have difficulty communicating her own emotions as well.
A person with Asperger disorder typically has a narrow range of interests, which occupy most of his conversations and play time. He may become extremely agitated if his self-imposed routines are interrupted or if someone tries to distract him from his favorite activities. He may develop repetitious rituals as a part of his routine such as seemingly irrational hand flapping.
How to Get Help
If you believe that your child has Aspergers, seek the advice of a doctor and learn about the condition. Local autism support organizations may be available for guidance.
You can find more information about Aspergers, local support groups and treatment options from organizations such as:
Educating yourself about the autism spectrum of disorders will help you make informed choices about your child's treatment.
Stay positive. Early diagnosis and treatment can help your child have the best prognosis. With the right treatment, many people with Asperger's syndrome lead healthy, productive and independent lives.