Asperger's Syndrome is a profound developmental disorder and is one of the autistic disorders. It was named after the Austrian physician Hans Asperger, who described four boys as "autistic" in 1944 and is sometimes falsely referred to as Asberger syndrome. Together with the much rarer Kanner syndrome, it is one of the most common forms of autism.
Signs of aspergers
Asperger's Syndrome is a milder form of autism than Kanner's Syndrome. For those affected, interpersonal behavior is primarily impaired, but not general mental or physical development. Thus, children suffering from Asperger's Syndrome learn to speak without delays. Thinking also develops normally and they are interested in their surroundings.
They have difficulties in social interactions: they rarely or never make eye contact and their facial expression is emotionless. Gestures and facial expressions are difficult to decipher, and metaphors make no sense to them, for they take the words perfectly literally.
Children with Asperger syndrome often have a surprisingly large vocabulary and sometimes even seem pedantic. Adults with Asperger's Syndrome are often loners but can usually integrate into society and pursue a profession.
Diagnosis "Asperger syndrome"
The diagnosis "Asperger syndrome" should only be made by a specialist or psychologist and only after extensive and repeated examination of the child. The American Psychiatric Society's (APA) latest diagnostic manual, the DSM-IV, requires the following symptoms to occur to such an extent as to impair the school, professional or social life of the person diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome:
- Social interactions are qualitatively impaired, for example in the form of missing facial expressions and gestures in conversation as well as lack of eye contact. There is little or no interest in social interactions, and no age-appropriate relationships are built.
- Restricted, repetitive or inflexible behavior, for example, in the form of seemingly meaningless routines that have to be repeated over and over in a certain way, or in the form of patterns of movement that are always repeated, or persistent and exaggerated interest in particular details.
Delineate Kanner syndrome
In order to distinguish it from Kanner's syndrome, it must also be stated in children that speech development is not delayed. That means that at the age of about two years first single words are used and at the age of about three years first communicative phrases are used. The child should be independent according to his age and show general interest in his environment. Similar disorders such as ADHD, Tourette's syndrome, schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder must be excluded.
An important step in the treatment of Asperger's syndrome is the diagnosis. Knowing about the peculiarities of the disease enables parents, teachers, friends or colleagues to better adapt to the affected person. An accurate diagnosis also enables targeted treatment of the person concerned. Ideally, treatment for a child with autism should start between the ages of 2 and 3, but many Asperger autistic individuals reach adulthood without ever being diagnosed and treated.
Every case of autism is different, which means that an individualized treatment plan has to be designed, which usually involves different therapists, but also teachers, parents and possibly siblings or friends. The key is to make it easier for those affected to communicate with their surroundings.
Communication training as therapy at Asperger
Standard procedures are therefore communication trainings in which Asperger sufferers learn, how social interactions work, how they perceive feelings and what they mean to the other person. Children with Asperger's Syndrome should - if possible - go to a normal school to get in touch as regularly as possible with healthy peers. Behavioral therapy can help reduce specific anxiety and reduce stereotypical behavioral patterns.
Occupational therapy may be appropriate to address subtle motor difficulties, such as when writing. Many people affected by Asperger's Syndrome have very specific interests and talents, often in the fields of art and music. These should be discovered and promoted by Aspergers.