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Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome
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Asperger Syndrome is the name given to a range of developmental disorders that sit on the spectrum of Autistic disorders. Autistic disorders are thought to affect around 1% of people in the UK in some form, and typically become apparent in childhood, staying with a person into adulthood. Those who have autism  suffer from a delay in the normal development of certain basic skills, primarily in relation to their ability to communicate, socialise and use their imaginations.

Differences between Asperger Syndrome and Autism

Named after Austrian Doctor Hans Asperger who initially described the disorder in 1944, Asperger syndrome is similar to Autism, but has some significant differences. Asperger sufferers generally have a more developed level of functioning than autistics. Their language development is less-impaired, to the point of near-normality, although some children may develop communication difficulties as they grow up. Most Asperger sufferers display normal levels of intelligence.

Symptoms and Causes of Asperger Syndrome

No specific cause has been identified for Asperger Syndrome. It is known to run in families, which suggests some kind of genetic inheritance factor, but this has yet to be proven. As with Autism, Asperger Syndrome affects sufferers to varying degrees, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Clumsiness and awkwardness of movement – physical coordination can be a challenge
  • Displaying a particular talent or level of excellence in a certain area, such as music or mathematics
  • Difficulty with social skills – many Asperger sufferers find it difficult to make friends, and appear awkward in social situations
  • Ritualistic behaviours – rituals may be important to someone with Asperger Syndrome. This behaviour can present itself as anything from getting dressed in a certain order, to checking each room before leaving the house
  • Difficulty with communication skills – making eye contact can be challenging for Asperger sufferers, and their use and reading of body language may be confused. Some also find it hard to understand the use of language in context
  • Narrow range of interests – those areas which do spark the interest of an Asperger sufferer may develop into an obsession. Their interests can tend to be limited, and intense
  • Repetitive behaviours – such as hand-wringing or tapping are symptomatic of Asperger Syndrome
Asperger syndrome

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early recognition of Asperger Syndrome can help a child enormously. The sooner the disorder is identified, the sooner treatments can begin to enhance the communication and social skills of the child concerned. Diagnosis is achieved by a process of elimination. Doctors will typically first run a series of tests to rule out any physical conditions that may be causing the symptoms. If no underlying medical cause is detected, the child will be referred to a specialist in developmental disorders. The specialist will assess, among other things, the child’s behaviours, speech, communication skills, and play, often seeking input from the significant adults in the child’s life, such as parents and teachers, who can help to provide a complete overview of the child’s symptoms.

Treatments vary depending on each specific case, but may include:

  • Special Educational Needs (SEN) support
  • Communication and/or speech therapy – to help with socialisation
  • Occupational and/or physical therapy – to assist with general day-to-day functioning
  • Dietary modifications – some alternative therapies suggest that changes in diet and vitamin intake can improve the disorder
  • Behavioural therapy – to support and enhance positive behaviours and suppress unhelpful ones
  • Medication – there is no magic pill for Asperger syndrome, but the disorder can lead to other psychological issues for which medication IS available, such as depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and OCD behaviours

 

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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