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Asperger syndrome

asperger syndrome
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What is Asperger syndrome?

More than half a million people in the UK have an autistic spectrum disorder and Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. It is named after Hans Asperger – an Austrian paediatrician who published an article in 1944 describing children whose symptoms were typical in their verbal and cognitive skills. People with Asperger’s share many of the more common autism traits, but there are some differences.

Those living with the condition often find it harder to read the signals that many of us take for granted, which can make it harder for them to communicate and interact with others – leading to high levels of anxiety and confusion.

The symptoms

The three main areas of difficulty for those with Asperger syndrome fall into the categories of social communication, social interaction and social imagination and are often referred to as the ‘triad of impairments’.While there are similarities with autism, children with Asperger syndrome generally have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average, or above average, intelligence. However, their language skills may be quite different and they may talk continuously about a limited number of topics, have difficulty understanding certain types of humour and figures of speech and have less understanding of the social use of language in terms of starting, maintaining and ending a conversation. They do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities but may have specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and dyspraxia or other conditions like ADHD and epilepsy.

asperger syndrome

Traits of aspergers

Characteristics of Asperger syndrome vary greatly from person to person but generally fall within the triad of impairments.Other traits include a failure to understand unwritten ‘social rules’ such as not standing too close to another person or starting inappropriate topics of conversation.

People with the condition may also find others unpredictable and confusing and may become withdrawn and seem disinterested as a result. While they can be imaginative in the conventional use of the word – for example many are accomplished writers, artists and musicians – people with the condition can have difficulty with social imagination. Children for example, may not understand the concept of role playing games.

As well as these three main areas of difficulties, there may also be a love of routines, special interests and sensory difficulties. The exact cause of Asperger syndrome is still being investigated, although research suggests a combination of factors, both genetic and environmental, may account for changes in brain development. It affects people of all nationalities, cultures, social backgrounds and religions but appears to be more prevalent in males.

Treatments

Currently there is no cure or specific treatment and children with Asperger Syndrome grow into adults with the condition. However they do now have more opportunities to reach their full potential as understanding and services continue to develop and improve.There are many varied approaches, therapies and interventions which can help improve a person’s quality of life. These may include communication aids, behavioural therapy and dietary changes.

Diagnosis can be difficult and often takes place later in childhood than autism diagnosis and sometimes is not even recognised until adulthood. A diagnosis typically arises from a visit to the GP who can make a referral to other health professionals for a formal diagnosis. These will often be psychiatrists, clinical psychologists or paediatricians.

 

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