Aspergers Syndrome

Author: 
Adoptive Families Association of BC
Source: 
AFABC Special Needs Database

Description
Aspergers Syndrome (AS) is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder. It is considered a milder variant of Autistic disorder, characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities.

People with AS show deficiencies in social and communication skills. They may have difficulty using language in a social context. However, their vocabularies can sound very rich. They also may have difficulties with transitions or changes, and often have obsessive routines, and may be preoccupied with a particular subject or interest.

A person with AS perceives the world in a very different way. They may have exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. A debate exists concerning AS. Some specialists say that AS is the same as High Functioning Autism while others feel that it is better described as a Nonverbal Learning Disability. Current estimates suggest that 1 in 150 of the population may have AS. That's an estimate 150,000 to 200,000 Canadians.

Causes
The causes of AS is still unknown. Some researches believe that AS is simply a mild form of autism. There are likely genetic factors, but some theories suggest a prenatal infection as a possible cause.

Characteristics
AS is not easily recognizable. In fact, many children are misdiagnosed with other neurological disorders such as Tourette's Syndrome or Autism. More frequently, children are misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Social interaction symptoms :

  • Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviours such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
  • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
  • Lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)

Children with AS have restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities:

  • Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest is abnormal either in intensity or focus
  • Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals
  • Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

Treatment
Treatment depends on the patient's level of adaptive functioning. For infants with severe impairment, treatment is similar to the treatment for autistic disorder (educational programs and medication).

Psychosocial Interventions:

  • Individual psychotherapy to help the individual to process the feelings aroused by being socially handicapped
  • Parent education and training
  • Social skills training
  • Educational interventions

Complications
Children with AS are viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing. Although they like having friends, they don’t know how to go about establishing or maintaining friendships. Consequently, such individuals suffer from isolation, resulting in depression, frustration, and despair.


This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.