Asperger’s Syndrome

Mental Health

Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is named after the medical doctor Hans Asperger. Dr. Asperger found that certain children displayed typical or higher-than-average levels of intelligence and language development but struggled with social skills and communicating with others. It was first described as mild autism but was later found to be a disorder in its own right. While the statistics for the prevalence of Asperger’s are not wildly known, it is estimated that 1 in 88 children over eight years of age have an autism spectrum disorder and that Asperger’s itself is four times more prevalent in boys than girls.

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Symptoms

The symptoms of Asperger’s typically become noticeable when children interact in social situations – perhaps at preschool or daycare, but more commonly after kindergarten.

Symptoms include:

  • Inability to read social cues from others
  • Difficulty starting conversations or taking turns
  • Needing strict structure and routines
  • Lack of empathy towards others
  • Inability to read varying speech tones
  • Does not laugh at jokes or gets upset with sarcasm
  • Speaks using advanced vocabulary. “That is quite breathtaking.” Instead of just, “That’s pretty.”
  • Tends to talk too much about one thing and conversations are one-sided
  • Inappropriately verbalizes internal thoughts. Blurts things out
  • Lacks eye contact with others. May stare at others or stare into space
  • Uses different facial expressions. For example, smiling when told a sad story, frowning when told something funny
  • Uses odd postures
  • Preoccupation with one activity
  • May be obsessed with one topic. Knows everything about the planets, certain animals, etc.
  • Delayed motor skills. May not be able to zip zippers, button a button, or ride a bike
  • Writing is illegible
  • They get overstimulated by lights, sounds, crowds, textures, and tastes

 

Diagnosis

Children suspected of having Asperger’s should first consult their pediatrician to rule out other causes for their symptoms. They will be referred to a psychologist and/or psychiatrist who will perform the necessary evaluations:

Psychological testing. IQ testing, intellectual testing, ability to learn, and motor skills assessments. They also test the child’s personality.

Ability to communicate. Doctors will look at the child’s ability to speak and use vocabulary. They will want to see how well they can communicate an idea to others. They examine gestures and non-verbal communication. Ability to understand humor and sarcasm is also assessed.

Psychiatric evaluation. Psychiatrists usually do observations of the child at play and during social interactions. They will check the ability of your child to react and process certain situations. They also look for symptoms of anxiety, hyperactivity, and depression.

Treatments

There are no specific medications for Asperger’s. Some children are responsive to medications for anxiety or depression. They may also need medication for attention disorders. The decision to use medication is usually made by a treatment team, in conjunction with the parents, to best serve the interest of the child.

There are a few different options for treating Asperger’s syndrome:

Caregiver training. Parents and family members can learn social skills and behavior training for the child and put them into practice in the home.

Social skills-speech training. With proper training, children with Asperger’s can learn proper social skills and conversational techniques. They will learn appropriate gestures and good ways to express thoughts in conversation.

Cognitive behavior therapy. Children with Asperger’s tend to have poor impulse control. CBT can help them regulate their behavior, emotions, and control any anxiety. They can be trained to reduce outbursts, blurting, obsessive behaviors, and interrupting others.

Occupational therapy/sensory integrative therapy. Sensory processing disorder is common with Asperger’s and can be controlled with a sensory diet. Children and parents participate in a program to learn how to control the sensory load. This can help improve social skills, reduce anxiety, and other behaviors.

Alternative Treatments and Home Remedies

A few alternative natural remedies have been shown to help manage symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. These include:

Omega-3 fatty acids. In studies, some kids showed improvement in their symptoms with Omega-3 fatty acids. However, there were no control studies done so this has not been proven.

Vitamin B6. It is suggested that 500 mg of vitamin B6 may be helpful.

Magnesium. Magnesium may also be helpful and the suggested dose is 400mg daily. Use caution because 400 mg can cause side effects and toxicity.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C can be helpful with brain function, cognition, and improve depression.

Always check with your child’s doctor before using alternative medicine.

References

Autism Society. Asperger’s syndrome. Retrieved from Autism Society: https://www.autism-society.org/what-is/aspergers-syndrome/

Harvard Health. (2014, March). Asperger’s syndrome. Retrieved from Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/aspergers-syndrome

Healthline. (2019, May 10). Asperger’s syndrome. Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/asperger-syndrome

Organization for Autism Research. (2016, April 01). Life journey through autism: An educator’s guide to Asperger syndrome. Retrieved from the Organization for Autism Research: https://researchautism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/An_Educators_Guide_to_Asperger_Syndrome.pdf

Tantam, D. (1998, May). Asperger’s syndrome. The Journal of Psychiatry and Psychology. Pp. 245-255. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1988.tb00713.x)

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