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Asperger’s syndrome belongs to a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). They are neurological conditions, and Asperger’s syndrome is on the mild end of the spectrum. Those with AS manifest three essential symptoms namely:
- They experience difficulty with social interaction
- Engage in repetitive behavior
- Stand firm on what they think
- Are focused on rules and routines
Some of the people with ASD are grouped into the high-functioning class which means that their cognitive development and language skills are well developed at the right time and not delayed like most other forms of ASD.
Usually, those diagnosed with ASD exhibit normal or above normal intelligence. Also, those with this condition are often able to get their education in mainstream classrooms and even work. Asperger’s syndrome is not curable. Prompt diagnosis and intervention assists a child in building social-relationships, harness their potentials and lead a productive life.
Symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome
The symptoms seen in this condition is not the same for everyone though children with this condition generally have an overwhelming focus on a narrow topic of interest.
These children may have an interest in things like dinosaurs or train schedules and this takes up almost all of their time. The interest can even be the topic of a one-sided discussion with their peers or adults.
A person with AS is not aware of the other individual’s attempt to switch the topic of their discussion. This is a major cause of the difficulty they experience with social interactions.
Those with AS are not able to read facial expressions or understand body language. They also find it hard to understand another person’s feelings. You will mostly find them avoiding eye contact during an interaction with other people.
Those with AS speak in one tone and show very few facial expressions. They may also have a problem with knowing when to reduce the volume of their voices to fit into their location.
Children with AS have difficulty with primary motor skills, such as walking or running. They are not coordinated and are unable to perform certain tasks, such as climbing or riding a bike.
Causes of Asperger’s Syndrome
The symptoms seen in Asperger’s syndrome are caused by brain changes though doctors are still unable to determine the exact causes of the changes.
Likely risk factors for developing these conditions include genetic factors and exposure to environmental toxins. There is a slight gender predilection as boys are more likely to develop the condition than girls.
Diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome
The diagnosis of AS is made by correlating the child’s performance in school as reported by the teacher with the examination by the doctor. Sometimes, parents may notice delays in developmental milestones or behavioral delays or difficulties. The doctor assesses the child in the following ways:
- Language development
- Social interaction
- Facial expressions while talking
- Interest in interacting with others
- Attitudes towards change
- Motor coordination and motor skills
There has been a misdiagnosing problem for the condition with other health problems because there is no particular test for diagnosing AS. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the common misdiagnosis. If in the event that this occurs, the child should be reevaluated to ascertain the correct diagnosis.
Treatment for Asperger’s syndrome
There is no specific treatment for Asperger’s syndrome but the symptoms can actually be managed so that the child can reach their full potentials. Treatment is dependent on the exact symptoms the patient presents with.
Medications that are often used to treat the symptoms of AS include:
- Aripiprazole (Abilify), which is used to reduce irritability
- Guanfacine (Tenex), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and naltrexone (ReVia), all used to decrease hyperactivity.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), used to reduce repetitive behaviors
- Risperidone (Risperdal Consta), used to reduce agitation and insomnia
Medications can be used to control problematic behaviors that happen due to AS. Still, there are other treatments that help make better communication skills, emotional regulation, and social interaction. Many children with AS also need to:
- Receive social skill training
- Get speech and language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Undergo physical therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy
The parents of these children also need therapy. Training the parents to cope with the difficulties associated with raising a child with AS is paramount in the management.
AS has no cure but many children with this disorder grow up to have normal healthy lives with prompt administration of treatment and early intervention. Even though most of them live independently, some of them still struggle with social interactions.
Tonika Bruce, also known as The Network Nurse, is a multi-talented individual with a career spanning over 20 years. She’s a Registered Nurse, speaker, author, and advocate for change, excelling in business building and team development. Tonika holds two Master’s degrees in Nursing and Business Administration, (MSN & MBA) and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership.
Her expertise extends to various fields such as nursing, entrepreneurship, business, basketball coaching, and executive leadership. She is a published author of “Relentless Pursuit: Proven Tips for Unlocking Your Potentials, Limitless Success and Post COVID Syndrome: A Guide to Repositioning the Nursing Profession for A Post COVID Era”. Currently, Tonika is working on Thrudemic, an anthology examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on medical professionals and patients.