Asperger’s syndrome is a neurological disorder that is now part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) umbrella. Children who have this are referred to as “high-functioning” since they have normal to above average intelligence and close to normal language development.
Children who are considered to have high-functioning autism (HFA) are usually able to attend school and become employed.
The disorder was named after Hans Asperger, an Austrian doctor who first identified the condition in 1944.
Signs and Symptoms
- Though considered as high-functioning, a child with Asperger’s syndrome has impaired social skills. Hence, he may experience difficulty in striking up and maintaining conversations.
- Communication issues such as the inability to make eye contact, difficulty reading gestures and facial expressions, trouble understanding body language and being limited to understanding literal meanings instead of contextual.
- Narrow interests in topics such as weather and maps. A child may also exhibit obsessive tendencies.
- Repetitive behavior or movements.
- Rituals or odd preoccupations that a child religiously clings to. If the sequence is altered, it may cause distress for the child.
- Possesses skills and talents in areas of math or art.
- Has low muscle tone.
- Suffers from dyspraxia or developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD)
- His speech sounds robotic.
- Has difficulty knowing when to modulate own voice appropriately.
Like ASD, the causes of Asperger’s syndrome are still unknown. But factors such as genetics and environment (exposure to chemicals, toxins or viruses) are linked to the condition.
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior
- Difficulty with social interactions throughout adulthood
Tests and Diagnosis
There are no specific tests that can determine the disorder.
However, if symptoms are observed, a doctor will request for a complete medical history and order a physical and neurological exam.
Other tests such as blood tests and X-rays are ordered to rule out other disorders that may cause the symptoms apparent in a child suspected of having the disorder.
Treatments and Drugs
There is no treatment for Asperger’s syndrome. However, therapy is recommended to increase functioning:
- Special education customized to address the child’s issues
- Therapy such as physical, speech, social skills and occupational therapy
While there is no medication for the disorder, prescriptions for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior and hyperactivity may be given.
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