Asperger's syndrome is also knows as Asperger disorder or Aspergers syndrome. The disorder is part of the autism spectrum and is characterised by difficulties in social interaction which can be accompanied by repetitive patterns of behaviour. Asperger’s syndrome differs from other disorders in the autism spectrum by the fact that sufferers tend to have good language and cognitive development.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Aspergers syndrome (AS) is named after the Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger who studied children in his practice who displayed limited empathy with others and who lacked non-verbal communication skills. Some children with AS are physically clumsy but this is not always the case and is not necessarily present in order to diagnose the disorder. In more recent times the conception of Aspergers syndrome came into existence with a standard diagnosis being available from the early 1990s. Even today there are debates and doubts about whether AS is simply a distinct form of high-functioning autism.
People with Asperger’s syndrome find it difficult to make judgements about others. They find it harder to read body language which leads to not being able to judge if others are happy, sad or angry for example. This in turn makes interaction with others difficult and can lead to the sufferer having high levels of confusion and anxiety.
The precise cause or causes of AS is unknown. Research has suggested that it may be of a genetic basis but this has not been proved.
There are similarities between AS and Autism but AS patients have fewer problems with language and are very often of average or above average intelligence. It is unusual for AS patients to have the learning disabilities which area associated with autism. Many children with AS find that their symptoms improve as they mature. Although AS is a lifelong condition, with the right support people with AS can lead full and independent lives.
For more information about the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome please click here.
Treatment options and self-help
Some specialists and researchers and some people with Asperger’s believe that a change of attitude is needed towards this condition. They feel that people with Asperger’s should be seen as being different rather than having a disability that must be cured or treated.
If you think that you or your child may be affected by Asperger’s syndrome your first step should be to consult your doctor. The core symptoms of AS cannot be cured but can benefit from specialised interventions that focus on behaviour management and social skills training. Once you have received a diagnosis of AS your doctor should be able to identify all the resources that are available in your local area to help manage the condition.
Communication and social skills training, cognitive behavioural therapy and/or medication are the most common forms of treatment for AS. Although there are no specific medications that treat Asperger’s syndrome, some medications can improve specific symptoms which may co-exist such as anxiety, hyperactivity and depression.
Some parents have found that specific diets which include or exclude specific foods have helped with the symptoms of AS but this tends to be trial and error and is not rooted in any firm scientific basis.