Unraveling the Enigma: Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome

Unraveling the Enigma: Understanding Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder and a form of autism. It was named after the Austrian physician Hans Asperger, who described four boys as “autistic” in 1944 and is sometimes misspelt as Asberger syndrome. Together with the much rarer Kanner syndrome, it represents one of the most common forms of autism.

Signs of Asperger’s

Asperger’s Syndrome is a milder form of autism than Kanner’s Syndrome. In those affected, it is mainly the interpersonal behaviour that is affected, but not the general mental or physical development. In this way, children suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome learn to speak without delay. Thinking also develops commonly, and people show interest in their surroundings.

They have difficulties in social interactions:  they rarely or never make eye contact, and their facial expressions are unemotional. They find it challenging to decipher gestures and facial expressions, and metaphors make no sense to them because they take what is said entirely literally.

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome often have a surprisingly large vocabulary and sometimes even come across as pedantic. Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome are frequently loners but are usually able to integrate into society and work.

 

Diagnose “Asperger-Syndrom”

The diagnosis “Of Asperger’s syndrome” should be made only by a specialized doctor or psychologist and only after a detailed and repeated examination of the child.

The criteria for diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome are set out in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) diagnostic manual, the DSM-5. Asperger’s Syndrome has been counted among the so-called autism spectrum disorders since 2013 and is no longer differentiated by its diagnostic criteria.

In summary, the diagnosis is made when the following symptoms occur to such an extent that the school, professional or social life of the person concerned is significantly restricted:

  • Social interactions are qualitatively impaired, for example, in the form of a lack of facial expressions and gestures in conversation and a lack of eye contact. There is little or no interest in social interactions, and age-appropriate relationships are not formed.
  • Restricted, repetitive, or inflexible behaviour,  for example, in seemingly pointless routines that need to be performed in a certain way over and over again, or in the form of movement patterns repeated over and over, or persistent and exaggerated interest in specific details.

Symptoms must be present in early childhood but not fully manifest until social demands increase.

Differentiate children’s syndromes

To distinguish it from Kanner syndrome, it must also be determined that children’s language development is not delayed. This means that the first individual words are used around the age of two, and the first communicative phrases are used at around three. The child should be independent according to his age and show general interest in his surroundings. Disorders similar to ADHDTourette’s Syndromeschizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder must be ruled out.

 

Treat Asperger’s

An essential step in the treatment of Asperger’s Syndrome is the diagnosis. Knowing about the peculiarities of the disease enables parents, teachers, friends or colleagues to better adapt to the person affected. A correct diagnosis also makes it possible to treat the person concerned in a targeted manner. Ideally, treatment for a child with autism should begin between the ages of two and three, but many Asperger’s autistic people reach adulthood without ever being diagnosed and treated.

Every case of autism is different, meaning an individual treatment plan must be designed, which usually involves different therapists, teachers, parents and possibly siblings or friends. The key is to make it easier for those affected to communicate with their surroundings.

Communication training as therapy for Asperger’s

Standard procedures are, therefore, communication training, in which Asperger’s sufferers learn how social interactions work and how to recognize feelings in the other person and what they mean. If possible, children with Asperger’s Syndrome should go to a regular school so that they can come into contact with healthy peers as regularly as possible. Behaviour therapy can help reduce specific fears and reduce stereotypical behaviour patterns.

Occupational therapy may be appropriate to address subtle motor difficulties such as writing. Many people affected by Asperger’s Syndrome have particular interests and talents, often in art and music. It is essential to discover and promote this in Asperger’s sufferers.

 

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