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Understanding Asperger Syndrome In Children

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Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome

Ordinary life becomes more difficult to face for children with Asperger syndrome. At an age when children should be learning how to socialize and interact with others their age, these children with the syndrome are unable to relate to other kids or even speak to them at all. Asperger syndrome is a developmental disorder belonging to the autism spectrum. Children with Asperger’s have considerable difficulties with social interaction and often display obsessive behavior. They are also clumsy when it comes to doing physical tasks and often lack the ability to show empathy for others.

Asperger syndrome was named after Hans Asperger, a pediatrician from Austria, who studied impaired social skills and capabilities in children. Asperger’s was officially recognized as a medical disorder in the early ˜90s. It develops and manifests its symptoms in childhood, and though there are few adults who do have the disorder, victims of Asperger's are predominantly children.

The severity of Asperger syndrome can vary for different children. While some are not able to handle typical social situations and often need special guidance and assistance, others are capable of showing a good range of mental functioning. Several forms of treatment and therapy are designed to help children with Asperger’s develop their social capabilities.

Causes of autism spectrum disorders

There is still much research to be done on what exactly causes Asperger’s and other autism disorders to develop in children. Most instances have pointed to an influencing genetic factor in the syndrome, as many relatives of patients with Asperger’s have exhibited symptoms as well.  Studies among twins show a hereditary rate for autism to be over 90%. Two risk factors that may play a role are the ages of the mother and father at the time of conception; research suggests the older they are, the more likely their offspring is to be genetically vulnerable to autism disorders.

Most theories agree that Asperger’s may be caused by a combination of genetics and prenatal and postnatal environments. Certain substances, like folic acid, thyroxine, or tetragens, taken in in utero may affect the offspring’s neural and genetic development and lead to abnormalities in the baby’s brain. Any infections contracted a few weeks after birth can stimulate an autoimmune response that has been known to lead to autism. Other environmental risk factors include overexposure to mercury and lead, as well as paracetamol, which is often given to children as a pain reliever. A popular argument claims that vaccinations lead to autism spectrum disorders. Many cases have been reported in children exhibiting symptoms after taking the MMR vaccine.

Symptoms of Asperger syndrome

It is always advisable for parents to be on the lookout for signs of Asperger syndrome in their children from a very early age. The most notable symptom is impaired social skills. These children are not able to converse normally with other children their age and find themselves unable to relate to or become friends with them. They often appear very serious and do not react to any social circumstances in the expected or normal way.

Their use of nonverbal communication is also limited, with them having strange body language and unable to make simple gestures, like establishing eye contact or smiling. Another symptom of Asperger’s can be found in the child’s daily behavioral patterns. They strictly stick to specific routines each day that seem to have no purpose. These children also exhibit obsessive behavior and can become deeply preoccupied with certain objects or topics that are usually viewed as nonsensical or absurd in a normal social context.

Delayed development of motor skills causes these children to act clumsily in most situations, and they are often not able to do simple physical tasks, like running, jumping or skipping. An early sign of Asperger’s in infancy is the unusually quick development of speech capabilities and a predilection for numbers and patterns without having any clear understanding of what they mean.

Making an accurate diagnosis Asperger syndrome

Many experts disagree on how to properly diagnose Asperger’s, mainly because of a lack of universal criteria and because of the similarity of Asperger’s to other autism disorders. The most common ways to diagnose the syndrome are to look for the symptoms of Asperger’s – inability to act normally in a social setting, abnormal behavioral patterns, motor clumsiness, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the World Health Organization agree on these criteria, but also add that inadequate social skills are not always necessary to make a diagnosis.

While it is advisable that parents look out for these symptoms, it is best for them to always get an official medical diagnosis, as these symptoms may unknowingly be from a different and more serious disorder. Children are usually tested by an entire team of experts that give them a series of cognitive and motor tests and evaluate their styles of communication. There are also a series of genetic screening tests that scan the children for genetic markers that may indicate Asperger syndrome.

Types of treatment for Asperger syndrome

Treatment for Asperger syndrome in children is targeted toward managing its symptoms and helping the child develop his or her skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics established a few recommended strategies for improving these symptoms in a child. Behavioral management and training attempt to mold the child’s behavior using reinforcement and conditioning techniques. An example of these techniques is applied behavior analysis, which helps shape the child’s social skills and teaches them how to interact with other people.

Specialized forms of therapy for speech, cognitive behavior, and physical development all help children deal with these affected areas. Parents and guardians are also advised to simply try talking to their children more or to try slowly introducing them to social environments. They can start with introducing their children to a few other socially quiet children to initiate more social behavior in them. There are available medications that adults with autism usually take, but the case of children is very controversial. Depression and anxiety medications are only prescribed in rare cases where the child may exhibit very severe symptoms that could damage his or her physical health.

Further information on Asperger syndrome

With the proper type of therapy administered from an early age, many children with Asperger syndrome stand a very good chance of losing their symptoms as adults. Some of these children are even capable of maintaining a level of social interaction with others. There are special educational systems that cater to the needs of children who are unable to properly attend a regular school. These children may also be enrolled in homeschooling or online programs that will take off the stress of unwanted social interaction.

Further research is going into developing more methods and therapies to help children cope. Some experts are also studying the other autism spectrum disorders, such as Heller’s syndrome, which is another developmental disorder common among children. Autism disorders are commonly highlighted in society, with many organizations and events being established to raise awareness and support. These kinds of activities attempt to integrate individuals, both young and adult, with Asperger’s or autism disorders deeper into society. With all this information and support behind the Asperger research, affected children are able to have normal lives.