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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Causes of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Autism runs in families. The underlying causes, however, are not known. Potential causes under investigation include:

  • Inherited genetic conditions
  • Other medical problems
  • Environmental factors

The fact that higher levels of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette's syndrome and other tic disorders often occur in families with children with autism suggests some relationship among these different mental processes.

Diagnosing High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Children with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome may not be diagnosed as early as children with more severe forms of autism. That's because the symptoms aren't as noticeable. Symptoms may not become a problem until a child is in school. A diagnosis is based on the doctor's assessment of the child's symptoms in three areas:

  • Social interactions: symptoms such as lack of eye contact or an inability to understand another person's feelings
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication: symptoms such as not speaking or repeating a phrase over and over again
  • Interests in activities, objects, or specialized information: symptoms such as playing with only a part of a toy or being obsessed with a particular topic

The doctor may gather information about these areas by:

  • Conducting psychological testing
  • Establishing the history of the child's development
  • Interviewing parents and others who have frequent contact with the child
  • Observing the child's behavior
  • Requesting physical, neurological, developmental, or genetic testing
  • Seeking a speech and language assessment

In addition, the doctor may request tests to rule out other causes of the behavior, such as hearing problems.

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