How Is Asperger's Syndrome Diagnosed?
If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical and neurological exam. Many individuals with Asprger’s have low muscle tone and dyspraxia, or coordination issues. Although there are no tests for Asperger's syndrome, the doctor may use various tests -- such as X-rays and blood tests -- to determine if there is a physical disorder causing the symptoms.
If no physical disorder is found, the child may be referred to a specialist in childhood development disorders, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist, pediatric neurologist, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, or another health professional who is specially trained to diagnose and treat Asperger's syndrome. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on the child's level of development, and the doctor's observation of the child's speech and behavior, including his or her play and ability to socialize with others. The doctor often seeks input from the child's parents, teachers, and other adults who are familiar with the child's symptoms.
How Is Asperger's Syndrome Treated?
Right now, there is no cure for Asperger's syndrome, but treatment may improve functioning and reduce undesirable behaviors. Treatment may include a combination of the following:
- Special education: Education that is structured to meet the child's unique educational needs.
- Behavior modification: This includes strategies for supporting positive behavior and decreasing problem behaviors.
- Speech, physical, or occupational therapy: These therapies are designed to increase the child's functional abilities.
- Social skills therapies: Run by a psychologist, counselor, speech pathologist, or social worker, these therapies are invaluable ways to build social skills and the ability to read verbal and non-verbal cues that is often lacking in those with Asperger's.
- Medication: There are no medications to treat Asperger's syndrome itself, but drugs may be used to treat specific symptoms such as anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
What Is the Outlook for People With Asperger's Syndrome?
Children with Asperger's syndrome are at risk for developing other conditions, such as depression, ADHD, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But, there are various treatment options available for these conditions.
Because the level of intelligence often is average or higher than average, many people with Asperger's syndrome are able to function very well. They may, however, continue to have problems socializing with others through adulthood.
Can Asperger's Syndrome Be Prevented?
Asperger's syndrome cannot be prevented or cured. However, early diagnosis and treatment can improve function and quality of life.