What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s (also called Asperger’s Syndrome or Asperger Syndrome) is one of the conditions in the broader category of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although it previously had its own designation, it became part of the umbrella diagnosis of ASD in 2013. Now, there are three types of autism spectrum disorder:
- Autistic Disorder
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
- Asperger’s syndrome
Social challenges and unusual behaviors or interests categorize all three conditions. These problems range from mild to severe, as no two people on the autism spectrum are alike.
However, Asperger’s syndrome is distinct in that it is milder than the other disorders. People with this diagnosis typically don’t have issues or delays with language or cognitive ability. In fact, they may have above-average intelligence. To some, a child with Asperger’s may even seem like a neurotypical child who behaves a little differently.
It is important to know the signs of Asperger's syndrome so you can treat it and find support early on.
Signs of Asperger’s
Asperger’s syndrome shows up in numerous ways, and both its signs and severity vary greatly from person to person. This is why autism is considered a spectrum disorder as opposed to a singular condition.
Although they show up in different ways depending on the person, some of the signs of Asperger’s syndrome may include:
- Trouble with social interactions
- Restricted interests
- Near obsessive interest in a particular subject
- A desire for uniformity
- Distinctive strengths
People with Asperger’s syndrome may be able to perform some tasks more effectively than others. Common assets of people with Asperger’s include:
- Remarkable persistence and focus
- Strong ability to recognize patterns
- Strong attention to detail
On the other hand, people with Asperger’s may struggle socially. They may experience the following challenges:
Treating Asperger’s Syndrome
If your child is exhibiting some of the signs of Asperger’s, you may want to make an appointment with a qualified mental health professional. If you visit your regular doctor, they will likely refer you to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist who is highly trained in working with people with Asperger’s.
Early diagnosis is important for children with Asperger’s syndrome, as those who are treated early in life have a better chance of finding success in school and independent living later on.
Because every case of Asperger’s is unique, treatment plans should be built according to each person’s needs. Treatment for Asperger’s syndrome may include any combination of the following:
- Social skills training
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Parental education
- Speech and language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Developmental therapy
- Individualized education programs
Caring for a Child With Asperger’s
Figuring out the best ways to parent or care for a child with Asperger’s can be difficult. It requires time, patience, practice, and compassion. Here are a few tips:
- Don’t shelter or coddle your child. Exposing your child to social situations helps them learn and practice appropriate behaviors.
- Embrace your child’s creativity, passion, humor, and energy. Don’t forget to celebrate the traits that make them special.
- Always set your sight on diffusing situations, rather than escalating them or going straight to punishment.
- Provide positive feedback whenever possible. When desired behaviors are rewarded, there is a greater likelihood that they will be repeated.
- Work frequently with your child to improve their verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
Support and Resources
Whether you are a caregiver for someone with Asperger’s or have been diagnosed yourself, there are plenty of resources out there for you to get all of the information and support you need. Below are a few resources to check out:
- Asperger’s Association of New England
- ASPEN (Asperger Syndrome Education Network)
- Autism Women’s Network, Inc
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- GRASP – The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership
- OASIS (Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support)
MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome
- US Autism & Asperger Association