What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome, also known as Asperger syndrome, is a type of high functioning autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name given to a range of similar conditions which affect how a person interacts socially, their communication, behaviour, and interests. Generally, symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome present before the age of three in children, though this does not mean a diagnosis can be made after this age has been reached.
In the UK, it is estimated that one child in every 100 has some form of ASD, and autism affects more boys than girls.
What are the signs and symptoms of Asperger's syndrome?
The main sings and symptoms of Asperger’s are:
- Serious difficulties in interacting socially
- Lack of empathy
- Inability to hold a conversation
- Being opposed to any changes in regular routine
- Difficulty with non-verbal communication
- Engaging in repetitive activity
- Movements such as flapping hands or flicking fingers when upset or aggravated
In children, those with Asperger’s may also not display much interest in interacting with other children, especially those of the same age. They are more likely to be drawn to younger or older children, or play alone. They may also have delayed language skills, e.g instead of finding their own way to explain something, they may repeat exactly what another has said.
What are the causes of Asperger's syndrome?
The exact cause of Asperger’s is unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a part.
There are some who suggest that ASD can be caused by vaccines, but there have been numerous investigations into this claim, with no connection whatsoever made. There is no evidence to suggest that ASD is connected with vaccines.
What is the treatment of Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome treatment seeks to improve communication skills in the person that has it, along with social development. There is no specific type of treatment, as each and every person responds differently and is affected differently by ASD. Asperger’s is generally approached by a multidisciplinary team, including paediatricians, psychologists and psychiatrists, speech and language therapists, learning disability specialists, and occupational therapists.
This team work together with the child to improve their imaginative play (e.g pretending), social interaction (e.g understanding what other people feel), communication skills (e.g tools to help the child communicate non-verbally), and academic skills.
Parents also play an important role in the management and understanding of Asperger’s syndrome. Parents can help their child to communicate and in turn reduce stress and anxiety, which overall affects behaviour.
In some cases, medication may also be prescribed, but this will always be under the supervision of a specialist doctor, and the medication will be assessed on a regular basis to check its efficacy.
In adults with Asperger’s, support is available through programmes which can help with social learning and daily living skills. In the UK, these services can be found through the Autism Services Directory through the National Autistic Society.