Asperger’s Syndrome

Overview

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that affects a person’s ability to learn, communicate, and socialize. The “autism spectrum” is a range of developmental disabilities organized by severity, with Asperger syndrome locatedat the milder end of the spectrum. Children with Asperger syndrome may have trouble interacting in social situations and may show an intense interest in very specific topics. There is no treatment for Asperger symptom, but therapy, medication, and social skills training can help children develop into well-adjusted adults.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome typically start to show by the time children are 3 years old. The primary symptom is an obsessive interest in one narrow subject, such as insects, statistics, or weather. Children with Asperger syndrome may also have trouble reading social cues and identifying others’ feelings. They may have distinct mannerisms, rituals, and problems with motor skills and may avoid eye contact or show little emotion during interactions with others. Unlike more severe autism spectrum disorders,Asperger syndrome generally does not cause a delay in the development of language or intellectual skills. However, children may speak in a monotonous tone and have difficulty recognizing humor, sarcasm, and other nuances of speech. Asperger syndrome continues into adulthood, although symptoms may fluctuate.

If a parent suspects Asperger syndrome, doctors may perform an extensive evaluation that includes observing the child, questions about the child’s social interactions and communication skills, and tests to determine the child’s intellectual abilities.Similar conditions must be ruled out; children with Asperger syndrome are often misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHA). Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose Asperger syndrome. Some of the diagnostic criteria include no significant language delays, avoiding eye contact, unusual posture and facial expressions, difficulty making friends, preoccupation with one subject, no interest in interactive play, and resistance to change.

Causes

It is not known what causes Asperger syndrome, although genetics and brain structure seem to play a role. Immunizations and upbringing are not associated with the development of Asperger syndrome or any other autism spectrum disorder. Asperger syndrome is much more common in boys than in girls. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . . .

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