What is Asperger Syndrome?

A boy on an iPad

You may have noticed that your child is exhibiting some odd traits, such as playing in repetitive ways or not making eye contact. They may have regressed a bit, losing hard-won skills that they only recently gained. A diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome means that your child is on the milder side of the autism spectrum, and unlikely to exhibit strong behavioral traits or developmental delays due to their condition. That’s the good news. However, your child still may have many hurdles as they grow and develop that will require you to fully understand how to effectively support their needs.

Is Asperger Syndrome Different from Autism?

Asperger’s Syndrome is a disorder on the autism spectrum that is generally characterized by milder symptoms. These symptoms could include:

  • Repetitive behavior or speech
  • Slight to moderate delays in motor or cognitive development
  • A strong focus on a particular topic or field; perhaps even a precocious interest
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Awkward mannerisms or movement

Help for families who recently received a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome can be found at the local, national and international level on the AspergerSyndrome.org website. A diagnosis often includes a variety of feedback from doctors or therapists, providing you with the information that you need to make an informed decision about treatment and care.

Will My Child Grow Out of It?

While your child technically cannot outgrow Asperger Syndrome or other autism spectrum disorders, it is very likely that you and your family will learn to help them manage the symptoms. There is a reason that Asperger’s is considered a “high-functioning autism” – children are more likely to have some limited challenges with socialization or successful learning. On the flip side, you may also discover that their vocabulary or verbal skills are more impressive than other children their age. There are specific types of medication that are extremely successful in treating this type of disorder such as stimulants and antipsychotics. Therapy is also extremely effective in helping children with Asperger’s relate to others and to the world around them.

Treatment is aimed at helping children learn to manage their symptoms through targeted work on social skills, communication, understanding emotions, task management, and more. Loud noises can sometimes be a challenge for people with Asperger’s syndrome, as can overstimulating environments such as loud or crowded playgrounds with lots of children running around. These situations may cause a child with Asperger’s to either shut down or become overly anxious.

Are There Successful People with Asperger’s?

Oddly enough, there are long lists of famous people who claim that their Asperger Syndrome allowed them to excel. The driving need of these individuals to learn a particular skill set or topic may have allowed them to surpass other individuals who have a broader range of interests. For instance:

  • Sir Anthony Hopkins, the Academy Award-winning actor, claims that his Asperger Syndrome allowed him the insight into others’ emotions and minds due to his introspective nature.
  • Dan Aykroyd is an American actor who also claims that therapy from his “disability” helped him to overcome an innate shyness; work which was incredibly beneficial throughout his career as an actor and comedian.
  • While not confirmed, there are many famous thinkers who historians suspect may have had the condition including Albert Einstein, Jane Austen, Sir Isaac Newton and even Bill Gates.

Just as with autism, there are no proven causes of Asperger Syndrome. Genetics are widely thought to have a role, but the links are tenuous and unproven to date. You may hear a fair amount of chatter in the news about a link between autism and vaccines, but these are also unproven. There is some potential that environmental factors such as pollution could play a role in the condition. Fortunately, the majority of children who are diagnosed go on to live happy, healthy, highly-functional and productive lives. Learn more about Asperger Syndrome on Caring4OurKids.org. You will find resources such as finding classroom accommodations for children with autism to how to teach life skills to your autistic child.

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