Asperger syndrome is a neurological disorder resulting in a group of social and behavioral symptoms.
It is an
autism spectrum disorder.
Children with Asperger syndrome usually have normal intelligence and do not have language problems.
In the past, Asperger syndrome was considered its own diagnosis. It is now referred to as autism spectrum disorder. However, the term Asperger syndrome is still used by some to identify children with a less severe form of autism.
The cause of Asperger syndrome is unknown. Some experts believe a variety of factors may be responsible.
Infant Brain—Period of Rapid Development
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Asperger syndrome is more common in boys. Family history of autism spectrum disorder may also be a risk factor.
Symptoms usually become noticeable around 2-½ or 3 years of age. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and can include: Difficulty interacting with othersTrouble making friendsPoor understanding of other people's feelingsInsensitivity to social cues and facial expressionsInappropriate social and emotional responsesPreoccupation with one's own worldNot sharing enjoyment, interests, or achievements with othersFollowing repetitive routines or ritualsDifficulty with any changes in routine or scheduleSingle mindednessLimited interests, usually 1-2 subjectsRepeating words or phrases over and overIntense interest in a few topicsGood rote memory without understanding the informationLimited verbal skills or using words in odd waysDifficulty imagining things or thinking abstractlyTaking things very literallyFocusing on small details and having trouble seeing the bigger pictureAbility to read without understanding the wordsProblems with nonverbal communicationPoor eye contactFew facial expressions, except for anger or unhappinessImpaired body posturing or use of gesturesClumsy movementsHand flappingPoor coordinationInflexibility or trouble accepting changeDifficulty accepting loss or criticismObsessive desire to finish any tasks that are started
There are no tests for Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis is based on observations of the child's behavior. Neuropsychological and IQ tests may be done. Medical tests may be ordered to help rule out other conditions. Children and their families can benefit from early intervention.
There is no treatment to cure Asperger syndrome. Treatments aim to control symptoms and improve social skills. Children often learn to function independently when they become adults. However, they usually continue to experience problems with social interaction. They may be at risk for learning disabilities, such as
attention deficit disorder
(ADD). They also may develop mental health problems, such as
. Children with Asperger syndrome need love and understanding, as well as a structured schedule.
Drugs to help control symptoms may include: StimulantsMood-altering drugs
Drugs to control
seizuresAntipsychotics, such as serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or neuroleptics
may be helpful in improving sleep. Talk to the doctor before giving herbs or supplements to your child.
Behavior modification therapy and training can help children develop social skills. Learning how to make and keep friends is a challenge for children with Asperger syndrome.
Caring for a child with Asperger syndrome can be stressful. Counselors help parents learn how to manage the child's behavior. Suggestions include: Give warnings that an activity is about to end and provide ways to save the task for later. For instance, a favorite television show may be recorded for later viewing.Try to include some flexibility into the day.Set limits on the amount of time the child can spend on a single, obsessive activity.Keep directions simple.Use precise words.Limit choices to 2-3 things.Avoid using figures of speech.Make lists.Do not assume a child with this disorder understands what has been said simply because he can repeat it back to you.At an early age, start explaining what is appropriate behavior for public and private places.Do not make idle threats or promises.Give praise for accomplishments, especially social skills.
Children with Asperger syndrome usually have a normal IQ. However, they have special educational needs. They often can attend regular schools. They may need extra support in the classroom. Special attention should be paid to building social skills. Teachers should be informed of the child's needs. Children with Asperger syndrome may be at risk for bullying because they seem different to their peers.
There are no current guidelines for preventing Asperger syndrome.
Asperger syndrome. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/asperger.html. Updated January 2012. Accessed March 9, 2016.
Asperger syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/asperger/detail_asperger.htm. Updated February 1, 2016. Accessed March 9, 2016.
Asperger's syndrome. Autism Society website. Available at:
http://www.autism-society.org/about-autism/aspergers-syndrome. Accessed March 9, 2016.
Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 22, 2015. Accessed March 9, 2016.
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Last reviewed March 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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