What is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is a lifelong brain development disorder that leads to problems with social skills, behavior, and coordination. The signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome can be mild to severe. Your child's condition may not be diagnosed until he is in preschool, because his speech and development may be normal in other ways.
What increases my child's risk of Asperger syndrome?
Caregivers are not sure what causes Asperger syndrome. Your child's risk increases if he is a boy or has a family member with Asperger syndrome.
What are the signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome?
- Social problems: Your child may show little interest in other children and may want to play on his own. He may not understand how to share at an age when most children have this skill. He may have a long-term, single-minded interest in one topic and only want to talk about his special interest. His looks and gestures may seem odd to others and make it hard for him to make friends.
- Communication problems: Your child may learn to talk at about the same time as other children. He may use complex words and sentences, but his speech may be very formal. He may not understand teasing, jokes, or word play. He may not know how to give good eye contact, ask questions, show interest, or respond.
- Behavior and coordination problems: Your child may get very upset around new people or situations. He may be comforted when he repeats routines, rituals, or habits, such as hand-flapping or twisting. Sports or activities that require coordination may be hard for your child to do.
What medical or psychological problems may my child also have?
- Sleeping or eating problems
- Problems tolerating light, sound, textures, or tastes
- Anxiety or depression
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
How is Asperger syndrome diagnosed?
Your child's caregiver will ask if other family members have any behavioral disorders. Tell your child's caregivers about any health problems that occurred during the pregnancy or when your child was a baby. Your child will be checked for other problems that may look like Asperger syndrome. Your child's caregiver may use any of the following to diagnose Asperger syndrome:
- Developmental screening tests: Your child's caregiver will ask when your child reached developmental milestones. Some examples of milestones are when your child began to reach for items or smile at others. Caregivers may ask you and your child's teachers about your child's behavior at home and at school. They may watch while your child plays or talks with other children. Your child's memory, problem-solving, coordination, reading, writing, or numbers skills may also be tested.
- Blood tests: Caregivers may test your child's blood for anemia (decreased red blood cells) or lead poisoning. These conditions can cause symptoms that are similar to Asperger syndrome.
- Hearing and vision tests: Caregivers may rule out other causes of speech problems by testing how well your child sees and hears.
- Psychological screening tests: A psychologist may check for other problems that can look like Asperger syndrome or exist with it. Some examples are anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
How is Asperger syndrome treated?
Your child will need long-term support and treatment at home and at school:
- Social skills training: This kind of group therapy can help your child learn to approach and respond to other people.
- Behavioral therapy: This therapy helps your child learn to control his emotions, routines, and rituals.
- Occupational and physical therapy: Therapists help your child improve his coordination and work with him to master skills such as dressing himself.
- Speech therapy: A speech therapist can help your child learn how to talk to others effectively.
Which medicines may be used for Asperger syndrome?
Medicines do not cure Asperger syndrome. Seizures can be controlled with antiseizure medications. Melatonin may help your child sleep better. Other medicines can help your child cope with change or improve attention.
What are the risks of Asperger syndrome?
- Your child's special interests, routines, and rituals may prevent him from learning other basic skills. Even with treatment, your child may not learn to get along with others or do well in school. He may be bullied. His behavioral problems may not improve. Your child may not be able to live on his own as an adult. He may have trouble with even basic skills, such as getting dressed.
- Without treatment, your child may not learn to communicate effectively or to live on his own. He may harm himself or others, and his symptoms may get worse. Feeding problems may prevent your child from getting the nutrition he needs. He may get dehydrated.
What can I do to help my child?
- Follow your child's treatment plan: Caregivers will teach you how to help your child gain new skills. You may need to spend many hours each day teaching new skills to your child.
- Keep a schedule: Your child may be comforted by routines. Introduce changes slowly.
- Say what you mean: Your child may have trouble understanding jokes or word play. He may not understand facial expressions and gestures.
- Create a bedtime routine: Sleep problems are common with Asperger syndrome. Put your child to bed at the same time each night and limit daytime naps.
- Build on your child's strengths: Help your child find activities he enjoys and does well.
- Keep your child active: Regular exercise can help reduce your child's stress and anxiety.
- Watch for symptoms of anxiety and depression: Seek help if your child develops new sleep problems or tries to hurt himself.
Where can I find support and more information?
- Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS)/MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome
P.O. Box 524
Crown Point , IN 46308
Phone: 1- 219 - 662-1311
Web Address: http://www.maapservices.org
- Asperger Syndrome Education Network
9 Aspen Circle
Edison , NJ 08820
Phone: 1- 732 - 321-0880
Web Address: http://www.aspennj.org
When should I contact my child's caregiver?
Contact your child's caregiver if:
- Your child's eating or sleeping habits change.
- Your child is less active or sleepier than usual.
- Your child is more worried or upset than usual.
- Your child is more active than usual. You may notice more risk-taking behavior.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- Your child has a seizure.
You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.