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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is a developmental disorder that can cause problems with social skills, behavior, and coordination. Asperger syndrome is part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Spectrum means signs and symptoms can vary from one child to another and range from mild to severe.
What are the signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome?
Signs and symptoms usually start during the early developmental period, often by 3 years. Your child may not reach expected milestones. He or she may reach milestones but then lose skills that were gained. You may notice any of the following about your child:
- Social and communication challenges mean your child has trouble interacting.
- Social challenges include showing little interest in other children, or interacting in a different way than they expect. Your child may only want to talk about himself or herself, or about a special interest. It may be hard for your child to give eye contact, ask questions, or respond. He or she may interrupt someone who is speaking. He or she may say something that does not relate to the conversation.
- Communication challenges include not interpreting body language, gestures, or facial expressions. Your child may not understand teasing, jokes, or wordplay. Your child may have started speaking earlier than other children. He or she may have advanced verbal skills, such as using complex words and sentences. His or her speech may be formal and described as sounding robotic.
- Behavior and coordination challenges may cause your child to get upset around new people or situations. He or she may be comforted by repeating routines, rituals, or habits. He or she may have problems tolerating light, sound, textures, or tastes. Sports or activities that need coordination may be hard for your child to do.
How is Asperger syndrome diagnosed?
Your child will be checked for other conditions that may look like Asperger syndrome or occur with it. Some examples are anxiety, depression, and ADHD. If tests rule out other causes, the following can help diagnose Asperger syndrome:
- Screening is part of a well child visit. Screening means your child's healthcare provider will check for certain developmental delays. Screening for an Asperger syndrome usually happens at 18 to 24 months. Your child's provider may recommend more screening if your child's risk is higher. Examples include having a brother or sister with ASD or showing signs that make Asperger syndrome likely.
- Your child's healthcare provider will ask when your child reached developmental milestones. Some examples are when your child began to reach for items or smile at others.
- Healthcare providers 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.
How is Asperger syndrome managed?
Your child's healthcare provider may talk to you about levels of support for your child. This is based on challenges your child has with social skills, communication, and repeated behaviors. The level of support ranges from 1 to 3. Level 3 is the most support needed.
- Early intervention may help your child learn and keep new skills. Early intervention begins before your child is 3 years old. Intervention may need to change many times during your child's life to help fit his or her needs. Providers will work with you and everyone who takes care of your child. This will help make sure everyone knows how to support your child.
- Therapy may be recommended. The goal of therapy is to help your child feel confident and supported. Support may include social skill, behavior, speech, or physical therapy. Therapy may also help your child tolerate certain sounds and smells more easily.
- Medicines may be needed. Medicines may be given to help decrease anxiety, repeated behaviors, or anger. Some children with Asperger syndrome also have seizures. Your child may need medicine to control or prevent seizures.
What can I do to support my child?
- Keep a schedule. Your child may be comforted by routines. Introduce changes slowly. Make activity a part of your child's daily schedule. Regular exercise can help reduce your child's stress and anxiety.
- Show your child how you interact with others. For example, introduce yourself to other people while your child is with you. Tell your child the steps before you do them, such as saying hello and exchanging names. After you and the new person meet, go over the steps again with your child. Give him or her opportunities to practice social interaction. Do not force it. He or she will not get better at interaction if you force it. Your child may be open to being introduced to a new person you are meeting, but ask first.
- Be patient. Your child will have an easier time calming down and communicating if you stay calm. You may feel frustrated if your child becomes upset often. It may help to take a short break. Make sure your child is safe and with a responsible adult before you step away.
- Say what you mean. Be direct. A child with Asperger syndrome may have trouble understanding implied information. Give your child specific rules to follow, and be consistent. Tell your child when he or she is not following the rules. Be positive and supportive when your child changes a behavior or starts following the rules.
- Build on and celebrate your child's strengths. Help your child find activities he or she enjoys and does well. Your child may have amazing strengths. Examples include attention to detail, a strong memory, or artistic skill. Encourage your child to develop his or her strengths. This may be challenging if your child starts to focus on an area and does not want to learn anything new. Your child's therapists can help you and your child find a good balance.
- Talk to officials at your child's school. Your child may need support at school. He or she may need help feeling more comfortable in class. An individualized education program (IEP) may be used through high school graduation. The IEP identifies your child's learning needs and helps teachers understand how to help him or her learn. The IEP may help your child build skills he or she will need after high school.
- Work with healthcare providers to create a meal plan for your child. If your child will eat only specific foods, work with healthcare providers to plan meals and snacks. Healthcare providers may suggest blending foods your child will eat with others he or she refuses. This may help your child get the nutrients he or she needs.
- Have a bedtime routine. Have your child go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day. This may help decrease sleep problems. You may want to install motion alarms in your house. These alarms will wake you if your child gets out of bed at night. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about other ways to help keep your child safe.
For 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
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- Your child has a seizure for the first time.
When should I seek immediate care?
- Your child is taking seizure medicine but still has a seizure.
- Your child swallows something that is not food.
When should I call my child's doctor?
- Your child becomes depressed, or has new problems eating or sleeping.
- Your child is eating poorly and is losing weight.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
Care AgreementYou 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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.
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