Learning About Asperger's Syndrome

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What is Asperger's syndrome?

Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder that makes it very hard to interact with other people. Your child may find it hard to make friends because he or she has poor social skills.

Children with Asperger's syndrome have some traits of autism. For example, they may prefer routine and not like change. But unlike those who have autism, children with Asperger's syndrome usually start to talk before 2 years of age, when speech normally starts to develop.

Asperger's syndrome is a lifelong condition. But the symptoms tend to improve over time. Adults who have it can learn to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. And they can improve their social skills.

Both Asperger's syndrome and autism belong to the group of disorders called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). You may hear this term used to describe Asperger's syndrome.

What are the symptoms?

Asperger's syndrome is usually noticed when a child is age 3 or older. Symptoms vary, so no two children are the same. Here are some of the common symptoms you may notice. Children with Asperger's:

  • Have a very hard time relating to others. This doesn't mean that they avoid social contact. But they lack instincts and skills to help them express their thoughts and feelings and notice others' feelings.
  • Like fixed routines. Change is hard for them.
  • May not recognize verbal and non-verbal cues. Or they may not understand social norms. For example, they may stare at others, not make eye contact, or not know what personal space means.
  • May have speech that's flat and hard to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent. Or they may have a formal style of speaking that's advanced for their age.
  • May lack coordination or be somewhat clumsy. Or they may have unusual facial expressions, body postures, and gestures.
  • May have only one or a few interests. Or they may focus intensely on a few things.

How is Asperger's syndrome treated?

Treatment is based on your child's symptoms. Treatment may change often so that it's most useful for your child.

Doctors, teachers, and counsellors can help your child improve his or her behaviour and build social and learning skills. School programs and job training can help too.

Here are some ways you can help your child:

  • Help build your child's confidence and skills. Use rules, daily routines, and visual aids such as written schedules. And try role-playing to practice social situations. Children with Asperger's like specific rules and consistent expectations.
  • Focus on your child's strengths. Encourage your child to explore interests at home and at school. And stay informed about what is happening in your child's classroom.
  • Encourage your child to learn how to interact with people. Explain why this is important. Give lots of praise, especially when he or she uses a social skill without prompting.
  • Contact your school district to find out what special services your child can be a part of.
  • Learn as much as you can about Asperger's syndrome. Talk to others about it. The more that teachers, your child's peers, and other people learn, the better they can help and support your child.

Many children with Asperger's syndrome also have other conditions, such as ADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. So they may need other treatments, such as medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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