What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome, also known as Asperger’s disorder or disorder, is a Global Developmental Disorder (TGD) that belongs to the group of autism spectrum disorders . It is characterized by difficulty in social interactions and in understanding non-verbal communication.
The syndrome was named after Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician who, in 1944, studied and described the behavior of children who had certain characteristics, such as impaired social interactions, communication and motor coordination.
In the fifth edition of the DSM ( Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ), published in 2013, Asperger’s Syndrome no longer has a separate diagnosis and was included in the group called Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD, or ASD in English), and is therefore considered a milder type of autism . According to recent medical manuals, the disorder is described as a Level 1 autism spectrum disorder, without the presence of intellectual or verbal damage.
Asperger’s is a genetic condition that affects 3 to 7 out of every 1000 children, has no cure and depends on continuous treatment with psychologists.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
ASD consists of psychological conditions classified into three main forms: autism, Asperger’s syndrome and PDD-NOS – Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – Global Developmental Disorder . Today, the TEA nomenclature is used to define the three.
Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome
The disorder has several similarities in relation to autism, however, patients with Asperger’s do not suffer, in a serious way, with cognitive impairment and delays in speech development.
Autism is a developmental disorder that compromises the individual’s social interaction by having addictive, repetitive and extremely restricted behaviors. Even though the Asperger carrier may also have these characteristics, the intensity and severity of the symptoms are less. Asperger’s is usually diagnosed later than autism, which is noticed early among one up to 3 years of age.
People with autism face severe language, sensitivity, eating and sleep complications, all of which are severe. People with Asperger’s Syndrome have milder symptoms, which allow them to communicate more generally in a more elaborate way than would be common for children of certain ages. The individual manages to be more independent, even though he is considered strange in his skills with social situations.
Asperger’s syndrome is a neurobiological disorder whose causes are not yet fully understood. Researchers and experts investigate the reasons for the condition and point out that it may be directly related to some abnormality in the child’s brain. This abnormality, however, has not yet been found. Since there is no biological marker, brain mapping techniques have failed to obtain clear and concise results. Thus, the diagnosis is based on behavioral criteria.
Other suggested causes are hereditary genetic factors or other brain dysfunction. Research also seeks to clarify that the disorder is not related to abusive childhood relationships or emotional deprivation.
Based on recent research, experts argue that the cause of Asperger’s Syndrome is directly linked to genetic factors. Because of this information, individuals who have parents or close relatives with the disorder have a chance to also develop it. Boys are more likely to have the syndrome than girls.
Asperger’s syndrome is a condition that affects the way an individual communicates and relates to other people. The condition manifests itself since childhood, with behavioral changes visible from the age of 3, ideal age for the diagnosis to occur. Among the characteristics of the condition can be mentioned:
Peculiarities of speech and language
In some cases, the individual demonstrates a high level of verbal skills, making use of an elaborate vocabulary and considered very formal for his age group. Because of this, many children prefer to talk to adults than to others their own age.
Difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication
Difficulties in communicating and maintaining dialogues, interacting with other people, deciphering body language and sharing your thoughts, emotions and interests with others. Furthermore, they do not know how to use body movements and gestures in non-verbal communication.
It is common for them to be unable to accept common sense or rules, such as waiting for their turn to speak or perform an activity. For children with Asperger’s, group work can be challenging, as there is a possibility of showing impatience, difficulty in dealing with conflicts and criticisms or boredom by not accepting other points of view. These factors can result in isolation.
Literal interpretation of language
Inability to understand sarcasm, irony, double meaning and other devices used in the tone of voice to characterize the difference between play and seriousness. The person may also have difficulty understanding messages passed by the eyes or gestures, with a tendency to be considered disrespectful or rude.
The communication of the bearers is direct and they also have remarkable honesty. For good understanding, words must be used clearly, otherwise it may occur that the individual attributes literal meanings to them.
Difficulty in empathy
Apparent lack of empathy with the feelings, desires and needs of others. Children and adults with this disorder do not see an interest or need to relate to other people.
They have a different form of introspection and self-awareness, resulting in a longer time to process social information and difficulty in starting a conversation. Because of this, they care less about what others might think of them and demonstrate independent thoughts.
Unusual body language
Strange postures and unusual facial expressions, such as avoiding all kinds of eye contact or looking excessively at another person.
Changes are not welcome, so carriers often need a well-structured daily routine, with specific times for each activity that will be performed on the day. Leaving the schedule, including for simple tours, can cause discomfort if you are not warned days in advance.
Fixation by a single activity
They focus on few interests or just one, performing repetitive and excessive behaviors while playing or talking about the same thing for hours. The interests are specific and limited, which can result in in-depth studies on certain areas.
They are usually very verbal and attentive to details, with a tendency to make in-depth descriptions of subjects that attract their attention. Unusual skills, such as memorizing numbers and maps, are common in people with this syndrome.
Difficulty in emotional self-regulation
Especially in children, the patient with Asperger’s has difficulty in managing his own emotions correctly, so there is an inability to support them when the situation is out of control.
Individuals may experience physical and emotional exhaustion after prolonged periods of socialization. When the child “throws a tantrum” or shows excess of stubbornness, it is equivalent to the moment that is overloaded with emotions.
Because of the difficulty in understanding their emotional, the person with the disorder tends to be more logical and act more easily in situations that require decision making.
Hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli
Increased sensitivity to loud noises, textures and bright lights, which can irritate or excite the person in an exaggerated way.
Symptoms of interference in skills
No development delay
Asperger’s patients have normal intelligence or IQ considered above average. Development is usually normal, as is the period when they learn to speak, walk or think.
There may be a lack of coordination of movements, which are usually clumsy and clumsy. It is possible for the individual to have some poor or delayed motor skills, such as taking time to learn to write or ride a bicycle. It can also demonstrate concentration difficulties that hinder this learning process.
Generally, the syndrome is diagnosed after 3 years of age, with a higher incidence between 5 and 9. However, in mild cases it can be identified only in adolescence or even in adulthood.
If the signs are noticed early in childhood, parents should take their children for an appointment with the pediatrician who will refer the following specialists:
- Psychologist, who can diagnose and treat emotional and behavioral problems;
- Neurologist, to treat conditions related to the brain;
- Psychiatrist, professional with experience in mental health conditions, who can prescribe medications to treat them.
The diagnosis is made through neuropsychological tests, which consist of tasks that children need to perform before specialists. Through the observation of a set of behavioral criteria, as well as attention, memory and sociability, it becomes possible to detect specific symptoms of autism spectrum disorders.
In medical consultation, emphasis is placed on social development, with assessments in communication to determine which are the strengths and the disabled. Another diagnosis is made through tests of recognition of emotions and understanding of another person’s thinking, as people with Asperger’s present changes in behavior when they face situations of this kind.
The Asperger syndrome has no cure , but can be controlled from continued use of drugs and therapy. Symptoms can increase and decrease over time, so the earlier the diagnosis and the start of treatment, the better the patient’s adaptation to the environment and social life can be.
The treatments differ because the patterns of behavior and problems change with each person, so it is necessary for the specialist doctor to test procedures to find the ideal for the patient.
Treatment is carried out by a psychologist, preferably from the patient’s childhood. The consultations consist of teaching the individual to interact with other people, improving the understanding of their own feelings and also that of others.
The multidisciplinary method, carried out with neuropsychologists, pediatricians, speech therapists and psychopedagogists, is the most efficient method to observe the patient’s symptoms in all different aspects. Teachers, nannies, family members and others who live with the child should also be involved.
The methods involved are:
Social skills training
In groups or individual sessions, therapists teach children to interact and express themselves with others. In this therapy, behavior analysis occurs, being a technique that encourages positive social skills with similar praise and reinforcement.
To improve the communication skills of patients, strategies are taught in the use of different tones of voice to emphasize different information, instead of always using the flat tone. The individual will also receive lessons on how to have a two-way conversation and on understanding gestures, such as waving hands and eye contact.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Aimed at older children, in order to condition the patient to deal with discomfort, such as obsessions or nervous breakdowns. The therapy helps the child to think better, thus being able to control his emotions and repetitive behaviors.
Sensory interaction therapy (aimed at the youngest)
Usually performed by an occupational therapist, it is a method designed to treat children with learning disabilities and difficulties in processing sensory information.
Specialized education for parents
Parents or guardians must learn social techniques similar to those that children are being taught so that they can perform them at home.
There are no specific drugs to treat Asperger’s disorder. However, depending on the symptoms presented by the patient, consultation with a psychiatrist may be necessary to indicate medications that help to reduce unpleasant sensations. The following can be indicated:
- Aripiprazole , for irritability;
- Guanfancina, for hyperactivity;
- Risperidone , for agitation;
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs);
- Antipsychotic medications.
NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained in this website is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.
With the right treatment, the patient can learn to control some of the social and communication challenges he faces on a daily basis. Coexistence recommendations for people with Asperger’s are similar to those of autism, such as:
- Parents, friends, teachers and other individuals who live with the child with Asperger’s must respect his learning time and encourage him to maintain communication with colleagues;
- Educators should explore topics of interest to the student and expand new subjects around them, stimulating their learning;
- You should talk to the patient in an objective and visual way, to avoid any noise that interferes with understanding;
- People with Asperger’s feel uncomfortable when they perform activities different from the usual routine, so they must be notified days in advance of any appointment.
Asperger’s syndrome can affect a child’s development at school, both because of the difficulty in absorbing the content and because of the possible isolation caused by the difficulties in socializing. Thus, it is essential that parents or guardians seek medical help when they notice possible symptoms of the syndrome throughout the child’s development.
There are associations between Asperger’s Syndrome and later development of mood disorders, including problems with anger and displays of affection, depression and anxiety .
As it is a condition that does not have an established origin, Asperger’s Syndrome has no known forms of prevention. It is important that children are diagnosed early in childhood to start treatment and avoid further complications.
Early intervention is very important for the development of a child with the syndrome. However, as people with Asperger’s can show above average intelligence and good creative ability, many parents or guardians postpone the search for an accurate diagnosis.
It is of utmost importance that you take the child to a specialist as soon as you identify the symptoms. Also share this article with your friends and family to keep them tuned!