What is Asperger’s Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Definition

Asperger’s disorder is a pervasive developmental disorder characterised by problems with social interaction, restricted behaviour, interests and activities, and a repetitive pattern of symptoms.

These characteristics can lead to social and occupational difficulties, but it is not characterised by a marked language delay. Unlike autism, Asperger’s disorder is characterised by a lack of marked language delay in childhood.

However, even with normal language development, people with Asperger’s disorder tend to use pedantic or circuitous language, which makes communication difficult in terms of practicality.

Causes

The exact cause is still being researched. Several factors may play a role in the development of Asperger’s, including prenatal influences, genetics, and neurological factors.

For example, people with Asperger’s often have a history of hypoxia or perinatal complications, and are more likely to have a family member with the disorder.

They may have neurological abnormalities such as slurred movements, and imaging tests such as EEG, CT, and MRI may show abnormalities in the brain.

Symptoms

Children with Asperger’s usually enjoy the company of others and love to talk, but they have symptoms that make it difficult for them to communicate effectively.

In particular, their speech is characterised by a lack of rhyme. In conversation, they may come across as exaggerating, or they may be perceived as not paying attention.

They tend to focus on a single area of interest and rarely use facial expressions and gestures during communication.

They also tend to talk too much or too little, and when they do, their intonation may be odd (flat, monotone, or exaggerated), they may repeat inappropriate words out of context, and they may say things that are unusual for the average person to hear.

They are interested in interpersonal relationships but do not interact well. In some cases, the person may have sluggish motor skills.

Diagnosis/Testing

The child’s developmental history, including language and motor skills, will be investigated, and a questionnaire or interview will be conducted about the child’s presenting behaviour.

Tests such as chromosome analysis, thyroid hormone testing, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the shape of the brain may also be used if necessary.

Treatment

Effective treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach with several steps.

1) Family counselling: Careful explanation of the disorder, realistic expectations for the child, and resources for getting help.

2) Cognitive therapy: Helping the child understand the social behaviour of others and recognize how their behaviour may seem strange to others.

3) Social skills training: Teaches you how to recognise and respond to social cues. Social skills are taught through role-playing, social stories, cartoons, video recordings, using rules, visual cues, and positive reinforcement.

4) Behaviour modification therapy: Teaches people to follow rules at home, school, work, and in the community through behaviour modification.

5) Educational interventions: programmes that teach self-help skills and work skills to live independently.

6) Medication: Medication can be helpful if the person’s inattention, hyperactivity, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, tics, depression, delusions or hallucinations, and sleep problems are severe.

Progression/Complications

Comorbidities include Tourette’s disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.

Asperger’s disorder is usually recognised by the time a child enters kindergarten or primary school and improves with age and maturity, but in some cases it continues into adulthood with individual characteristics.

Prevention

There is no known prevention method.

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