Asperger’s Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prognosis

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A man holding illustration of Asperger’s Syndrome

1Overview

Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is a part of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and an all-time developmental disability affecting how people intermingle with others and how they see the world. It is not a learning disability neither a disease nor an illness. Individuals who have affected exhibit a limited range of interests and sometimes demonstrate repetitive behaviors.

Intellectually, they possess an average or above average intelligence. They do not have learning debilities that many autistic people have, but they may have learning difficulties. There are fewer problems with their speech but may still struggle to understand and process the language. Asperger’s syndrome is usually milder than any other forms of autism.

Children or adults having Asperger’s syndrome do not look disabled just like other autistic people. They may wonder why they are different and think people don’t understand them. Others may also see these clients as naughty and misunderstood. So with this, people need to be educated to know how to deal with these types of personalities.

2Symptoms

Each person is uniquely different.  Some might manifest all the AS behavior and others might have some of the following behaviors only.

  • A person with Asperger’s syndrome displays serious deficiencies in social interaction. They struggle to build up a rapport and age-appropriate peer relationships like children may be more comfortable with adults than with other children.
  • Noticeable impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as facial expression, eye contact, body posture, and gestures to interact. Sometimes AS children may show few emotions like not smiling to others.
  • Having trouble in interpreting both verbal and non-verbal cues. Many AS clients have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say (e.g. “break a leg !”).
  • Sufferers may find it difficult to use or understand jokes and sarcasm, vagueness and also abstract concepts.
  • Repetitive words and actions are often seen in a child with Asperger syndrome. They tend to become fixated in actions that involve numbers and even collectibles.
  • Their speech may be disorganized or not significant to the discussion.
  • Sensitivity is also apparent in some cases. Extreme loud noises, unfamiliar food, clothes and even toys will agitate the child.
  • They tend not to seek comfort from others.
  • A monotone or “robotic” tone is heard when talking and inappropriate response to a question.
  • Have socially and emotionally incorrect responses.
  • Some would speak too loudly or dramatically, or speaking too rapidly or too slowly
  • Lack of empathy and difficulty in identifying what personal space is.
  • Daily routines are the same for example same breakfast meal every day, traveling the same way from school and work.
  • Some would have clumsy body language.
  • They have intense and highly-focused interests like recycling, collecting rubbish, engaging to music, arts, drawings, and much Others may focus their interests on studying and working.
  • Their muscle and coordination are impaired; manifests repetitive motor patterns such as arm waving or hand flapping.
  • Some may experience over-or under-sensitivity to touch, smell, sounds, colors, lights, temperatures or pain.

3Causes

Some say that genetic and environmental factors can contribute to Asperger syndrome but the exact known cause is not yet identified. It is said that genetic factors and outside stimuli like virus and exposure to harmful chemicals are linked to acquiring Asperger syndrome.

This condition is not caused by a person’s upbringing or some social circumstances. According to researchers, boys have a higher risk of having Asperger than girls.

4Risk Factors

Family History

Having a relative with Asperger syndrome or other neurological disorder can be a risk of acquiring the same condition.

Tuberous sclerosis

This is a genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to the body.

Tourette syndrome

This is an involuntary movement of muscles and sometimes Occurs in the voice called voice tics.

Gender

According to researchers, the male has the higher risk of having Asperger syndrome than females.

Born to older parents

The risk of acquiring genetic disorders is increased in this particular age group.

Exposure to chemicals

Living in an environment with harmful chemicals that can do damage in the body.

Trauma

Past accidents involving a trauma in the head and even stroke.

5Diagnosis

There is no known exact way to diagnose Asperger syndrome because there is a wide variety of disorders that can be similar to it. Routine physical check-up and blood tests can be done to rule out other possible diseases and disorders. Medical practitioners can help differentiate Asperger to other disorders.

They are the pediatric neurologist who specializes in the brains of the children, pediatrician who can assess and monitor the growth and development of infants and children.

Other doctors can also determine if they have speech difficulty when communicating and speaking to other people. Motor clumsiness is also noted and can be noticed if the child has the disorder.

Parents and teachers can also observe and report developmental or behavioral delays or difficulties. The following issues or key areas should be reported to your doctor.

  • Social interaction towards classmates, friends and other people
  • Language and development
  • Interest in intermingling with others
  • Facial expressions when talking (nonverbal cues)
  • Attitudes toward change
  • Motor skills and coordination

6Treatment

Since Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder, early treatment is important to prevent learning problems and developmental delays. Also, for them to have a normal functioning and better quality of life.

There are many early interventions available for autistic children but not all clients can be able to respond to the same treatment as the others. Various strategies or approaches can be helpful today like:

Speech Language Therapy

This will help enhance the communication skill of the child. Get rid of the monotone speech and lessons on communication techniques will also be present.

Education for parents/ teachers

Counselors can help educate the parents and educators about the syndrome and how to handle the child and communicate with them.

  • There should be consistency in classroom routines. It should be structured and predictable as possible for AS children. If changes happen (scheduled breaks/ vacations), the children should be prepared in advance.
  • When it comes to rules, they should be applied carefully and must be flexible. These children tend to interpret these rules, therefore, writing down these rules may help AS children and so with the rest of the students.
  • Usually, students with AS respond well to the use of visuals: charts, lists, pictures,
  • Teachers should know if the AS child has mood problems such as anxiety or depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This can help your child change his way of thinking, this can help him have better control his emotions behaviors. He’ll be able to get a handle on things like tantrums and outburst.

Social Therapy

Modelling after a behavior is learned in Social skills therapy. It is in groups or even one-on-one sessions which can develop the child’s interaction and can help them express their feelings to others.

Medications

Drugs can help relieve symptoms of the syndrome but there are no known medications to treat Asperger’s syndrome. There is no known medicine to cure Asperger syndrome but some doctors may address some symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Stimulants like Ritalin has a calming effect and can reduce impulsive behaviors.

Antipsychotic medications like Risperidone is for episodes of irritability of the child associated with autistic Spectrum disorder of (ASD). This drug helps reduce agitation and insomnia.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to treat depression in Asperger syndrome. It acts in the central nervous system and inhibits the uptake of serotonin.(e.g. Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, Pexeva).

Antidepressants are also used in the management of AS. The drugs commonly used are imipramine, and fluoxetine,

Physical therapy

This is used to help address the motor coordination of the person. Those who are diagnosed with AS should be encouraged to have short periods of exercise to help promote health and wellness. When they exercise, their body releases the natural mood lifters called endorphins, which may help promote calmer and more subtle periods.

To help improve gross and fine motor skills and strengthen weakened areas of the body, occupational therapy is recommended. The occupational therapists who are trained provide exercises that benefit not only the physical body but also the emotional and intellectual abilities of clients with AS.

To increase the strength in hand coordination, exercise such as squeezing a ball, writing, and dressing can help improve the daily living of the clients.

Alternative therapy

Some studies suggest that special diets and vitamin supplements can be helpful.

7Prognosis

The prognosis of Asperger’s syndrome is very difficult since it is a condition that is not curable. However, with little language development debilities and average or high IQ, this condition enables the child to live a normal life.

Although many AS children attend regular education classes, others may be required to attend special education because of their social and behavioral difficulties that need to be addressed. Many of those with Asperger’s syndrome, having attended normal education may even outshine in their field of interest and can end up with having a stable and gainful employment which lead them to be independent.