Aspergers in children, Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s, is a previously used diagnosis on the autism spectrum. In 2013, it became part of one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5). One of the reasons for the inclusion of Asperger’s syndrome in the ASD group, is that the ASD group of related mental health issues shares some symptoms. Therefore, Asperger’s syndrome is technically no longer a diagnosis on its own. Even so, lots of people still use the term Asperger’s.
The condition is what doctors call a “high-functioning” type of ASD. This means the symptoms are less severe than other kinds of autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms include a lack of social skills, communication challenges and sometimes problems with motor regulation. Symptoms may also include the lack of ability to understand the perspectives and feelings of others. The challenges experienced in understanding the perspectives and feelings of others, often manifest in difficulty understanding nonverbal signals and difficulty in deciphering body language. Furthermore, an orientation toward detail and an interest in systemizing are also generally found in children with formerly known ‘Asperger syndrome’.
Aspergers in children generally leaves language and cognitive skills intact. Thus, strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability is what distinguish formerly known ‘Asperger syndrome’ from classical Autism. Apart from the mentioned symptoms and challenges often experienced by children with Asperger, they often also demonstrate specific strengths. These strengths can include remarkable focus and persistence, the aptitude for recognizing patterns and attention to detail. A small percentage of individuals with autism also present with ‘savant’ abilities – incredible talent in areas such as language, math, art or music. This is the presentation of autism favoured for presentation in movies.
Aspergers in children: For a child to be diagnsosed with ‘Asperger syndrome’, he or she should have been diagnosed by either a psychologist, pediatric neurologist, developmental pediatrician or a psychiatrist. All of the mentioned mental health experts specializes in ASDs and should therefore be consulted if any signs or symptoms of a possible diagnosis of ‘Asperger Syndrome’ are observed. As the condition is often treated with a collaborative team approach, a parent of a child with ‘Asperger Syndrome’ might see several professionals for their child’s care.
Every child with ‘Asperger Syndrome’ is differently and consequently a different approach to treatment is needed for each child. Treatment may include social skills training, speech-language therapy (to improve communication skills, for example teaching the child to include intonation when he or she speaks), cognitive behavioral therapy, parent education and training, and applied behavioural analysis (a technique that encourages positive social and communication skills and discourages undesirable behavior).
With the right treatment, the social and communication challenges seen in Aspergers in children can be overcome and/or compensated for so that these children can go on to do well in school and succeed in life.