Various diagnoses and subtypes of autism exist on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One of them is Asperger’s syndrome, which was regarded as a separate subtype of autism until 2013. That’s when the DSM-5 diagnostic manual was brought forth, folding Asperger’s into a single diagnosis of ASD.
History of Asperger’s Syndrome AwarenessIn 1944, Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger first described the symptoms that were later connected with this syndrome. He observed similar social difficulties in four young boys, but his observations sunk into obscurity until 1981. It was then that Lorna Wing, an English physician, published a series of case studies on children with similar symptoms, and widely popularized Asperger’s work. From 1994 until 2013, Asperger’s syndrome was described in the DSM-4 diagnostic manual as a syndrome separate from autism.
The Characteristics of Asperger’s SyndromeOn the autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s syndrome is considered to be on the high functioning end. In this case, that means that while affected adults and children show difficulties in social interactions, their cognitive development is not impaired. Those affected by Asperger’s can often have a restricted range of interests and engage in repetitive behaviors. However, within their specialized fields of interest, they often wield a very developed vocabulary.
Behaviors Associated with Asperger’s SyndromeSome of the actions commonly observed in those affected by Asperger’s vary wildly from person to person and don’t have to be the same in intensity or degree. Still, individuals may show some of the following behaviors:
● Speech-related behaviors – monotone, “robotic” speaking or repetitiveness, average to above average verbal skills coupled with challenges in nonverbal communications such as understanding facial expressions, body language, and gestures;
● Social behaviors – inappropriate or limited social interactions, tendency to have one-sided conversations coupled with the obsession with particular topics, lack of eye contact, inability to understand emotional or social issues, difficulty interpreting nonliteral phrases, tendency to discuss self over others.
Diagnosis of Asperger’s SyndromeUnfortunately, Asperger’s frequently remains undiagnosed until later in life, once social difficulties begin manifesting as a lack of success in school, workplace or generally personal life. Adults often get diagnosed only after seeking help for issues such as depression or anxiety. When it comes to children, Asperger’s is often misdiagnosed as ADHD, until it becomes clear that the child doesn’t suffer from the inability to focus attention, but rather the inability to socialize effectively.
Support for Individuals Affected by Asperger’s SyndromeDifferent things may help with Asperger’s syndrome, but the common thread of most treatments is learning social skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used both for children and adults and teach social skills as well as self-control of repetitive behaviors, emotions, and obsessions. Group programs can be quite useful and provide necessary support for training social skills. Another option is speech and language therapy to help with conversation skills.
It’s important to note that individuals affected by Asperger’s syndrome can lead happy, fulfilled lives. With the proper support, the social issues they have can be minimized, and they can make better use of their unique gifts, such as the ability for high focus that many of individuals with Asperger’s possess.
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