Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Signs and Symptoms
The main symptom of Asperger's syndrome is problems in social situations. These symptoms can be mild or severe. Related to social problems are such symptoms as not being able to pick up on social cues, being unble to read others' body language or subtle differences in speech tone or pitch, difficulty in starting or maintaining a conversation, difficulty in talking turns talking, disliking changes in routines, lacking empathy, avoiding eye contact. The child may also have a formal way of speaking, using the word "beckon" insted of "call," or "return" instead of "come back." Aspies may also be preoccupied with a select few subjects or interests, and be very knowledgeable about them. These children will often spend a lot of time engaging in things such as doing intricate jigsaw puzzles or designing houses or drawing intricate scenes. They may also have a delayed motor skills development, and be slower to use a spoon or fork, ride a bicycle, or catch a ball. They may also be highly sensitive to loud noises, bright lights and strong tastes and textures.
Most symptoms will carry through to the teen years, although by the time your child has reached this point, he will have learned to behave better socially. There may still be problems with communication in the areas of reading body language or interpreting speech patterns. Since most Aspies do not care about conforming to dress styles or actions, they may be able to excel in other areas that their peers do not; they may be more interested in following the rules, be model citizens in the classroom, and are more free to pursue their own interests.
By the time the Aspie child has reached adulthood, they have pretty much learned to live with their condition, can interact socially and can read others' social cues. They will still be preoccupied with certain interests and with detail, which can lead them to excel at the university and in their career. Many Aspies are fascinated with technology, and may enjoy a career in engineering.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no medical test that will determine if your child has Asperger's syndrome. This determination is generally made by a specialist and is based on the signs and symptoms that we outlined above. There are tests that the specialist will probably use to determine if your child has Asperger's, including:
IQ and motor tests are common ones used to help determine a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome. Personality tests may also be done.
Speech and language skills are evaluated. Children are tested to determine how well they understand and use language to communicate. Nonverbal communication skills are also tested. Are they able to pick up on humor or sarcasm? Can they interpret body language? The specialist will also listen to your child's voice for volume, stress and pitch.
Since children who have Asperger's syndrome may also have other psychiatric issues such as depression and ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder), they may be tested for these disorders as well. The specialist may also want to see how the child interacts with family and friends for his reaction to new situations, how well he understands the feelings of others, and how he reacts to indirect communication such as teasing or sarcasm.
There is no "magic pill" to treat Asperger's syndrome and make it go away. If it is determined that your child has one or more of the accompanying disorders such as depression, ADHD, or bi-polar disorder, medication may be prescribed for these disorders but it will probably have little or no affect on the Asperger's itself. Treatment for Asperger's should emphasize learning how to overcome the social and behavioral deficiencies which come with the disorder.
Once your child has the official diagnosis, start with contacting your school district to see what help is available for him in the classroom. Federal law requires schools to provide educational services for children with disabilities, including Asperger's. You should meet with your child's school to set up and individualized education program (IEP) for him. An aid or counselor should be available to work with your child on at least a part-time basis.
Sources For Information
While researching this article, we found the following web sites to be very helpful: