Asperger’s Diagnosis in Children

According to the Autism Society, Asperger’s syndrome (also known as Asperger’s Disorder) displays autism-like behaviors and difficulties with social and communication skills in children who have normal intelligence and language development. However, some of the aspects that distinguish Asperger’s Disorder from classic autism are the less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected, and they frequently have good language and cognitive skills.

Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others, but often they don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understand conventional social rules or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem unengaged in a conversation and not understand the use of gestures or sarcasm. In addition, their interests in a particular subject may border on the obsessive.

Children with Asperger’s Disorder often like to collect categories of things, such as rocks or bottle caps. They may be proficient in knowledge categories of information, such as baseball statistics or Latin names of flowers. They may have good memorization skills but struggle with abstract concepts.

While motor difficulties are not a specific criterion for Asperger’s, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have motor skill delays and may appear clumsy or awkward.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), they state that experts estimate that, as many as 1 in 88 children age 8 will have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  No studies have yet been conducted to determine the incidence of Asperger syndrome in adult populations, but studies of children with the disorder suggest that their problems with socialization and communication continue into adulthood.  Some of these children develop additional psychiatric symptoms and disorders in adolescence and adulthood.  Males are four times more likely than girls to have ASD.

The cause of ASD, including Asperger syndrome, is not known.  Current research points to brain abnormalities in Asperger syndrome. Using advanced brain imaging techniques, scientists have revealed structural and functional differences in specific regions of the brains of children who have Asperger syndrome versus those who do not have the disorder.  These differences may be caused by the abnormal migration of embryonic cells during fetal development that affects brain structure and “wiring” in early childhood and then goes on to affect the neural circuits that control thought and behavior.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Asperger syndrome and the autism spectrum disorders.  Nonetheless, a good treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children. There is no single best treatment package for all children with AS, but most health care professionals agree that early intervention is best.

An effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular reinforcement of behavior.

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, or your child already has an Asperger’s disorder diagnosis, the important thing is to get help and support as soon as possible. The sooner children get early childhood intervention services, the more effective these services can be in fostering positive outcomes.

Diagnostic assessment can also help to clarify if a child requires any extra support or resources for their special needs. The assessment of Asperger’s syndrome tends to be conducted at child developmental centers or child and adolescent mental health services by professionals such as pediatricians, psychologists, speech and language therapists or psychiatrists.

Detailed interviews with parents can help identify whether their child has AS. Mental health counselors specialized in AS can conduct an assessment, focusing on the child’s early development and current behavior. Contact Counselor Jennifer to schedule a consultation and learn more about treatments that will best suit your child. If you’re in the Buffalo, NY area, call (716) 432-3656