Asperger's: Common Questions & Quick Answers

What are some of the traits of Asperger's (AS)?
  • A child with AS wants to fit in and make friends, he just does not know how to do it.
  • AS usually affects a child's social skills, communication skills, and behavior.
  • AS is a problem of child development.
  • The child usually functions well in every day life, but he has problems interacting with others.
  • AS causes a wide range of developmental problems in children.
  • AS is a brain disorder.
  • It is one of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDD).
  • Other PDD's include Autism, Rett's syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and PDD-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
  • AS is sometimes called High-Functioning Autism.
  • Unlike an autistic child, a child with AS has fewer problems with language, and usually has average to above average intelligence.

What causes AS?
  • The cause is unknown.
  • It may have something to do with genetics, or how the brain works.
  • Parents do not cause AS.

Who can get AS?
  • Anyone can get AS.
  • Parents of a child with AS are more likely to have another child with AS.
  • It is more common in boys than in girls.

What are the signs of AS?

The signs and symptoms of AS are similar to those of other behavioral problems. It is very important that a doctor sees your child if you think he has AS.

Social Skills—
  • Has problems making friends
  • Lacks social skills
  • Seems unaware of others' feelings
  • Unable to carry on conversations

Communication Skills—
  • Cannot start a conversation or keep one going
  • May have problems with nonverbal communication or body language
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Does not use or understand hand gestures
  • Does not change his face when talking with others (e.g., not smiling when telling something funny)
  • Does not understand other people's facial expressions (e.g., not understanding why someone would smile at a joke)
  • May have a short attention span
  • Repeats a word or phrase over and over again
  • Words may be very formal and loud

Behavior—
  • Clumsy
  • Does not like changes in every-day routines
  • Only interested in a few things (e.g., collecting rocks, listening to music)
  • May have obsessive behavior
  • Collects categories of things such as rocks or paper clips
  • Knows categories of information like Latin names of flowers or football statistics
  • May have problems with reading, writing or math skills
  • Lacks organization skills
  • Repeats certain behaviors over and over again

How is it diagnosed?
  • The doctor will watch your child and ask you about his symptoms. How have his social and language skills changed over time? His behavior?
  • It is usually diagnosed between 3 and 9 years old.
  • The child may need to be seen by a developmental pediatrician or psychiatrist (i.e., special doctors who are trained to diagnose AS).
  • He may need tests.
  • AS cannot be diagnosed at birth.
  • AS can be difficult to diagnose because the child can function well in every-day life.
  • A doctor should see the child as soon as any signs or symptoms are noticed.

Is it contagious?
  • No. AS is not contagious.

How is it treated?
  • Treatment depends on the level of functioning of your child. A child with higher intelligence will have a better outcome.
  • Types of treatments include: (a) behavioral modification, (b) education and training, (c) language therapy, (d) medicines for specific behavioral problems, (e) parent education and training, (f) psychotherapy, (g) sensory integration training (i.e., the child is treated to be less sensitive to things that bother him a lot), and (h) social skills training.
  • It is important if all of the child's caregivers are involved in the treatment. This can include family members, close friends, babysitters, teachers, etc.
  • Your child will most likely continue to have some problems throughout his life (e.g., there is an increased risk of developing depression or anxiety), but he will be able to make friends and have long-lasting relationships.
  • With treatment, your child can learn to live with the condition. Many children are able finish high school, and then eventually attend college and get a job.
  • There is no cure for AS.

Can it be prevented?
  • AS cannot be prevented because we do not know what causes it.

When should I call the doctor?
  • Your child has a legal right to receive special services at school. Talk to your doctor or teachers for more information. They can help you decide what school setting and education plan will be best for your child.
  • Call your child's doctor, your child's school, or a support group for help. There are many organizations that can help you cope and teach you how to manage life with a child with AS.
  • Call your doctor if your child shows behaviors of AS from the signs and symptoms list above.
  • Call your doctor if you have any questions about your child's condition.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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