How can I know for sure whether or not my 8-year-old son truly has Aspergers? I'm not totally convinced at this point. There is some speculation based of observations of some of his behaviors - but I still have my doubts.
A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation from a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who specializes in Aspergers (high functioning autism) will be able to give you a definitive answer to that question.
Aspergers has a specific set of symptoms. However, each individual with Aspergers is unique; not everyone experiences the same combination of symptoms. Below is a basic list to help you identify whether or not your son has Aspergers-related symptoms:
Cognitive and Motor Skill Impairments—
Cognitive and motor skill problems are common in Aspergers. Typical cognitive and motor skill issues include:
- Difficulty with imaginative play: The Aspie does not engage in imaginative play as a child.
- Learns best visually: She has trouble learning without visual aids.
- Mindblindness: She has mindblindness, meaning she cannot determine what others are thinking and feeling in social situations or in relationships.
- Organizational skills difficulties: The Aspie experiences difficulty with planning, implementing and completing tasks.
- Problems with coordination: She may have problems with both fine and gross motor skills. Common examples of motor skill difficulty include bike riding, handwriting and playing ball games.
- Problem-solving issues: She has trouble figuring out how to solve problems outside of her routine.
An Aspie experiences a number of communication difficulties. Communication problems can include the following symptoms:
- Easily distracted: The Aspie has trouble concentrating her attention on people and objects that are not connected with her favorite subjects.
- Eye contact: He may not make eye contact.
- Facial expression: Facial expressions are either absent or inappropriate to the conversation or situation. She may have facial tics.
- Monotone speech: He may speak in a monotone voice, without expression or emotion.
- Personal space issues: He might stand too close to a person during conversation.
- Unusual gestures: The Aspie might make unusual or inappropriate gestures during conversation.
Language Skill Challenges—
An Aspie generally has a large vocabulary, but experiences problems with language processing. Language skills challenges may include:
- Difficulty processing language: The Aspie does not always understand the verbal speech of others or misunderstands the meaning of a conversation. He may have trouble making a decision or answering a question.
- Language rituals: He might have certain word scripts that he repeats ritualistically in conversation with others.
- Literal interpretation of words: The Aspie interprets most language on a literal level and misses abstract meanings.
- Trouble with language use: He has trouble using language appropriately in social situations. He may also misunderstand common word meanings.
- Unusual use of words: He may use words in an unusual way or create her own words.
Limited Interests and Unusual Behavior—
An Aspie often has a limited range of interest and may exhibit bizarre behavior. Interests and behavior may include:
- Narrow range of interests and obsessions: The Aspie is intensely interested in a small number of activities and subjects and refuses to engage in other activities.
- Self-stimulatory behavior: He may engage in stimming behavior such as hand flapping, rocking back and forth or twirling.
- Strict schedule: He prefers a rigid schedule and experiences anxiety when the schedule is interrupted.
Sensory Input Issues—
Many Aspies have sensory difficulties and may have unusual reactions to certain sights, smells, sounds or tastes. Sensory problems include:
- Limited food choices: The Aspie may choose and reject foods based upon smell or texture.
- Odors: She may react strongly to certain smells.
- Sounds: She might be hypersensitive to different sounds.
- Touch: The Aspie may not want to be touched.
Social Interaction Difficulties—
An Aspie may have difficulty with the following features of social interaction:
- Difficulty playing with others: The Aspie may not understand how to initiate play with his peers or how to play by common social rules. For example, he may take a ball from a group of children playing a game without asking to join the game first. He will not return the ball if they ask for the ball back because he does not understand the negative reaction.
- General social skills: He wants to socialize with others,, but does not understand how to interact.
- Inability to understand common social cues: The Aspie may not comprehend common social cues such as facial expressions, body language or gestures.
- Inappropriate responses: He may behave or respond to social situations in an unusual or inappropriate manner. For example, he/she may laugh at something sad.
- Problems with two-way conversation: He has trouble with initiating and maintaining a two-way conversation. He may appear to “talk at” someone rather than “with” them. Conversation topics may focus on an obsessive interest. He speaks inappropriately such as talking too loudly or softly.
- Relating to others: The Aspie does not understand other's emotions or social responses accurately in a group situation. He may not understand if an activity or conversation is boring or upsetting to another person.
- Rigid range of interests for social interaction: He will only engage in a narrow range of activities or talk about certain subjects.
The Aspergers list above can help you recognize common symptoms of Aspergers. If you believe that your youngster or teenager has this disorder, contact your pediatrician for an Aspergers screening. Early intervention provides the best chance for your son or daughter to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook