Aspergers Symptoms in Infants, Toddlers, and Older Children

Aspergers (high functioning autism) consists of problems with socializing and communication with others. While the average age of diagnosis of Aspergers in kids is around age 7 to 9, recent research regarding early warnings signs may enable clinicians to diagnosis prior to 12 months.

Aspergers Symptoms in Infants—

Many infants and toddlers exhibit signs or symptoms of Aspergers from time to time; however, this may reflect normal youngster behavior. Failure to meet expected developmental milestones doesn’t necessarily reflect a symptom of Aspergers. With these facts in mind, symptoms of Aspergers may be detected in infancy.

• Early Signs— Kids generally attain certain developmental milestones within the first year of life. Some of these include unassisted standing, crawling, and simple gestures, including waving. Some kids with Aspergers fail to attain these milestones within the first year, potentially serving as an early warning sign. Within the first several months of life, an infant with Aspergers may fail to interact appropriately with his environment. These infants may avoid eye contact and interactions, prefer solitude, and avoid attention and affection. Later in infancy, some kids with Aspergers may show problems reacting with activities and objects. These kids may over react or fail to react at all. Initial signs of repetitive behaviors may emerge at this time as well, such as rocking.

• Abnormal Non-Verbal Communication— Babies with Aspergers might exhibit abnormal methods of non-verbal communication. Normally, a youngster will look another person in the eye and have appropriate facial expressions or exhibit predictable body postures or gestures. Infants will not look at people speaking to them or react to auditory stimuli. They will have subdued facial expressions. Body posture, or body language, will be noticeably abnormal in babies with the disorder.

• Lack of Social Skills— A problem with the development of social skills is one of the most common symptoms of Aspergers. This manifests as an inability to communicate properly with others. Infants and toddlers will exhibit this symptom by showing delays in social development. Babies may not exhibit a social smile until much later on in their life. Infants may totally ignore the voices of the moms and dads or strangers, or conversely cry and become irritable when confronted with any form of social contact. As the youngster ages, the lack of normal social skills becomes more apparent.

• Language Development— A key difference between autism and Aspergers is the normal development of language found in kids with Aspergers. By 12 months, a youngster should begin saying single words, including kids with Aspergers. The Aspergers child’s first words are often unusual despite reaching this developmental milestone. More complex words, such as "mountain" or "sheetrock" tend to emerge before simpler words, such as "Mama" or "Dada."

• Obsession with Complex Topics— Young kids with Aspergers may become obsessed with complex topics, such as intricate patterns or music. Toddlers will become enraptured by a stylized pattern on a fabric or in a book. Babies may also listen to music that would typically be ignored by a normal youngster. This obsession becomes more apparent as the youngster ages. These children may be unable to focus on any other aspect of the environment once they notice the object of their obsession. Behavioral conditioning will be necessary to help alleviate this symptom.

• Poor Coordination— Uncoordinated movements are a common symptom in Aspergers. Kids may be seen moving clumsily and be unable to coordinate movements of the hands or feet. They might exhibit an odd posture or have a stiff, rigid gait. Infants may show a delay in learning how to crawl or walk, and may also exhibit a delay in fine motor movements, such as grasping an object.

• Reflex Abnormalities— Infants with Aspergers appear to demonstrate abnormal reflexes versus normal kids. Kids with Aspergers tend to exhibit a persistence of the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex beyond their fourth month of life, when the reflex generally disappears. When infants 4 months and older without Aspergers roll over, they turn in the same direction as their head is facing. Asymmetrical tonic neck reflex is the opposite of this; the infant turns over in the opposite direction to where the head is facing. Kids with Aspergers in general continue to show other reflexes that disappear in other kids at the same age. Additionally, they may lack reflexes that should develop by a certain age, such as the head-verticalization reflex at 6 to 8 months. An infant who has developed this reflex will maintain his head in a vertical position when his body is tilted. Infants with Aspergers show delays in this reflex; their heads will tilt along with their bodies. Detection of these reflex problems in infants requires assessment by professionals trained in special techniques.

• Intervention— Detecting Aspergers is crucial in improving the long-term outcomes for these kids. Prevention of later life problems, such as mental illness, social illness, and underemployment, may be avoided with early intervention. Therefore, knowledge of early symptoms of Aspergers disorder in infants remains paramount in mitigating outcomes for these kids.

Aspergers Symptoms in Toddlers—

Toddlers (approximately ages 1 to 4), may not show specific symptoms, but certain behavioral abnormalities may be noted.

• Communication— Unlike toddlers with autism, a toddler with Aspergers generally does not experience difficulties in language development and speech. Vocabulary is often advanced in toddlers with Aspergers, though as language develops, moms and dads may notice that the youngster has difficulty properly using their vocabulary. Toddlers may talk incessantly about one subject, without acknowledging the listener.

• Delayed Concept of Joint Attention— The idea of joint attention is the rather abstract concept that two individuals (e.g., the toddler and his parent) can be focused on the same thing. An example of joint attention is looking at a picture in a book together. A toddler with Aspergers may have a hard time getting this concept.

• Delayed Pointing— One of the developmental milestones of the first year of life is to be able to point to a desired object. By one year of age, a youngster will probably be pointing to objects that interest him. However, a toddler with Aspergers may not reach this milestone until later.

• Delayed Use of Gestures— Actions such as waving or giving a toy when asked seem like simple tasks. However, to a youngster with Aspergers, these simple gestures may not occur "on schedule" and may instead be delayed. This is because such gestures involve interaction between the youngster and another individual; such social interactions are difficult for the youngster with Aspergers.

• Motor Skills— Problems with motor skills are a common symptom of Aspergers. Delayed learning in playing catch, potty training, learning to ride a bike or walking on tip toes are usually noticeable in kids by the age of 3. Their movement may be described as clumsy or uncoordinated. While symptoms are sometimes noticeable as early as infancy, many moms and dads sense something different about a youngster with Aspergers by the youngster's 3rd birthday. In some cases, early language skills are retained, but the lag in motor development may be the first sign that something is different than "typical" 3-year-old behavior.

• Nonverbal Communication— Abnormalities in nonverbal communication are often apparent in kids with this condition. A lack of eye contact may occur accompanied by limited facial expressions which correspond with words the toddler is speaking. The youngster may also exhibit unusual body movements and gestures.

• Preoccupation— One of the most apparent symptoms of Aspergers in toddlers is their intense interest in a single topic, such as trains or maps. Kids with Aspergers want to know and spend a lot of time trying to learn about their hobby or interest, and they may use an advanced vocabulary and exhibit a high level of expertise on the subject. Some Aspergers toddlers need to establish rigid repetition and routine in their daily activities.

• Reading— Toddlers with Aspergers are often not diagnosed until later in childhood as they sometimes learn to read very early. The perceived advancement overshadows the fact that the youngster with Aspergers often cannot comprehend the words he is reading.

• Repetitive Behaviors— Repetitive interests and behaviors are defining components of the diagnosis of Aspergers. However, repetitive interests are actually quite normal in toddlers. While it is very difficult to determine with such young kids, some signs that behaviors and interests have crossed the line from "normal toddler who loves trucks" to "concerning toddler who seems too wrapped up in trucks" may be noted. These include a very specific interest (e.g., not just "trucks" but "the front bumper of trucks"); an interest that is unusual compared to his peers (e.g., a 3-year-old who intensely focuses on brooms); and an inability to shift focus from the area of interest to other things.

• Sensitivity to Stimuli— Some toddlers with Apsergers will have an unusual sensitivity to loud sounds or lights. They may also be bothered by other physical stimuli (e.g., they may be sensitive to the way certain clothing or material feels or need their socks to be on their feet in a particular way).

• Social Difficulties— Toddler’s with Aspergers usually have difficulty in social situations, such as when playing with other kids. This could be due to delayed motor skill development causing clumsiness, notes Toddlers Today. The interests of a toddler with Aspergers tend to be very limited, causing the youngster to have a very narrow focus of activities and interests.

• Social Skills— A common aspect of Aspergers is demonstrated by poor social interactions. Toddlers with Aspergers may seem to have one-sided social interaction and limited ability to form friendships. Non-verbal behaviors are also notable in these kids (e.g., unusual facial expressions, failure to gesture, aloofness or the inability to make eye contact). These symptoms become more apparent by the age of 3, and most kids are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9.

• Symptoms Related to an Associated Condition— Though there is still a lot of research that must be done, it seems that certain disorders may be associated with Aspergers (i.e., kids who have Aspergers may be at higher risk for having other disorders). For example, one study found that ADHD was often seen in a population of kids with Aspergers. So a toddler with Aspergers may also show symptoms of ADHD. Other conditions that have been found in kids with Aspergers include anxiety disorder and depression.

Aspergers Symptoms in Older Children—

Kids with Aspergers have deficits in three areas: communication, physical coordination and development of a range of interests. Aspergers is an autism spectrum disorder, meaning that it is on a continuum of development disorders that includes classic autism. Most kids with Aspergers are able to function with less difficulty than those with classic autism. A set of classic symptoms define Aspergers. A youngster with Aspergers may or may not display all of the symptoms listed below.

• Clumsiness— A youngster with Aspergers may seem clumsy and drop things. He may fall easily and try to avoid physical games that his peers are playing. He may have odd, repetitious movements or walk stiffly, as though he is in pain.

• Inadequate Math Skills— The youngster with Aspergers may have inadequate math skills, but will do well in vocabulary. He may have noted deficits in his ability to learn some subjects, but will speak like an expert about another. Learning abilities may vary greatly from child to child.

• Lack of Empathy— Although a youngster with Aspergers is not mean, he may seem to be oblivious to the feelings of others. If someone's pet dies, he may not show sympathy as other kids might. He may seem to be interested in himself only, but does not purposefully do cruel things. H may seem emotionally immature for his age.

• Limited Non-Verbal Communication— A lack of eye contact when communicating is a sign of Aspergers. The youngster may have few facial expressions, and he may stare into space while speaking. He may make few gestures while speaking and adopt an odd body posture. He may not watch the facial expressions or body posture of the person who is speaking with him. The youngster with Aspergers may not seem to pick up on humor or any speech that is not direct, such as sarcasm or the use of figures of speech.

• Obsessive Interests— Another sign of Aspergers is obsessive interests. The Aspergers child may hone in on one or two topics and devote an extraordinary amount of time to studying them, looking at them or talking about them. This topic may vary, with some examples including an object, a musical score, an animal, the weather, sports history or visual patterns. He may seem uninterested in any other subjects, and most of the conversations he begins may be about his topic of interest.

• Unusual Speech— A youngster with Aspergers may have an unusual speech pattern, as though he is reading what he is saying. His voice may remind you of a robot, or he may have a monotone, as if he is depressed. His speech may seem overly formal or well thought out, instead of spontaneous. Alternatively, he may speak rapidly, without noticing that others speak more slowly.

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