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Do I have Aspergers?

Do you find yourself confused in social situations? Are you passionately interested in a single topic? Is it tough for you to make and maintain eye contact? Then you, like many talented and intelligent adults, may be diagnosable with Aspergers.

Aspergers is different from other disorders on the autism spectrum, in part, because it is often diagnosed in older kids and adults as opposed to very young kids. That's because Aspergers is a relatively mild form of ASD which does not include problems with basic language skills. Many individuals with Aspergers are very bright and capable. The issues that emerge for individuals diagnosed with Aspergers are related specifically to social and communication skills -- skills that only become significant as individuals get older and need to negotiate complex social situations.

What Does It Mean to Have Aspergers?

What does it mean to have Aspergers? Clearly, since so many successful individuals seem to have the diagnosis (Dan Ackroyd, for one, announced his diagnosis on the air -- and rumor has it that Bill Gates may also have Aspergers) it is not a disability in the classic sense. In fact, some historians suggest that Einstein, Mozart, and Alan Turing (the inventor of the first electronic computer) may all have been diagnosable with Aspergers.

What individuals with Aspergers do have in common is a set of characteristics that may make social interaction particularly difficult. Many individuals with Aspergers have been bullied or teased as kids. They may be awkward with the opposite sex. And they may have a tough time maneuvering through complex social cues at school, at work, or elsewhere.

The Cambridge Lifespan Aspergers Service (CLASS), an organization in the United Kingdom that works with adults with Aspergers has developed a simple ten question checklist to help with a preliminary self-diagnosis. If you answered “yes” to some or most of these questions, you may decide to find out more.

• I am good at picking up details and facts.
• I can focus on certain things for very long periods.
• I did not enjoy imaginative story-writing at school.
• I do certain things in an inflexible, repetitive way.
• I find it hard to make small talk.
• I find it hard to work out what other individuals are thinking and feeling.
• I find social situations confusing.
• I have always had difficulty making friends.
• I have unusually strong, narrow interests.
• Individuals often say I was rude even when this was not intended.

If you do answer “yes” to many of these questions relative to yourself or a loved one, you may have uncovered an undiagnosed case of Aspergers. For some teenagers and adults, this is a tremendous relief: it puts a name on a set of issues that has troubled them throughout their lives. And it also opens the door to support, treatment, and community.

But there is no obligation to do anything at all about Aspergers. In fact, many adults feel that being having Aspergers is a point of pride. They are unique, often successful individuals who are simply … themselves!

23-year-old grandson has Aspergers...


My 23-year-old grandson has Aspergers. He is intelligent and is doing well in college -- but is lonely. He has met a woman online who wants him to move to California, and I fear for his safety. He is obsessed with moving and believes that "friends" are waiting for him. How can I help him see that he may be headed for trouble?


In cases like this, unfortunately it seems like experience is the best teacher. I can see both sides: that of the parents convinced their child is making a potentially fatal mistake and wanting to do anything to prevent it; and of the young man who has experienced nothing but loneliness and rejection all his life and who finally believes he has a chance to make it on his own and find both friendship and love. He is not likely to be persuaded from his dreams, and you may damage your relationship with him if you push too hard.

Could you ask him more questions about the relationship? How long ago did he meet her, what are her interests, what is the thing he most loves about her, what are his plans for once he gets to California, what is his idea of an ideal relationship....subtle questions if possible to gauge how much he really even knows about her and how serious he is, and what a relationship really means to him. If it sounds serious and valid, you can be relieved; if not, you can hopefully subtly push him in the right direction. The other thing you can do is let him go, but try to get him to promise you that he will call X amount of times per day, get as much contact info as you can - her phone number and address, his itinerary, etc.

I do think that if he could just have some social success, maybe he wouldn't be so bent on chasing this lady to the other coast. And meeting other people on the spectrum through support groups could give him that. But he may or may not be interested in learning about Asperger's and meeting other people with it.

I wish I could offer you something decisive to do. If he does go, just try to prepare him for the possibility that it might not quite work out the way he thinks it will. Tell him that relationships take time and don't always work out; the most important thing you can do, actually, is not to antagonize him so that he is not too embarrassed to come home if things fall apart. Make clear to him that you love him and will support him no matter what he does, and that you will help him in any way you can and that he always has a home to come back to. Hopefully, he will spread his wings a little and keep the lines of communication open with you. Get him a cell phone if he doesn't already have one.

New Theories of Autism and Aspergers

Two separate new theories have been proposed that may explain the development of autism, and the milder form of autism known as Aspergers.

The new theory of autism that suggests that the brains of children with autism are structurally normal but dysregulated, meaning symptoms of the disorder might be reversible. The theory suggests that autism is a developmental disorder caused by impaired regulation of a bundle of neurons in the brain stem that processes sensory signals from all areas of the body.

Some of the symptoms Aspergers, such as a need for routine and resistance to change, could be linked to levels of the stress hormone cortisol suggests the second theory.

Normally, children have a surge of this hormone shortly after waking, with levels gradually decreasing throughout the day. It is thought this surge makes the brain alert, preparing the body for the day and helping the person to be aware of changes happening around them. Researchers have discovered that kids with Aspergers do not experience this surge.

The two new theories, announced separately, provide intriguing new insights into these childhood disorders, and suggest the focus of future treatment strategies.

A New Theory of Autism—

The new autism theory stems from decades of anecdotal observations that some autistic kids seem to improve when they have a fever, only to regress when the fever ebbs. A 2007 study in the journal Pediatrics took a more rigorous look at fever and autism, observing autistic kids during and after fever episodes and comparing their behavior with autistic kids who didn’t have fevers. This study documented that autistic kids experience behavior changes during fever.

On a positive note, we are talking about a brain region that is not irrevocably altered. It gives us hope that, with novel therapies, we will eventually be able to help children with autism.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It usually appears during the first three years of life. Autism is called a “spectrum disorder” since it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. It is estimated that one in every 150 American kids has some degree of autism.

Einstein researchers contend that scientific evidence directly points to the locus coeruleus—noradrenergic (LC-NA) system as being involved in autism. The LC-NA system is the only brain system involved both in producing fever and controlling behavior.

The locus coeruleus has widespread connections to brain regions that process sensory information. It secretes most of the brain’s noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in arousal mechanisms, such as the “fight or flight” response. It is also involved in a variety of complex behaviors, such as attentional focusing (the ability to concentrate attention on environmental cues relevant to the task in hand, or to switch attention from one task to another). Poor attentional focusing is a defining characteristic of autism.

What is unique about the locus coeruleus is that it activates almost all higher-order brain centers that are involved in complex cognitive tasks.

Drs. Purpura and Mehler hypothesize that in autism, the LC-NA system is dysregulated by the interplay of environment, genetic, and epigenetic factors (chemical substances both within as well as outside the genome that regulate the expression of genes). They believe that stress plays a central role in dysregulation of the LC-NA system, especially in the latter stages of prenatal development when the fetal brain is particularly vulnerable.

As evidence, the researchers point to a 2008 study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, that found a higher incidence of autism among kids whose mothers had been exposed to hurricanes and tropical storms during pregnancy. Maternal exposure to severe storms at mid-gestation resulted in the highest prevalence of autism.

Drs. Purpura and Mehler believe that, in autistic kids, fever stimulates the LC-NA system, temporarily restoring its normal regulatory function. This could not happen if autism was caused by a lesion or some structural abnormality of the brain. This gives us hope that we will eventually be able to do something for children with autism.

The researchers do not advocate fever therapy (fever induced by artificial means), which would be an overly broad, and perhaps even dangerous, remedy. Instead, they say, the future of autism treatment probably lies in drugs that selectively target certain types of noradrenergic brain receptors or, more likely, in epigenetic therapies targeting genes of the LC-NA system.

If the locus coeruleus is impaired in autism, it is probably because tens or hundreds, maybe even thousands, of genes are dysregulated in subtle and complex ways. The only way you can reverse this process is with epigenetic therapies, which, we are beginning to learn, have the ability to coordinate very large integrated gene networks.

The message here is one of hope but also one of caution. You can’t take a complex neuropsychiatric disease that has escaped our understanding for 50 years and in one fell swoop have a therapy that is going to reverse it — that’s folly. On the other hand, we now have clues to the neurobiology, the genetics, and the epigenetics of autism. To move forward, we need to invest more money in basic science to look at the genome and the epigenome in a more focused way.

A New Theory of Aspergers—

Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, might be a key component to understanding Aspergers, according to researchers.

Cortisol is one of a family of stress hormones that acts like a ‘red alert’ that is triggered by stressful situations allowing a person to react quickly to changes around them.

In most children, there is a two-fold increase in levels of this hormone within 30 minutes of waking up, with levels gradually declining during the day as part of the internal body clock.

Our study found that the kids with Aspergers didn’t have this peak although levels of the hormone still decreased during the day as normal.

Although these are early days, we think this difference in stress hormone levels could be really significant in explaining why kids with Aspergers are less able to react and cope with unexpected change.

These findings are important as they give us a clearer understanding about how some of the symptoms we see in AS are linked to how an individual adapts to change at a chemical level.

The new study suggests that kids with Aspergers may not adjust normally to the challenge of a new environment on waking.

This may affect the way they subsequently engage with the world around them.

The researchers hope that by understanding the symptoms of Aspergers as a stress response rather than a behavioral problem it could help care-takers and teachers develop strategies for avoiding situations that might cause distress in kids with the condition.

The next step in the research will be to look at whether kids with other types of autism also lack a peak of cortisol after waking.

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine and University of Bath

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content