Asperger's is often not diagnosed until someone starts experiencing serious difficulties at school or work, and remains poorly understood outside of the mental health profession. If you think you, or perhaps your child, may be affected by Asperger's, reading the following articles can give you some much needed perspective.
What is Asperger’s
Asperger's syndrome is named after Dr. Hans Asperger. He was an Austrian pediatrician who identified the condition in 1944. In his research, Dr. Asperger discusses four boys who demonstrated an absence of empathy, engaged in one-sided conversations, had a fixation on a particular hobby or interest and had peculiar movements. He was fascinated by these young men’s preoccupation with specific subjects. He referred to them as "little professors." Since he coined the term, Asperger’s has evolved from a different diagnosis to part of the autism spectrum disorder or ASD.
Asperger’s is a Part of ASD
A person with Asperger’s syndrome can be highly intelligent, but their social skills aren’t as developed as other people’s. They may struggle with eye contact or fail to understand non-verbal cues. Someone with Asperger’s might perform repetitive behaviors and be oblivious to the fact that these actions are odd.
Asperger’s used to be a separate condition from ASD, but recently it’s changed. In 2013, the DSM-5 included Asperger’s under the heading of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and so it’s no longer a separate diagnosis. Asperger’s is part of a broader category - autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although Asperger’s syndrome is technically no longer a different condition or diagnosis, some people still use the term. It’s also called “high-functioning autism.” What that means is that someone with Asperger’s has a less severe form of ASD on the spectrum.
What are the Symptoms Asperger’s in Children?
The symptoms of Asperger’s differ from children to adults. Here are some signs that a child may have Asperger’s:
- They have a hard time making friends with children their age
- Children with ASD sometimes feel more at ease with adults than their peers
- A child with Asperger’s plays alone and can talk to themselves
- Struggles to make eye contact during conversations
- Has few facial expressions
- Demonstrates strange posture or gestures
- expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures
- Has difficulty understanding social cues
- Finds it hard to comprehend humor
- Has problems engaging in small talk
- Appears self-centered
- Can speak with a monotone voice
- Trouble understanding the nuances of language
- Can be extremely literal
Symptoms of Asperger’s in Adults:
- Socially awkward
- Difficulty making small talk
- Little interest in making friends
- Has a hard time making friends and maintain relationships
- Lack of eye contact during conversations
- Unusual repetitive behaviors
- Repetitive speech
- Obsession or preoccupation with a particular topic
- Difficulty understanding humor
- Taking things literally
Types of Therapy Can Help People with Asperger’s
Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a useful form of therapy used to treat Asperger’s. It’s a proven treatment program that’s been used since the 1960s. ABA draws on different approaches, including using positive reinforcement to modify problematic behaviors. Both adults and children can benefit from ABA. The therapist adapts the treatment to the individual’s needs. Research studies demonstrate that ABA helps people with autism spectrum disorders; however, some people believe that ABA therapy can cause more harm than good to someone on the spectrum. These individuals think that ABA is a treatment model that serves to make people on the spectrum appear “normal” or neurotypical taking away their individuality or power. There’s a controversy as to whether or not ABA is helpful or harmful, and people in the autism advocacy community have strong opinions on the topic.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an excellent form of treatment for someone who has Asperger’s syndrome. An individual with Asperger’s may struggle with repetitive behaviors, and they can benefit from a behavioral therapist. CBT can also help them with emotional regulation and impulse control. People who struggle with anxiety or depression benefit from CBT, and individuals with Asperger’s can find themselves dealing with these issues as well. Typically used to help a person with Asperger’s better regulate his or her emotions and impulses. Cognitive behavior therapy helps people change their negative thought patterns so that their behaviors transform from unhealthy to productive. Individuals will find themselves more confident and able to manage their day-to-day lives better after engaging in CBT. People with Asperger’s can have symptoms that are similar to those who struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD. In addition to OCD, CBT is a form of treatment for those living with OCD. They can benefit from learning to manage compulsions or neurotic behaviors. People who have Asperger’s can also find CBT rewarding as they start to see their repetitive behaviors decrease.
Those who live with Asperger’s struggle with particular behaviors, but also excel in certain areas. It’s essential for them to recognize their strengths. Individuals with the condition do have marked skills that they can draw upon to help them in their lives, such as being skilled in linguistics. Individuals with Asperger's syndrome demonstrate exceptional skills in language but finding it difficult to function in other ways.
Online counseling is an excellent form of mental health treatment for someone who lives with Asperger’s to explore. They can learn ways to manage their symptoms and work on developing a social network of long-lasting relationships. Even in severe cases, however, it is possible for a person with Asperger’s to change their behaviors so that they serve them. Speaking with a licensed counselor can provide the support and expertise needed by anyone struggling with this disorder.