What Is Asperger Syndrome?
First identified by Hans Asperger in 1943, Asperger Syndrome (AS) is considered to be primarily a social disorder; as those diagnosed with AS, despite a desire to have friends, have difficulty with social interactions, specifically non-verbal communication – not recognizing social cues (e.g., body language, tone of voice), often misreading a social situation, and not understanding what is appropriate and/or expected behavior (e.g., social distance, eye contact).
Although the majority of individuals with AS have average to above-average intelligence, they often have:
- narrowly defined special interests, for example, technology, electricity, earthquakes
- an inflexible adherence to routines and subsequent anxiety when novel events unexpectedly occur
- sensory impairments
- fine-motor difficulties
- organizational problems
- learning problems
Individuals with Asperger Syndrome frequently display behaviors seen in children and youth with other special needs, such as attention problems (ADD and ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Because little is known about AS, researchers and health professionals do not know whether these behaviors are part of AS or of another disorder, disease, or condition in the individual.
How is Asperger Syndrome Diagnosed?
There is no medical, behavioral, or communication skills test for diagnosing Asperger Syndrome. Rather, health professionals rely on the reports of parents and teachers about the person’s communication skills, peer relationships, social interaction, daily routines, rituals, activities, and interests.
Asperger Syndrome previously had its own behavioral criteria for diagnosis. The disorder is now under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders DSM-V and diagnosis is based on that criteria. Read the Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder >>>
What Can Be Done to Help Children and Youth with AS?
Educational and social interventions can provide children and youth with AS with the support and skills they need to be successful in life. Educational interventions that focus on making the environment more predictable are particularly helpful. Graphic organizers and other similar strategies that capitalize on a visual learning style are also beneficial. Because many individuals with AS have IQs in the gifted range, they need to have learning opportunities that correspond with their skill levels. Enrichment activities should be a part of the curriculum. Read An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome >>>
For many students with AS, the unstructured or less structured times of the day – such as bus trips, physical education or recess, lunch, class change times, changes in routine, and before- and after-school times can be difficult. Each of these areas often requires modifications that provide predictability, structure, and support so that the individual with AS can be successful.
As with other special-needs youth, AS students are often teased and bullied. For these reasons, social skills interventions are perhaps more important than educational modifications.
Information provided by the Council for Learning Disabilites.