Asperger's syndrome (or disorder) was named for the Viennese pediatrician
who first described it in the 1940s. Since then it has been described
as high-functioning autism, considered a milder form of autism, and even
dubbed a disability with a "dash of autism."
Originally classified as a separate disorder, it is now considered to be
a located on the
autism spectrum. While it shares many of the same characteristics of
classic autism, there are key elements that distinguish Asperger's syndrome. Autism
is usually diagnosed in early childhood due in a large part to delays
in cognitive development. Asperger's, on the other hand, often is
not diagnosed until much later – sometimes not until adulthood.
Individuals with Asperger's are of average or above average intelligence.
It is their difficulties with social interactions and communications that
can lead to diagnosis.
Other indicators of Asperger's syndrome include:
- Wanting to fit in socially, but lacking understanding of conventional social norms
- Failure to understand gestures, sarcasm, irony, or humor
- Lack of empathy and limited eye contact
- Robotic, monotone, overly loud, or high-pitched language
- Obsessive knowledge of selective categories of information, but inability
to grasp abstract concepts
Diagnosing Asperger's Syndrome
Diagnoses of Asperger's disorder has increased in recent years. Whether
this is due to an increased incidence or better awareness of the syndrome
is unclear. While the disability is similar to autism, an individual must
have normal language development and be of at least average intelligence
to receive a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.
The American Psychiatric Association states that the following criteria
must be met in order to diagnose an individual with Asperger's Syndrome:
- Severe and sustained impairment in social interaction
- Development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests,
- Such activities and behavior cause clinically significant impairment in
social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
Treatment for Asperger's Disorder
There is no "cure" for Asperger's syndrome. Instead, individuals
with the disorder have found that a combination of treatments works best
to address and live with the disorder.
These treatments include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Social skills training classes either one-on-one or in a group environment
- Occupational and physical therapy
- Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics,
Possibility of Early Detection
As with most ASD disabilities, it is generally thought that early detection
of Asperger's syndrome provides the best chance for effective treatment. Recent
CDC findings as well
international medical journals have suggested a link between a family history of autoimmune disease and
the predisposition for disorders on the autistic spectrum, including Asperger's.
Anecdotal evidence from experts in reproductive immunology suggests a
maternal inflammatory flare during the second trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk of having
a child with ASD. A history of miscarriages and the existence of a sibling
diagnosed with autism or Asperger's appears to impact the risk as well.
Currently, as one of the world's top infertility treatment centers,
Braverman Reproductive Immunology is moderating a discussion forum on
the possible connections of
fetal predisposition detection, miscarriages, and autistic development. Women who are concerned
about the risk of autism in future children due to a previous history
of miscarriage, as well as women who have a child diagnosed with ASD,
are encouraged to join the dialog.