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Asperger Syndrome – Test, Diagnostic Scale, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Updated on January 30, 2014

Asperger syndrome refers to a developmental abnormality characterized by compromised ability of the affected individual to communicate and socialize in a normal and effective manner. Children affected by Asperger syndrome generally elicit an all-consuming interest in certain topics as well as social ineptness.

Asperger syndrome is grouped along with varied other disorders under the umbrella of pervasive developmental disorders or autistic spectrum disorders. All of these conditions include problematic communication and social skills. Doctors consider Asperger syndrome to be a milder form of autistic spectrum disorder.

Asperger syndrome has no known cure. Varied programs can help the affected child in effective social interaction and communication.

Symptoms of Asperger syndrome

Some of the signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome are listed below:

  • Display of abnormal non-verbal communication, including deficient facial expressions, absent or furtive eye contact, and unusual gestures and body postures.
  • Preoccupation in long-drawn, one-sided conversations, without paying attention to whether the listener understands or wants to change the topic.
  • Others may feel that Asperger syndrome affected individual does not seem to understand, or is not sensitive, or does not empathize with the feelings of others.
  • Display of an extreme fixation with 1 or 2 narrow, specific topics like train schedules, baseball statistics, snakes, or the weather.
  • Speaking in an abnormally fast, droning, or robotic voice
  • Difficulties in understanding humor or perceiving the thoughts of others
  • Clumsy movements, often with poor co-ordination.

Children with Asperger syndrome generally do not experience any delays in development of language skills as compared to those affected by more extreme types of autistic disorders. It indicates that affected children will usually commence usage of single words by age two, and phrases by age three. However, they may face problems in carrying out normal conversations. There may be deficient give and take in conversations leading to awkwardness.

School-going children as well as toddlers affected by Asperger syndrome may not be interested in developing friendships. Young children may experience delayed development in motor skills like catching a ball, walking, or playing with equipment on the playground.

Asperger syndrome affected children may be quite active. However, they may experience anxiety or depression as adults.

Causes of Asperger syndrome

  • The exact causes of Asperger syndrome is still a subject of research. It is however believed that genetic errors can be a possible cause. The abnormality is also thought to be associated with alterations in the brain structures.
  • It is important to note that unlike popular belief, Asperger syndrome as well as other autism spectrum disorders have no links to immunizations during childhood.
  • Boys are also at greater risk to developing Asperger syndrome as compared to girls

Diagnosis of Asperger syndrome (Tests)

The symptoms and severity levels of Asperger syndrome vary widely and hence its diagnosis can be quite difficult. If the child elicits some symptoms of the disorder, then the doctor may recommend an exhaustive evaluation by a team of specialists.

The assessment will usually include observations as well as questions about the child’s communication skills, social contact, developmental aspects, and friendships. The academic capacities and intellectual levels will be ascertained via a variety of tests. Such tests may assess the child’s aptitude for language, speech, and motor-visual problem solving. The tests may also assess the behavioral, emotional, and psychological aspects.

A child is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome if its symptoms match the criteria listed out in the DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is a manual printed by the American Psychiatric Association that acts as a guide for diagnosis of mental disorders.

A few DSM criteria that must be met to diagnose Asperger syndrome include:

  • Deficient eye to eye contact
  • No substantial language delays
  • Problems in making friends
  • Abnormal social expressions or body posture
  • Absence of interest in collaborative play
  • Obsession with one specific topic
  • A rigid approach towards change

It is important to note that initially some children with Asperger syndrome may be misdiagnosed with other anomalies like OCD or ADHD. This is because the signs of certain disorders are similar to those elicited by Asperger syndrome patients. These conditions may also occur simultaneously with Asperger which can result in further diagnostic delays.

Asperger syndrome - Diagnostic Scale

The ASDS or the Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale checks particular behaviors and assists in quickly identifying the possibility of Asperger syndrome; create goals for intervention and change; note down progress in behavior; and measure the varied aspects for further studies. This scale can be finished in about fifteen minutes by anyone who is well acquainted with the child.

  • Using the assessment: The varied items of the ASDS signify behaviors that are characteristic of Asperger syndrome and all of them are added up to get the final score. The scores obtained from the 5 subtests help the examiner compare and identify the abnormalities, if any, with the scores of normal children as well as other affected children. The total score not only helps in realistic diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, but also assists in lowering the overall time frame in diagnosis of the disorder. The different forms and scales measure varied skills such as social, cognitive, sensorimotor, and cognitive among others.

Treatment of Asperger syndrome

The primary symptoms of Asperger syndrome are incurable. However, a majority of children affected by Asperger syndrome can take advantage of the early specialized intervention programs as well as other treatment options and grow up to be well-adjusted, happy adults.

Some of the treatment options for Asperger syndrome are listed below:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: It uses varied techniques to check abnormal behaviors like fixations, interrupting, anger outbursts, and meltdowns, as well as develop skills to cope with anxiety and understand the feelings of others.The therapy typically aims at teaching the child on how to recognize problem behaviors and situations and then devise a strategy to overcome them.
  • Training in social skills and communication: Affected children are taught in an explicit fashion the unwritten rules of communication and socialization. They may also get to learn correct interpretation of varied communication methods like sarcasm, voice tone, gestures, humor, and eye contact, as well as attain a natural fluent rhythm to their speech.
  • Medications: There are no specific drugs for treating Asperger syndrome. However, doctors may prescribe medicines to alleviate depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and other such related symptoms.

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