From the family of autism, Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder which affects the way a child develops and integrates into the world around them. All members of the affected child’s family and his support structure need to fully educate themselves on this disorder and the best ways to interact with the child. If not for this, the Asperger child’s chances of living a happy and near-functional life can be severely hampered.
Research places the core of this disorder in the genetic pool where brain abnormalities display structural and functional irregularities, caused during the foetal stage.
Asperger’s syndrome is more a condition or a disorder than a disease. It is thought these abnormalities could be a result of defective migration of embryonic cells during foetal development, affecting brain structure and then the neural circuits that control thought and behaviour.
Probably the most striking symptom of a child with Asperger’s syndrome is his fanatical fixation with a particular object or topic, to the point where nothing else matters or seems to be noticed.
The said topic or object is fixated upon with the child adamant on finding out all he can about it and not even showing interest in anything or anyone else’s conversations. Because children with this disorder frantically gather information on the said subject and are then insistent on sharing this information with others they become extremely knowledgeable on the subject at hand.
And yet despite such incredible knowledge, Asperger’s children show strong difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive behavioural patterns and points of interest.
What they appear to lack in non-verbal skills, coupled with an obvious display of physical clumsiness, these Asperger’s children often make up for with a vocabulary way beyond their years.
Other common symptoms include:
- Little or no ability to show empathy to others
- Compulsively following rigid routines
- Inability to distinguish tones of speech in others
- Inability to speak with varying tones
- Poor co-ordination and motor skills
- Immense difficulty interacting socially
- Bright light, strong smells or loud sounds can affect them detrimentally
- An inability to understand social graces
- Difficulty dealing with spontaneity
For these children our world is a foreign place so it is not surprising that they react with challenging behaviours in their attempt to function within it.
But not every child who displays one or two of these symptoms is necessarily afflicted with Asperger’s.
Diagnosing this disorder can be challenging in itself but if your family doctor or medical advisor has some suspicions then he is likely to refer the child for an Asperger’s evaluation. This would include an evaluation and assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a neurologist and a speech therapist.
By establishing the child’s IQ level and his psychomotor ability, his coping skills, the style he chooses to learn and his communication levels, the panel of experts will be able to equip themselves with a professional opinion as to whether the child is Asperger’s or not.
Other factors from the evaluation will include neurological and genetic assessments, communication abilities and the affects of stress and volume modulation.
Testing is comprehensive and professional, children are not easily diagnosed with the disorder until the evaluating team is convinced.
Probably the greatest gift you, his family and his support structure, can give the Asperger’s child is the gift of caring and supporting. The A-B-C analysis is something the entire family can participate in to ease his difficulties and make life for the whole family happier.
The A-B-C analysis will help you establish why the Asperger’s child’s behaviour is so taxing. The Antecedent (A) refers to what happens before the Behaviour (B). The Behaviour is the child’s response to the Antecedent, and the Consequence (C) is what follows the Behaviour immediately.
With an often limited ability to verbalise his needs, you can help him with this once you have identified the cause of the behaviour. It will be something that happens either right before or immediately after the behaviour. And once you see the reason for his behaviour, the child with Aspergers will need a consistent behaviour program or method of intervention.
Unfortunately there is no medical cure as yet for Asperger’s syndrome but with effective treatment, children can learn to cope with the disorder and its magnitude of stumbling blocks, but they may find that social situations and relationships still test their coping abilities. Many Asperger’s adults are quite capable of holding down a job successfully but they may continue to need a lot of encouragement and support from loved ones in order to maintain as near an independent life as possible.