What Is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is a developmental disorder that is a mild type of autism spectrum disorder. Autism spectrum disorders are brain disorders that affect a person's behavior and make it hard for a person to communicate and interact with others. Most people with Asperger’s have difficulty relating to others. Asperger syndrome begins in childhood and is more common in boys than in girls.
In 2013, the official names for autism spectrum disorders were changed and, in the U.S., Asperger syndrome is now called “autism spectrum disorder.” The term “Asperger syndrome” is still used in other countries.
What Are Symptoms of Asperger Syndrome?
Symptoms and characteristics of Asperger syndrome include unusual behaviors and difficulty with social interactions, such as:
- Standing too close to others
- Talking incessantly about a single topic and not noticing that others are not listening
- Not making eye contact when speaking to others
- Rarely changing facial expression
- Not using hand gestures when speaking
- Difficulty finishing tasks such as homework
- Difficulty with problem-solving
- Sensitivity to noises, odors, tastes, or sights
- Specific, narrow, unusual interests
- Becoming upset if routines or plans change
- Difficulty determining when a person is joking
- Anxiety and depression
However, some characteristics of Asperger’s may be considered strengths, such as:
- Ability to focus
- Ability to recognize patterns
- Attention to detail
What Causes Asperger Syndrome?
The cause of Asperger syndrome is not fully understood, but it is believed to have a strong genetic basis and it tends to run in families.
Children with Asperger syndrome may also have brain abnormalities, and structural and functional differences may be found in specific regions of the brains of these children.
Certain environmental factors are also thought to increase the risk of developing autism spectrum disorders, including:
- Older parental age
- Exposure to the drug valproate in utero
- Low birth weight
How Is Asperger Syndrome Diagnosed?
Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed with neuropsychological testing. This usually involves an observation of a patient’s behavior along with an assessment of a patient’s behavioral history. Tests may also be administered to evaluate cognitive, linguistic, and communication abilities.
What Is the Treatment for Asperger Syndrome?
Treatments for Asperger syndrome include therapy, medications, and school support for children:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety
- Speech therapy to help with voice control
- Physical and occupational therapy for coordination
- Social skills training to help with conversational skills and understanding social cues
- School support
- Help with organization
- Help with reading and writing
- Not used to treat autism spectrum disorder, but used for anxiety, depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and seizure disorders that may accompany the disorder
- Antidepressants such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclics
- Psychoactive or anti-psychotic medications
- Anti-anxiety medications