do Jane Austen, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Charles Darwin, Michelangelo, and
Mozart have in common, apart from their brilliance of course? Asperger's
Syndrome. It is an autism spectrum disorder characterized by marked impairment
in social interaction and non-verbal communication, and restrictive and repetitive
pattern of behavior and interests. But have no doubt, children with Asperger syndrome
(AS) have no problems with linguistic and cognitive development.
Actually, this is one of the main differences
between autism and Aspergers. Unlike children with autism
these children have good language and
. Actually most children with Asperger's syndrome have an
average to above average intelligence.
Asperger, who discovered AS, described them as little professors, since they
could flourish within their specialty and may go on to become geniuses in their
respective fields. Maybe one of the reasons for this is their indifference to
intense peer pressure.
Secondly, there is no speech delay
in these children. Rather, they have a large vocabulary
and can talk a lot. It's just their speech patterns may be different. For
example, they may be speaking in a rhythmic nature or they might not be able to
modulate their voice according to their environment, as in talking too loudly
in a library. The only difficulty is they may not be able to communicate
properly, especially when they are stressed or upset.
Again, unlike children with autism, children
with Aspergers usually want to fit in
and interact with others
. They just don't know how to do it. That makes
them socially awkward as they may not follow conventional social rules or
empathize where necessary.
Thus, it may not be right to call Asperger's
Syndrome a disorder or a disability. The more appropriate description of AS
could be - different cognitive
Having said that, let's look into the two main
with social interaction:
Asperger Syndrome is
characterized by a marked impairment in spontaneous mentalizing, meaning, the
ability to promptly and spontaneously attribute mental states such as beliefs
and desires to self and others. Research shows, children begin to
distinguish between belief-based and reality-based thoughts between the ages of
4 and 6 years. Decision-making
skills develop along with mentalizing abilities. From age 8-10 years onwards,
children can master higher-order mentalizing activities, and conversation
becomes a central focus of emotional and cognitive development.
Children with Asperger syndrome can learn to handle conversational
interaction as task. But they cannot spontaneously adapt to dynamic changes.
This results in social relation problems
in children and adolescents with
This is the reason why they -
Show eccentric behavior
under social situations
Do not interact well with
May have limited eye
May not understand the use
2. Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and fixated
Children with Asperger syndrome
show at least one of the following symptoms related to repetitive patterns -
all-absorbing interest in a single topic that is abnormal in intensity or focus
or subject; for example - conversing on weather or bus routes, so much so, the conversation may seem like a random
collection of facts or statistics, with no point or conclusion.
Obsession with specific routines or
rituals that are meaning-free. For example, dressing in a specific order or
walk in a circle before sitting down.
Preoccupation with parts of objects.
Repetitive motor mannerisms such as hand
flapping, rocking, body movements such as spinning and jumping. These
mannerisms seem to have a calming or regulatory effect on the nervous system
of the child.
is common in children
with Asperger syndrome, but diagnosing it is difficult in them since the characteristics
of these disorders, such as social withdrawal and appetite and sleep
disturbance, are also core symptoms of depression. Impaired verbal and
non-verbal communication can mask the symptoms of depression, say researchers
from Applied Psychology, Heriot-Watt University, UK. Further, symptoms such as
being obsessive and inflicting self-injury may be increased during an episode
of depression in these children.
Studies show that the problems with socialization and communication in Asperger
children continue into adulthood. Although there is no cure for Asperger
Syndrome, maybe because it is an aberration in the genes, treatment helps meet
the specific needs of individual children. Needless to say, treatment cannot be
general and all interventions are personalized.
The treatment plan
may include -
• Social skills training
, where the children are guided in the skills to interact more
successfully with other children. It is a form of group therapy.
• Cognitive behavioral therapy
in children to manage their emotions better and to overcome
repetitive and restrictive behavior and interests.
• Physical therapy
to improve motor skills.
• Speech therapy
to help them have a normal conversation.
treat associated symptoms such as depression and anxiety
Even the parents of children with
Aspergers are given training and support regarding behavioral techniques to use
'A person with autism lives in his own world,
while a person with Asperger's lives in our world, in a way of his own
- Nicholas Sparks
in his book 'Dear John'
This pretty much sums it up.