Diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome is done by a team comprising Mental Health Experts, Speech and Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists. It is diagnosed in children between the ages of five and nine.
The initial phase of assessment addresses behaviors of children under two specific categories called externalized behaviors and internalized behaviors. Evaluation of externalized behaviors looks into abnormal expressions, misplaced gestures while internalized behaviors addressed depressive tendencies, anxious and confused behaviors or fixation with unusual objects or topics.
The mental health specialist evaluates the family history, child's behavior, manner of social interaction and quality of emotional relationships. Assessment of the child's development at the time of evaluation is a reliable barometer for diagnosis.
a)Family history: The mental health specialist probes the family history with a view to ascertaining the hereditary inclinations for the condition. This might also involve probing certain sensitive issues, for instance parenting styles or academic strengths on the maternal and paternal sides. The development of the child at the time of evaluation, specific milestones, life events , details of traumas, are some of the evaluation pointers which will enable the specialist make a better diagnosis.
b)Speech and Language Evaluation: The speech and language pathologists use an array of methods to gauge the child's communication. With the help of standardized tests and mental scales, specialists assess the communicative abilities of the child. The specialists observe the child in different settings, plotting the behavior and manner of social interaction on a standardized scale.
Receptive language: An assessment is made of how the child processes the information and level of comprehension.
Expressive language: The manner of speech, communication, gestures and expression is analyzed also called the 'pragmatics of language'. Other areas assessed are:
- Quality of voice
- Listening Skills
- Attention Span
- Level of comprehension
- Ability to follow direction
These parameters assist the pathologist to diagnose potential speech and language disorder in order to device befitting interventions.
The advice of an occupational therapist may be sought after the initial assessment of a mental health professional to gauge the child's sensory and environmental responses.
c) Screening Tools
Australian Scale for Aspergers Syndrome: This tool was developed by Atwood and Barbett to ascertain the child's risks of Aspergers syndrome
ADOS: Autistic Disorder Observation Scale (2001): The specialists employ a theme of play centric activities to measure the child's behavior and emotional response.
- 'Parenting a Child with Asperger Syndrome'- by Brenda Boyd