By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
There is at present no cure and no specific treatment for Asperger syndrome. However, early detection and intervention may help children with the condition to develop into adults who can live a relatively independent life.
These children may have more opportunity of reaching their full potential. Therapies and management include:-
communication based interventions
dietary and lifestyle changes
This includes ensuring that the child receives adequate and normal education as far as possible.
Parents should make an attempt to check the educational placements and service providers available in their school district to ensure that the child gets as near normal education as possible.
The schools in question need to be checked for appropriate setting, adequate staffing, adult/student ratio, range of special/support services etc.
Parents need to enquire and find the programs (public or private) that can help these children with Asperger syndrome and help families and parents learn how to cope and deal with difficult situations arising out of the condition.
Parents must be acquainted with the PPT (Planning and Placement Team) process to provide effective advocates for their children.
Some of the positive program specifications include small setting with ample opportunities for more individualized attention, availability of a communication specialist and an expert in social skills development and adequate opportunities for social interaction and formation of social relationships.
These include teaching practices and approaches along with strategies for emotional support, behavioral management techniques, activities towards social and communication competence etc.
For example some of the skills, procedures and concepts related to behaviour and social skills need to be taught in an explicit and rote fashion with verbal teaching methods. Children need to be trained in problem-solving areas and handling situations out of their ordinary routine.
A social skill development culture should be fostered. Children with the disorder need to be taught ways to interpret visual information simultaneously with auditory information in order to interpret other people's nonverbal behaviour or body language and teach oneself to respond accordingly.
Self evaluation, self esteem and confidence should be fostered. The child is encouraged to become more self reliant and sufficient as he or she grows into an adult.
Individuals with Asperger syndrome may often have challenging and difficult behaviour that needs to be addressed. Coexisting mental disorders also need to be addressed. These include depression, anxiety, phobias, mood disorders, schizophrenia etc.
Another area of specific approach includes vocational and occupational training in order to prepare for the child to lead a more independent life.
Medications and psychotherapy
In general medications have not shown much promise in treatment of Asperger syndrome. They may be used in presence of co-existing mental disorders. Specific medications thus are used in patients with depressive symptoms, severe obsessions and compulsions and thought disorders.
Psychotherapy has not shown effectiveness in management of Asperger syndrome but it has been seen that focused and structured counselling can be very useful. This is particularly so in patients with negativism, anxiety, frustration etc.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)