By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Asperger syndrome or Asperger disorder is one of the many disorders that form the range of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
The symptoms of this condition may be present from early in life but the diagnosis may be confirmed once the child starts attending school.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown but several theories including genetic influences have been studied in causation of this condition.
Symptoms of Asperger syndrome
Like all types of disorders that belong to the autism spectrum disorders, children with Asperger syndrome also have problems with their social, emotional, and communication skills.
They may appear socially withdrawn and unable to communicate. These children may have unusual behaviors and sometimes obsessive interests.
They typically may have difficulty in talking about their own feelings or understanding others’ feelings and body language. The children with the condition avoid eye contact and fail to interact with others of their age.
They may speak with little modulation in a flat tone and are nervous in large gatherings. Many children with Asperger syndrome are unusually sensitive to sensory stimuli like noises etc.
Diagnosing, screening and treatment of Asperger syndrome
Children with Asperger syndrome differ from children with other developmental delay related disorders by one factor – they have little or no language delay and may have an average or above average IQ (measure of intelligence).
Children with other autism spectrum disorders may have a significant language delay and variations in IQ. Several questionnaires and psychological tests are used to determine the condition.
More often than not, diagnosis is made on the basis of clinical symptoms as described by parents, teachers, caregivers or observed by the developmental paediatrician.
Asperger syndrome may often be misdiagnosed as high-functioning autism (HFA) or atypical autism, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) or semantic pragmatic disorder instead of Asperger syndrome.
Several behavioral approaches as well as vocational and occupational treatments form part of the treatment regimen of Asperger syndrome. Asperger syndrome is a lifelong condition with no cure and children with the condition grow into adults with the condition.
However, with adequate support, a person with Asperger syndrome may live a productive life with gainful employment and possibility of raising a family.
Asperger syndrome statistics
Asperger syndrome is considerably more common than typical autism. Autism occurs in about 4 out of every 10,000 children and Asperger syndrome occurs in 20-25 per 10,000 children. This means the prevalence of this condition is much more than typical or classic autism.
Asperger syndrome is also commonly associated with other disorders like Tourette disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity related behavioral disorders and mood problems such as depression and anxiety.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)