Asperger’s Signs & Symptoms

What is Asperger's?

Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s disorder, also known as Asperger’s syndrome, refers to a set of neurodevelopmental symptoms that that once constituted a separate diagnosis similar to high-functioning autism. Today, however, the characteristics that would previously have led to a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder are now included within the broader category of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by a wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment or disability. Young people with autism spectrum disorder have persistent deficits in social communication and interaction, and have a restricted and repetitive pattern of behavior that causes significant impairment in important areas of functioning. . While some children with ASD are only mildly impaired by their symptoms, other are more severely disabled.

Even more mild forms of autism have the possibility to lead to a number of disturbances in numerous areas of a child or adolescent’s life; however, proper therapeutic interventions can help these young people improve their social skills, enhance their communication abilities, and learn the coping strategies that are needed to manage repetitive and restrictive behaviors. There are multiple treatment programs available that can help children and adolescents successfully achieve a higher quality of life.

Statistics

Statistics on Asperger’s

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in every 68 Americans under the age of 18 meets the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder. Additional research has shown that males are affected by autism in greater numbers than females are, with one in 42 boys being said to present with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Causes and Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Asperger’s Syndrome

Researchers are still not sure what exactly causes the development of autism spectrum disorders, or symptoms that were previously classified as Asperger’s disorder. However, it is commonly believed that both genetics and environmental factors are involved. The following are brief descriptions of some of the most commonly mentioned hypotheses:

Genetic: It is believed that approximately 15% of cases of autism spectrum disorder are associated with a known mutation in specific genes, which can be inherited from one’s parents. The risk of inheriting genetic mutations associated with autism spectrum disorder is estimated to range from 37% to 90%.

Environmental: Certain environmental factors have been noted as potentially contributing to the onset of Asperger’s symptoms. For example, problems or complications that occur while in utero or during the birthing process, low birth weight, and advanced parental age can all contribute to the risk of autism spectrum disorders.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Family history of autism spectrum disorder, intellectual delays, or other mental health conditions
  • Prenatal exposure to certain prescription medications
  • Complications occurring during the birthing process
  • Being born 10 or more weeks prematurely
  • Being born to parents who are of advanced age
  • Presence of maternal illness during gestation

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s disorder affects how a child or adolescent thinks, communicates and behaves. Furthermore, because there are many symptoms associated with Asperger’s disorder, it is unlikely that two children with Asperger’s will present the same symptoms. Some children and adolescents have a number of severe symptoms, while other experience only a few mild symptoms. Examples of signs and symptoms that may be exhibited by a child or adolescent who is suffering from this condition may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Throws temper tantrums
  • Doesn’t like changes in routine
  • Avoids eye contact or stares at others
  • Unable to establish friendships
  • Lacks interest in socializing
  • Fails to respect interpersonal boundaries
  • Displays repetitive motor patterns
  • Becomes overly attached to specific objects
  • Engages in repetitive routines and rituals

Physical symptoms:

  • Clumsiness
  • Oversensitivity to stimuli (including sight, sounds, taste, smells, and textures)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Unusual facial expressions
  • Unusual posture
  • Motor delays
  • Problems with coordination
  • Eating disturbances (often only consuming certain types of foods)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to understand societal norms
  • Limited interests
  • Excellent rote memory
  • Tendency to become obsessed over details
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Difficulty recognizing and understanding the subtle changes in pitch, voice, and tone that typically occur in conversation with others
  • Inability to interpret certain social cues
  • Ritualistic and/or repetitive thinking patterns
  • Intellectual impairments

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Apparent lack of empathy
  • Eccentric personality
  • Episodes of depression
  • Heightened levels of anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Periods of emotional detachment
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Feelings of loneliness

Effects

Effects of Asperger’s Syndrome

If Asperger’s disorder is not properly treated and managed, a number of negative effects can occur. However, the exact effects are going to depend upon the severity of a young person’s symptoms, his or her IQ, and his or her ability to communicate. Some of the long-term effects that can result from unaddressed Asperger’s disorder may include:

  • Impaired learning
  • Social isolation
  • Inability to establish interpersonal relationships
  • Development of other mental health conditions
  • Difficultly establishing independence in adulthood
  • Decline in an ability to care for oneself
  • Requires assistance for activities of daily living
  • Lack of self-esteem and self-worth
  • Loss of an ability to communicate verbally
  • Marked deterioration in motor skills
  • Sudden onset of mutism

Co-Occurring

Asperger’s Syndrome and Co-Occurring Disorders

According to The American Psychiatric Association, approximately 70% of individuals with autism spectrum disorder meet diagnostic criteria for a comorbid mental health condition, and 40% may have two or more comorbid mental health disorders. Some of the most common disorders known to co-occur with autism spectrum disorders include:

  • Intellectual developmental disorder
  • Social (pragmatic) communication disorder
  • Developmental coordination disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Specific learning disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder
  • Depressive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders

The therapists were excellent! They really helped us as much as they helped our son.

– Anonymous Parent