Asperger’s syndrome: What it is
The impassioned speech by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg at the UN summit shook the world. Many people were amazed by this Swedish teenager’s dedication for nature. While she has been in the news for a few years now for spreading awareness about climate change, not many know that she suffered from Asperger’s syndrome. That’s also a reason why few issues affect her more strongly than other people. Let’s know more about this condition.
WHAT IS ASPERGER’S SYNDROME?
In simple words, it is a developmental disorder affecting ability to effectively socialise and communicate. Asperger’s syndrome is a condition on the autism spectrum, with generally higher functioning.
Asperger’s syndrome (also known as Asperger’s Disorder) was first described in the 1940s by Viennese paediatrician Hans Asperger who observed autism-like behaviours and difficulties with social and communication skills in boys who had normal intelligence and language development.
There are many signs and symptoms of Asperger’s. Your child might display just a few, several, or all the signature behaviours.
• Social Symptoms
One telltale sign of Asperger’s syndrome is having difficulty in social situations. Individuals with Asperger’s might talk exclusively about themselves. They may not recognize when someone is uncomfortable, disinterested, or offended as they don’t always recognize social cues. A person with Asperger’s might talk obsessively about one particular subject. For example, he or she might be able to recite different types of flowers or sports statistics.
• Language and Speech Issues
Unlike other autism spectrum disorders, a person with Asperger’s typically doesn’t experience a speech delay. But, they do have specific language behaviours that set them apart.
• Cognitive Behaviours
Typically, kids and adults with Asperger’s have normal to above-average intelligence. While some excel academically, others might struggle. Children with Asperger’s might experience trouble focusing or have a nonverbal associated learning disability that can affect their reading, writing, or math skills. Still, many don’t have any cognitive issues.
• Physical Symptoms
Kids with Asperger’s might experience physical symptoms, such as delay in motor skills, problems with coordination etc.
Children with Asperger’s may appear clumsy or awkward. They might have trouble with simple activities, such as catching a ball or swinging on monkey bars at a playground. But some kids don’t have any motor skill problems.
Parents can typically trace differences in their children’s development to as early as 30 months of age. The diagnosis of AS is complicated by the use of several different screening instruments, including Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale (ASDS); Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ); Childhood Autism Spectrum Test (CAST), previously called the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test; Gilliam Asperger’s disorder scale (GADS); Krug Asperger’s Disorder Index (KADI); and the autism-spectrum quotient (AQ), with versions for children, adolescents, and adults. None have been shown to reliably differentiate between AS and other ASDs.
Though attempts have been made to understand the cause of Asperger’s syndrome, researchers have been unable to point on a specific reason that leads to Asperger’s syndrome. Genes, brain changes, and environment are attributed to play a role in this disorder.
GENE: Certain genetic conditions, such as Fragile X syndrome and Rett syndrome, are linked to the development of Asperger’s. Fragile X syndrome is the most commonly known single-gene disorder, and accounts for about 2 to 3 percent of all autism spectrum disorders.
BRAIN CHANGES: Imaging studies of people with autism spectrum disorders have shown differences in certain parts of the brain, especially in the areas known as the frontal and temporal lobes.
ENVIRONMENT: While more research needs to be done, some have theorized that certain issues during pregnancy may increase a baby’s risk of developing autism spectrum disorder such as In utero exposure to chemicals, such as phthalates or pesticides, air pollutants, Using certain drugs, such as Terbulin (terbutaline), Depakene (valproic acid), antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers etc.,
Studies have shown that boys are about four times more likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder, and according to some studies, up to 11 times more likely to develop Asperger’s syndrome compared with girls.
Every individual whether adult or kid may not exhibit one or same traits or symptoms. So there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Mere medicines or therapy standalone may not be sufficient. The working would squarely depend on the symptoms and areas to work on. Treatments may include a combination or all of the following: Social skills training, Speech-language therapy, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Parent education and training. There aren’t any drugs approved that specifically treat Asperger’s or autism spectrum disorders. Some medications, though, can help with related symptoms like depression and anxiety.
There is no ‘cure’ for Asperger syndrome. However, there is a range of strategies and approaches which people may find to be helpful.