Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a developmental disorder. Young people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a difficult time relating to others socially and their behavior and thinking patterns can be rigid and repetitive.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder. Young people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a difficult time relating to others socially and their behavior and thinking patterns can be rigid and repetitive.
Generally, children and teens with Asperger’s Syndrome can speak with others and can perform fairly well in their school work. However, they have trouble understanding social situations and subtle forms of communication like body language, humor and sarcasm. They might also think and talk a lot about one topic or interest or only want to do a small range of activities. These interests can become obsessive and interfere with everyday life, rather than giving the child a healthy social or recreational outlet.
Boys are three to four times more likely than girls to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of five and nine, with some diagnosed as early as age three.
What Is the Difference Between Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder?
The name for Asperger’s Syndrome has officially changed, but many still use the term Asperger’s Syndrome when talking about their condition. The symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome are now included in a condition called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is now the name used for a wide range of autism-like disorders. Some providers may still use the term Asperger’s Syndrome, but others will say “ASD – without intellectual or language impairment.” These two syndromes are, for the most part, the same.
What are the Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome?
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit poor social interactions, obsessions, odd speech patterns, limited facial expressions and other peculiar mannerisms. They might engage in obsessive routines and show an unusual sensitivity to sensory stimuli.
While all children with Asperger’s Syndrome are different, what sets them apart are their unusual social skills and obsessive interests. For a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, you may see one or more of the following symptoms:
- Inappropriate or minimal social interactions
- Conversations that almost always revolve around themselves or a certain topic, rather than others
- Not understanding emotions well or having less facial expression than others
- Speech that sounds unusual, such as flat, high-pitched, quiet, loud, or robotic
- Not using or understanding nonverbal communication, such as gestures, body language and facial expression
- An intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects
- Becoming upset at any small changes in routines
- Memorizing preferred information and facts easily
- Clumsy, uncoordinated movements, including difficulty with handwriting
- Difficulty managing emotions, sometimes leading to verbal or behavioral outbursts, self-injurious behaviors or tantrums
- Not understanding other peoples’ feelings or perspectives
- Hypersensitivity to lights, sounds and textures
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome often show no delays in their language development. They are likely to have good grammar skills and an advanced vocabulary, but they also tend to be very literal. They have trouble using language in a social context.
There may be no obvious delay in their cognitive development. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome can have problems with attention span and organization, but they usually have average intelligence.
What Causes Asperger’s Syndrome?
The causes of Asperger’s Syndrome are unknown. Genetics and brain abnormalities may be involved.
We do know that Asperger’s Syndrome is NOT the result of a child’s upbringing or poor parenting. Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder, meaning it is just a part of the child’s brain development, whose causes are not fully understood.
How is Asperger’s Syndrome Diagnosed?
As mentioned above, Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer diagnosed as a condition in and of itself. It is part of the range of conditions included in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If a parent is concerned about a child’s social development, unusual language patterns, and odd behaviors, a pediatrician should be consulted. The pediatrician can determine if the child should be seen by a specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, or other clinician who is familiar with ASD.
Testing and assessment usually involve a team of medical and psychological professionals. The specialists will ask the parent many questions about the child’s development and current skills and problems. They will also interact with the child and conduct assessments to evaluate what symptoms the child shows when interacting with others. They may also assess the child’s language and intellectual abilities. A medical doctor might ask questions or order tests to make sure there are no other medical concerns for the child.
Asperger’s Syndrome (also known as “Autism Spectrum Disorder – without intellectual or language impairment”) may be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes this condition can be confused with other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Making sure to evaluate the child’s social and communication skills, their patterns of behavior and thinking, and how these symptoms have developed over time will help the assessor provide the correct diagnosis.
Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders
Learn more about the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Asperger Syndrome is an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but it presents differently to the common portrayals of Autism. Those with Asperger’s are less likely to have an intellectual disability and can function independently. Children with Asperger’s are often mistaken as naughty, making it difficult to recognise.
What do children with Asperger’s struggle with?
Without the instincts for social understanding, acting appropriately and forming meaningful friendships with peers their own age is their greatest challenge. They tend to prefer adult company instead.
Differences between girls and boys
Cultural expectations push girls to make socialising their highest priority, whereas boys are encouraged to build strength and intellect. These teachings impact the behaviours of children with Asperger’s.
Boys are taught to be less socially focused, so awareness of their behaviours is a lower priority and they tend to enjoy obsessive interests openly. Whereas girls mimic peers and learn to suppress inappropriate behaviours to survive social settings, leading to a lower diagnosis rate in girls.
Many children with Asperger’s go undiagnosed for a long time and can struggle with other mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, before Asperger’s is considered.
Childhood signs of Asperger Syndrome
The child care and education systems are valuable to children with Asperger’s. Carers and educators have the greatest opportunity, as trained professionals, to view the child in challenging settings, giving parents insights they normally wouldn’t have.
Being able to recognise the signs as early as possible, makes a huge difference in a child’s life.
What to look out for
Most signs will show during social interactions, often making the child appear one-sided and awkward.
- Awkward, limited or no eye contact during conversation.
- Forced or uncomfortable facial expressions; fake smiles.
- Inappropriate emotional reactions; laughing when someone is angry or hurt.
- Struggles to adapt during imaginary play; sets rules, gives instructions or guides other children to play a certain way, rarely accepts others’ ideas.
- Prefers structured games like puzzles or construction; may line up, organise or collect toys and objects rather than play with them.
- Starts conversations but tends to act inappropriately; prefers to speak about own interests.
- Often corrects others’ mistakes. Many see the child as rude and selfish instead of considering Asperger’s.
- Struggles to understand jokes and prefers to see things logically.
- If they can write, they are often better communicators via writing than vocally.
- Their mood shifts when things change unexpectedly; rules of a game, the daily schedule, a surprise guest. They’ll get defensive and withdraw from social interaction, turning quiet and easily frustrated or upset.
- May speak well from an early age, often viewed as mature because they prefer speaking to adults.
- Has restricted interests, finding joy learning everything they can about very few subjects and sharing their interest with others.
- They may also have poor co-ordination and struggle with sporting activities.
Since social interaction is the hardest to control, we can give the child control in other areas to ease anxiety and lift their confidence.
- Maintain some daily routines, doing the same few things, the same way, every day.
- Provide advanced warning of changes to routines or plans and surprises; give the child a say where possible.
- Keep favourite items safe and organised.
- Provide a quiet, protected area to be alone every day.
- Provide plenty of opportunities to interact with peers with the support of a trusted adult nearby.
- Help them understand how their actions affect others by openly sharing your own emotions with them; crouch to eye level, don’t force eye contact, and talk calmly.
- Help peers understand Asperger’s and how it affects their friendship; teach them ways to offer support. Children love to help when they’re given the chance to understand.
- Work closely with other trusted adults, sharing any changes and support strategies regularly.
If you suspect your child has Asperger’s, consult your family doctor for an assessment as per the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) (equivalent to the DSM-5) and begin using these support strategies as soon as possible.
As adults, we have the greatest responsibility to protect and support these children through their journey. We are the only ones who can teach them the tools they need to grow into strong and independent members of the community.
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. Doctors look at the child’s developmental history and behavior to make a diagnosis.
ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable  . However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. Some people are not diagnosed until they are adolescents or adults. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.
Early signs of ASD can include, but are not limited to
- Avoiding eye contact,
- Having little interest in other children or caretakers,
- Limited display of language (for example, having fewer words than peers or difficulty with use of words for communication), or
- Getting upset by minor changes in routine.
CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program provides free resources to help families monitor developmental milestones and recognize signs of developmental concerns, including ASD.
As children with ASD become adolescents and young adults, they might have difficulties developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviors are expected in school or on the job. They may also come to the attention of healthcare providers because they have co-occurring conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety or depression, or conduct disorder.
Monitoring, screening, evaluating, and diagnosing children with ASD as early as possible is important to make sure children receive the services and supports they need to reach their full potential  . There are several steps in this process.
Developmental monitoring observes how your child grows and changes over time and whether your child meets the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving. Parents, grandparents, early childhood providers, and other caregivers can participate in developmental monitoring. You can use a brief checklist of milestones to see how your child is developing. If you notice that your child is not meeting milestones, talk with your doctor or nurse about your concerns.
When you take your child to a well visit, your doctor or nurse will also do developmental monitoring. The doctor or nurse might ask you questions about your child’s development or will talk and play with your child to see if he or she is developing and meeting milestones. A missed milestone could be a sign of a problem, so the doctor or another specialist will take a closer look by using a more thorough test or exam.
Your childcare provider can also be a valuable source of information on how your child develops. More information on developmental monitoring for early childhood educators.
Developmental screening takes a closer look at how your child is developing. Your child will get a brief test, or you will complete a questionnaire about your child. The tools used for developmental and behavioral screening are formal questionnaires or checklists based on research that ask questions about a child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions. Developmental screening can be done by a doctor or nurse, but also by other professionals in healthcare, community, or school settings.
Developmental screening is more formal than developmental monitoring and normally done less often than developmental monitoring. Your child should be screened if you or your doctor have a concern. However, developmental screening is a regular part of some of the well-child visits for all children even if there is not a known concern.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during regular well-child visits at these ages:
- 9 months
- 18 months
- 30 months
In addition, AAP recommends that all children be screened specifically for ASD during regular well-child doctor visits at:
- 18 months
- 24 months
- Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD (e.g., having a sister, brother or other family member with an ASD) or if behaviors sometimes associated with ASD are present.
If your child is at higher risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birthweight, environmental risks like lead exposure, or other factors, your healthcare provider may also discuss additional screening. If a child has an existing long-lasting health problem or a diagnosed condition, the child should have developmental monitoring and screening in all areas of development, just like those without special healthcare needs.
If your child’s healthcare provider does not periodically check your child with a developmental screening test, you can ask that it be done.
Comprehensive Developmental Evaluation
A brief test using a screening tool does not provide a diagnosis, but it indicates if a child is on the right development track or if a specialist should take a closer look. If the screening tool identifies an area of concern, a formal developmental evaluation may be needed. This formal evaluation is a more in-depth look at a child’s development, usually done by a trained specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or other specialist. The specialist may observe the child, give the child a structured test, ask the parents or caregivers questions, or ask them to fill out questionnaires. The results of this formal evaluation determines whether a child needs special treatments or early intervention services or both.
It is important to know how to differentiate Asperger ‘s Syndrome from autism, especially with high-performance autism, in order to identify and detect if our child may have Asperger’s Syndrome.
With our observation and with the help of a professional we can detect it in order to help our child to develop fully. The observation in their social environment and their behavior is essential. It is very important if you detect the symptoms to go to the corresponding specialist to be able to assess the case, and diagnose it if appropriate. For all this, from this article, we want to guide you on how to know if my child has Asperger’s Syndrome, assessing the signs that can put you on alert.
Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome in children
- Difficulties for social and emotional interaction. He relates better with adults than with children his age.
- He is not interested in sports. They have few interests in general.
- Has problems playing with other children because it is difficult for him to understand the rules of the games, he only seeks to win.
- You don’t like to leave the house because it feels uncomfortable.
- Has many tantrums when not understanding their feelings, cries a lot.
- It has no malice. It is sincere.
- He is used to believing everything he is told.
- They have a hard time understanding sarcasm.
- When you don’t understand a conversation, you change the subject.
- He talks a lot with an extensive vocabulary, sometimes makes up words.
- Sometimes you can seem absent, lost in thought.
- Sometimes it is difficult for him to understand what is being said to them.
- You don’t understand why you should behave one way or another depending on the context.
- He has an exceptional memory.
- Show more interest in math and science school subjects.
- He is able to learn to read only at a young age.
- It is difficult for him to use his imagination to play with dolls.
- When something interests him, he spends all his time on that matter.
- Behavior with repetitive traits to feel safe.
- Routine, he does not like changes, much less unexpectedly.
- Clumsiness in movements.
- Sensitivity to sudden exterior changes(noise, strong lights, etc.)
- It is difficult for them to maintain eye contact.
Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome in adolescents
- Difficulties for social and emotional interaction.
- Few interests.
- Behavior with repetitive.
- He fixes his attention on specific subjects, sometimes obsessively.
- They present poor adaptation in a social context due to their poor understanding of social interactions and the demands that these generate as it generates confusion.
- It is difficult for them to have empathy for others.
- They tend to isolate themselves because that is where they feel most comfortable.
- Clumsiness in movements.
- Sensitivity to sudden exterior changes(noise, strong lights)
- They can present obsessions.
- They are noble people, with a good heart and you only have to know them a little to be able to see their background.
- It is difficult for them to maintain eye contact.
This article is merely informative, we do not have the power to prescribe any medical treatment or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
July 5, 2007 — A new study suggests that about half of all cases of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may be diagnosable during the toddler years. The other half may be diagnosed later and may be a very different type of the behavioral and social disorder.
Researchers found that certain early signs of autism spectrum disorders (including autism) were evident in children at 14 months of age, and this early diagnosis was then confirmed by age 3.
“The fact that we can identify this at such a young age is extremely exciting because it gives us an opportunity to diagnose children with ASD very early on when intervention may have a great impact on development,” says researcher Rebecca Landa, PhD, director of the Kennedy Krieger Institute Center for Autism and Related disorders, in a news release.
Earlier Autism Diagnosis
Researchers say autism spectrum disorders are rarely diagnosed before age 3, and diagnosis at 14 months of age, as found in this study, is the earliest ever reported.
In the study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers followed 107 children considered at high risk for autism spectrum disorders because they had a brother or sister with autism, and 18 children with no family history of the disorder.
The children’s social interaction, communication, and play behaviors were evaluated at ages 14, 18, 24, 30, or 36 months of age. At each assessment, researchers noted any significant signs of delay or impairment that might be a sign of autism.
At the final 30- or 36-month visit, each of the children was given a final diagnosis. Thirty of the children who had siblings with autism were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This group was then divided into two groups: those who had displayed early signs of autism at 14 months and those who developed impairment later.
Researchers found half of the children diagnosed with autism had been diagnosed with autism at the first 14-month visit and the other half were diagnosed later.
Early Signs of Autism
Landa says the results identified the following early signs of autism that parents and pediatricians should be on the lookout for:
- Abnormalities in initiating communication with others: Rather than asking for help with something, the child may struggle alone without looking around for assistance.
- Impaired ability to initiate and respond to opportunities to share experiences with others: Children with autism may not follow their parents gaze or initiate contact with others.
- Irregularities when playing with toys: Instead of using a toy as it is meant to be used, like picking up a toy fork and pretending to eat with it, the child may do something unusual with the toy.
- Significantly reduced variety of sounds, words, and gestures used to communicate: Compared with typically developing children, children with autism have a much smaller inventory of sounds, words, and gestures that they use to communicate with others.
“For a toddler with autism, only a limited set of circumstances — like when they see a favorite toy, or when they are tossed in the air — will lead to fleeting social engagement,” says Landa.
There are no standardized criteria for diagnosing autism as early as age 1, but Landa says they hope to develop them soon.
Researchers say parents should discuss any of these developmental problems early on with their pediatrician because early treatment can significantly reduce the impairment caused by autism.
- Do you think your child may have the early signs of autism? Talk with others on WebMD’s Parenting: Special-Needs Children message board.
SOURCES: Landa, R. Archives of General Psychiatry, July 2007; vol 64: pp 853-858. News release, Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Identifying High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s in young people who have the disorder can be difficult because they are relatively skilled in most areas (e.g., many have a high level of language development and an average to high IQ). But, parents may be able to recognize HFA in a preschooler by watching his or her social interactions and behaviors.
Although parents may recognize some telltale signs of HFA in their preschooler, ultimately they need the professional discernment of a physician or other qualified professional. The physician may recommend tests to more thoroughly examine relevant potentially telling aspects of a preschooler’s social and cognitive development. However, there is no single medical test to diagnose HFA, so parents should be patient as they and their child’s physician work through the diagnosis process.
Have you wondered whether or not your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder? If so, here’s what to look for to confirm your suspicions (if you answer “yes” to most of these questions, then seeking a formal diagnosis would be the next step):
- Can your HFA child follow the lead of a close friend or sibling with “role-playing,” yet doesn’t do it on his own?
- Does your child appear to be clumsy or awkward in her movements?
- Does your child appear to have difficulty reading and interpreting others’ feelings in real social interactions?
- Does your child commonly show repetitive motor behaviors (e.g., persistent hand twisting or finger tapping, whole-body movements, etc.)?
- Does your child have great difficulty adapting to change?
- Would you say your child has great difficulty deviating from his routine?
- Does your child have great difficulty interacting with her same-age peers, yet does well socially with those older or younger than her?
- Does your child prefer adults for conversation over another youngster his age?
- Does your child prefer games with a set script (e.g., acting out a favorite story or TV show)?
- Does your child prefer highly-structured days and consistent rules?
- Have you noticed that your child has difficulty interacting with others in group-play?
- Does your child seem to have disregard for other’s feelings (e.g., appears to be insensitive)?
- Does your child tend to misinterpret simple social cues (e.g., turn-taking during conversation or games)?
- Does your youngster only initiate questions on topics that interest him?
- Has your child become distressed if you get in her way (e.g. passing in front of her while she is trying to walk in circles around a table)?
- Has your child demonstrated difficulty in some motor skills (e.g., catching and throwing a ball, riding a bicycle, tying shoe laces, etc.)?
- Does your child enjoy creating fantasy worlds, yet struggles with social role-play?
- Does your child have a passionate “special interest” to the exclusion of all other potential interests?
- Does your child have difficulty with imaginative play (e.g., he dislikes or struggles to understand social games)?
- Has your child tried to impose her choice of game on her playmates or otherwise act in a very one-sided manner?
- Have you noticed that your HFA child is highly skilled at language and very verbal (e.g., she may list off every item in a room)?
- Is it rare that your child responds to social interaction with a smile of happy emotional expression?
- Would you say that the social context in which language is used is often abnormal (e.g., words may be repeated but not understood)?
- Would you say your child is a “walking encyclopedia” on a given topic?
- Does your child have trouble joining or staying in social interactions (e.g., he may leave the room in the middle of playing with another youngster or otherwise be disruptive)?
- Does your child have trouble understanding social boundaries (e.g., the need for privacy or personal space)?
- Would you say your child seems to be lost “in his own world”?
- Would you say your child speaks in a monotonous or idiosyncratic fashion (e.g., has a flat tone, an odd or high tone, stresses words and the rhythm of speech, speaks in a singsong or otherwise unusual tone, etc.)?
- Does your child tend to prefer playing by himself – and even gets upset if another youngster approaches him?
- Does your child’s speech seem overly formal or scripted (e.g., uses language to relay facts but not to convey thoughts or feelings)?
- Would you say your child’s social interactions are awkward (e.g., consistently avoiding eye contact, unusual body posture, gestures, facial expressions, etc.)?
- Does your child have unusual sensory reactions (e.g., abnormal reactions to touch, sight, smell, sound or taste)?
- Does your child only interact with others when she wants to talk about her “special interest” or if she needs something?
- Does your child organize her stuffed animals into elaborate societies, yet doesn’t role-play interactions with them?
- Has your child ever been unresponsive to pain, or did not know how to communicate that he was in pain?
If your child exhibits most of the traits listed above, seek the help of a professional. There is no “cure” for HFA, but numerous therapies are available that can help your youngster gain skills and be more comfortable. The goal of treatment is to maximize your youngster’s ability to function day-to-day through acquiring coping mechanisms and focusing on learning outcomes.
Belonging to the disorders of the autistic spectrum, Asperger’s Syndrome is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder. Its main characteristic is the simulation in the area of social interaction and the presence of patterns of rigid and repetitive behaviors and interests in those who have it. they suffer. Here we bring how to recognize Asperger’s syndrome symptoms in the child.
Summary of Contents
Asperger’s syndrome symptoms
According to the research, children with Asperger’s syndrome usually present difficulties to develop, maintain and understand social relationships. Being complex for them to interpret the keys of social interaction and show socio-emotional mutuality.
Likewise, with this disorder a literal language style and peculiar speech are evidenced, they usually communicate in a rather formal and unchanged manner. Also noting a particular rhythm and inflection at the moment of speaking. In which, nonverbal communication is characterized by the restricted use of gestures and facial expressions.
When do we show if our child has Asperger?
According to the psychologist, “it is usually possible to make the diagnosis after 2 years of age. However, it is common that the diagnosis is rather late and coincides with the beginning of schooling of children.
Consequently, diagnostic confirmation is usually established between 5 and 6 years. At which time the difficulties associated with their social skills, particularities of their language. Their restricted interests become more evident “.
Identifying Asperger’s syndrome symptoms
According to the specialist, generally, parents come to consult concerned and describing the following symptoms:
- Avoidance of the look or have atypical eye contact.
- Apparent deafness (I speak to him and he ignores me, I feel he does not listen to me).
- Linkage withdrawal; tendency to isolate oneself and avoid interaction with others.
- Presence of stereotypes.
- Alteration against routine changes, which generates intense emotional deregulation.
- Repetitive sensory game.
- Very peaceful and calm behavior.
- They do not share focuses of attention with the look.
- Decreased expression of positive affect, usually shows serious, angry or irritated.
- Receptive and expressive language diminished in consideration of the evolutionary moment.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a permanent condition in people’s lives. However, the previous, the early detection and diagnosis, as well as the work with a multidisciplinary team. It includes neurologists, psychologists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. They allow favoring the functionality in the life and daily life of the patients. As well as greater social integration with their peer group.
Do you have benefits?
Over the difficulties of this disorder, experts said that those who live with Asperger “usually have a remarkable memory, detail orientation that favors having an original vision of certain things and situations, mathematical skills, logical thinking, broad vocabulary. Presenting themselves as genuine, spontaneous, honest and innocent children “.
From the field of child psychology, “the therapeutic objectives focused on favoring the regulation of disruptive and maladaptive behaviors. The reduction of patterns of rigidity, recognition of one’s own emotions and of others. As well as the strengthening of social skills.” comments the psychologist, who also mentions that two therapeutic models stand out.
One is ABA, which is a therapy based on the applied behavioral analysis. It focuses on the reduction of inappropriate behaviors. As well as the increase in the repertoire of appropriate behaviors and new skills. On the other hand, the Denver model is an early intervention that favors imitation, communication, social motivation, social, cognitive and motor skills, adaptive behavior and play.
Don’t delay if you noticed Asperger’s syndrome symptoms in your child. Contact with the specialist and take treatment as soon as possible.
I cannot count the number of times I have been asked (or heard others asked) whether or not parents should tell their child that he or she has Asperger Syndrome. I will give my opinion in a moment, but first I want to address how this is relative to empowering victims.
Tim and Ted are children with Asperger Syndrome, both 14 years old. They don’t know each other, but they live only a few miles apart. They were both diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 12 and are often bullied at school. The main difference between them is that Tim’s parents have decided not to tell him he has Asperger’s while Ted’s parents have told him. Every day when Tim is bullied, he internalizes it and blames himself. He knows something is different about him but he can’t put his finger on it. This sense of always wondering why he is different creates depression. Ted is also depressed. His parents told him that he has Asperger Syndrome, and he thinks it’s a death sentence. He rationalizes that others bully him because he has a “disease” that makes him repellent to the other children.
Playing devil’s advocate, I have given two entirely different arguments why it is not good either to withhold a diagnosis or to disclose it. In my professional life, I have met practitioners who strongly advocate for disclosure as well as those who are vehemently against it. One can argue reasonably either way. Withholding the diagnosis can cause much confusion and turmoil. When episodes of bullying take place, Asperger children know they are different but the lack of any real understanding can create a negative self-image. On the other hand, sharing the diagnosis may label the child as “defective,” and he or she could become even more depressed after receiving that information.
However, Asperger Syndrome is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not a death sentence, nor is it a character defect. The fact is that Asperger Syndrome is a neurobiological difference. It results in perceiving the world through a slightly different lens than others. Many people have speculated that Thomas Jefferson and other notable geniuses may have had Asperger’s. There is no shortage of brilliance among the population (Ledgin 2002). Along with this brilliance and uniqueness come differences from the general population. Unfortunately, those who have differences (or stick out in a crowd) are usually the ones who suffer the most from peer abuse while growing up.
Of course not everybody with Asperger Syndrome is a genius, but most people with Asperger’s who I’ve met have some kind of unique personality traits, interests, or talents. Gail Hawkins (2004) states that these unique qualities have led to some of the greatest contributions to society. Gillberg (2002), a noted author on autism, agrees that people with Asperger Syndrome are a tremendous asset to the world. And yet, these same individuals are the ones who often suffer themost peer abuse in childhood, simply because they are different.
Children have a right to know that their differences actually have a name. The name does not define their entire being but it does serve to provide some additional information for self-knowledge. While many children resist being diagnosed and may not even want to talk about it, these same children could continue to suffer from confusion and depression simply because they don’t understand that their differences come from a group of traits that they were born with.
If parents withhold the diagnosis from their child, they should expect that eventually their child will discover this truth later in life. People generally need to acquire selfunderstanding in order to gain greater self-acceptance. The diagnosis of Asperger’s can be the information that helps to accomplish this objective. If a child is not told about this diagnosis, a reasonable assumption the person can make when learning of the diagnosis later in life is that there is something wrong with having Asperger’s. For example, if I was diagnosed at age 12 but didn’t learn about my diagnosis until adulthood, I would wonder why my parents withheld this information from me. Was there something bad about having Asperger Syndrome that my parents didn’t want me to know?
By disclosing the diagnosis to your child, you are letting him or her know that Asperger’s is nothing to be ashamed of. You are taking away the confusion and pain of not knowing the answer to the age-old question, “Why me?” Instead, you are empowering your child with the knowledge that being a little different could be the greatest gift the Asperger child can have. As my friend Michael John Carley, president of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), has stated, even if he were given the option to become a neurotypical, he would refuse to take it. He likes being different.
Nick Dubin is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Michigan School of Professional Psychology. He has produced DVDs on AS and is the author of the following books, published by JKP and available through the AANE web site: