By: Danielle Angel
Asperger’s syndrome is part of the autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD. It is a mild form of autism and generally manifests without extreme mental disabilities. The main outward characteristics of a person with Asperger’s syndrome are poor social skills, lacking nonverbal communication, and being clumsy.
Unlike other forms of autism, brain imaging has not shown a common pathology between sufferers. Scientists believe that there may be a genetic cause of the illness, as many times multiple people in one household can have the illness. So far, no genes have been identified in relation to the disease.
In a small percentage of cases, exposure to certain chemicals and medications while in utero caused Asperger’s. There are many theories of how an individual may develop Asperger’s syndrome, but none have been proven yet. Currently there are hundreds of studies from scientists around the world trying to understand the cause and treatment of this illness.
Here are 10 classic symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one having this disease, talk to your doctor about screening options.
1. Failure to Develop Friendships
Children who have Asperger’s syndrome may have difficulty cultivating friendships. They may not connect with their peers due to a lack of social skills. They may find it hard to talk to other children or to participate in group activities. This can be difficult for a child with Asperger’s as they may want very deeply to connect with their peers. Oppositely, some children with Asperger’s have no desire to make friendships and will prefer to be by themselves.
2. Selective Mutism
Young children with Asperger’s may demonstrate selective mutism as a symptom. This occurs when they will only speak freely with people they are comfortable with, and may not speak at all to strangers. Extreme cases last for years. The immediate family are typically unaffected, as the child feels comfortable to speak to them. Selective mutism more often occurs at school and in public. Some children refuse to speak to anyone starting from a very young age. This condition can go away on its own, or your child may benefit from therapy.
3. Inability to Empathize
Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome may find difficulty empathizing with others. As they age, the affected person will learn the accepted social response for interacting with others. While they may react appropriately and say the “right” things, they may not understand why the other person is truly upset. This can be an issue in childhood as the individual with Asperger’s may play too roughly with their peers or say cruel things, unknowingly hurting the other person. When confronted for this behaviour, the child may respond that what they said was true and they do not understand the issue.
4. Unable to Make Eye Contact or Forcing Eye Contact
People who suffer from Asberger’s syndrome may find it difficult to make and hold eye contact to people they are speaking with. Some believe this condition is brought aout from a lack of confidence. Others recount how making eye contact make themselves very uncomfortable. They say it’s almost painful. There is also the theory that people with Asberger’s syndrome do not realize how important eye contact is for social communication. This may lead to the opposite problem- forcing eye contact. This can make people even more uncomfortable, while the individual with Asberger’s believes they are being more approachable.
5. Being “Active but Odd”
The idea that people with Asperger’s syndrome are not passionate is completely wrong. One common term to describe people who suffer from this illness is “active but odd”. They may become very socially active, forming a few close friendships. Others may try to surround themselves with people, making lots of close acquaintances but no deep friendships. This can be related to how well they empathize with others. People with Asberger’s syndrome may not show many outward signs of this illness, but may just be a bit different.
6. Narrowed Interests
Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome may do poorly in school, but that is not to say they don’t have interestes. Instead, their interests are likely very narrowed and specific. It could be playing video games, making models, drawing, and more. These activities focus their minds and they find great comfort in them. If they are forced to leave their projects, they may become greatly distressed. Likewise, if their projects are failing they may become distressed. Fostering these narrowed interests is important for emotional and mental support.
7. Sticking to Routine
Staying to a routine can be very important for people with Asperger’s syndrome. They may become greatly distressed and anxious when their schedule changes. New situations can be frightening. A routine can help manage the anxiety of people with Asperger’s syndrome. Thankfully, much of our world runs on tight schedules. If you suspect your child may have Asperger’s syndrome, putting them on a tight schedule may be one way to help manage some of their symptoms.
8. Literal Interpretations
One of the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome is literally interpreting what people say. The affected individual may not understand sarcasm, instead taking what the person has said as true. The idea that people with Asperger’s syndrome do not understand humor is wrong. These individuals may be the funniest people you have ever met. When they realize the fault of their literal interpretations, they are able to understand the true meaning behind what is being said. They may need an explanation though.
9. Excellent Pattern Recognition
One of the positive symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome is an amazing ability to recognize patterns. Their brains are trying to make sense of their surroundings, so a break in pattern may show itself quite clearly. This ability may be evident in childhood, as early schooling develops the neural pathways of pattern recognition. While children with Asperger’s syndrome may find the school setting difficult and struggle with their grades, pattern problems like math and art may be very enriching. Fostering this natural talent is a great idea.
10. Poor Motor Skills
People with Asperger’s syndrome may find it difficult to control their gross and fine motor skills. This may be described by them as being uncomfortable in their own bodies. The motor issues may manifest through poor handwriting caused by poor hand-eye coordination. Using their thumbs and fingers together may be an issue, so holding objects may be difficult. Cooking may be a challenge as using the knives and opening jars can be problematic. People with Asperger’s syndrome may also have difficulty walking, being bouncy or with poor posture.
By: Danielle Angel