Asperger’s Syndrome is one of the least known disorders of the autism spectrum and yet very common among children aged 7 to 16 years.
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome have a normal appearance and intelligence, which has generated prejudice against them on numerous occasions. Due to the problem, they present when interacting with other children and with adults, they may experience discrimination from them.
Although this disorder has many points in common with high-performance (or high-functioning) autism, the truth is that there are more differentiating aspects, so we must consider them independent disorders. After all, it is a variant of Autism and is within the Autism Spectrum Disorders. It is a problem of maturation and development
What exactly is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is a developmental disorder that is associated with a neurobiological disorder. People who are affected by this syndrome may have intelligence, sometimes higher than the population average. However, their social skills are less and their cognitive style is different from the rest.
It is framed within the disorders associated with the development of the person and has a series of characteristics that allow its identification through Asperger’s syndrome test. Thus, children with Asperger’s often show little or no interest in certain subjects and, instead, come to present an obsessive concern for others. They show repetitive routines and sometimes inappropriate social behavior.
When the first symptoms appear, diagnosis is essential to start working with them as soon as possible and minimize the effects of the disorder.
What are the causes of Asperger syndrome?
Neurobiological disturbances in child development are one of the determining factors in the development of the disorder. According to various studies, more than 20% of the cases studied have macrocephaly together with different abnormalities: a smaller number of Purkinje cells, dysplasia in the olive and the brainstem, smaller neurons of the limbic system and cortical digenesis.
These studies have also determined biochemical differences in the brain structures of children with Asperger syndrome. These differences affect certain aspects of brain function, especially those related to social skills, emotional development, and interpersonal communication.
In this neuropsychiatric disorder, genetic inheritance plays a determining role and up to a 90% probability of being inherited from parents to children. The genes responsible for Asperger’s syndrome have not yet been identified exactly, although the most frequent alteration is on chromosome 15. It is known that there are several genetic mutations involved, which makes the problem even more complex.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL COMPONENT
Although this aspect is still a hypothesis, more and more scientists are convinced that brain development can be altered due to certain toxic environmental substances. One of the products under suspicion is thimerosal, a thiosalicylate that can be found in toothpaste, in some cleaning products, and in certain medications.
Main symptoms and consequences
DIFFICULTY DEVELOPING FRIENDSHIPS
Children with Asperger’s syndrome have a hard time making friends due to a lack of social skills. They do not like to participate in group games and activities, which results in social isolation sometimes misunderstood.
MUTISM BEFORE STRANGERS
These people are very selective when talking to strangers. Children, for example, may speak freely with family members but be unable to do so at school. This behavior can have negative consequences if the teachers and the rest of the classmates do not understand the problem and do not act with the necessary empathy.
THEY DO NOT MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT
A person with Asperger’s syndrome may have serious difficulty maintaining eye contact with the person to whom he is speaking. This can be misunderstood as a lack of truthfulness in what you say or lack of confidence. It is really just a way of avoiding behavior, eye contact, which for them can be uncomfortable and violent.
THEY ARE CONSIDERED RARE PEOPLE
The difficulty in empathizing leads them to have few or no friends, to relate outside the established canons, and to behave socially in a special way.
Furthermore, they have specific and very determined interests, sometimes shared by very few people. But these hobbies can be very exciting for them, so it is essential to give our emotional support to their projects, however insignificant they may be.
How to make the diagnosis
Diagnosing Asperger syndrome can be more complicated than diagnosing autism, since they are people without intellectual disabilities. Only through observation can we assess whether social skills, language acquisition and intelligence are considered normal at a certain age.
An early diagnosis is important to start a program that includes psychological strategies and therapies. In addition, pharmacological treatment and school support are necessary to minimize the symptoms of the disorder.
Therapy and treatment
The treatment must be done according to the characteristics of the person, according to their abilities and their own intellectual functioning. Furthermore, it is important that the different therapies are implemented in all settings: family, school, gang, and with the involvement of everyone around them. It is essential to promote social relationships.
We can conclude by saying that children and adults with Asperger syndrome are not people who require different (and much less discriminatory) treatment. Although they have some difficulty in social relationships, they are usually people with normal intelligence and who, with adequate family and social support will have a quality of life that is equal to any person.