Aspergers in Kids: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Asperger’s Syndrome in Children

On certain occasions you might notice your kid having difficulty interacting with people, or communicating what they need. Most kids take their time in learning this as they grow up, but some kids seem to face a lot of difficulties which is extremely evident from their behaviour. In such cases, there might be a chance that your kid might be suffering from Asperger’s syndrome.

What is Asperger’s in Kids?

A boy at the therapist's clinic

Characterized as a type of autism, Asperger’s syndrome is a condition that affects a person’s ability to understand language, communication, and social cues. Earlier, it was considered a separate condition but lately it is also taken under the umbrella of autism. Terms such as low-functioning or high-functioning kids, tendencies depicting autism, development disorders, and others are used in describing such behavior. Asperger’s kids usually lie on the high-functioning side of autism with boys have nearly triple or quadruple times chances of having the syndrome as compared to girls.

What are its Possible Causes?

The causes of Asperger’s syndrome in children are usually genetic. However, a specific gene hasn’t yet been isolated that can be termed as responsible for this condition. Given the difference in intensity degrees of Asperger’s, there is a possibility of more than one gene being responsible for the condition.

Research that has been conducted lately has signified that certain abnormalities in the structure of the human brain might be the reason behind Asperger’s. This structural anomaly causes certain circuitry of the brain to interact differently, which affects the thought and behaviour of the children. Also, certain interactions between specific genes and environmental conditions may cause this to happen during the development of brain cells in the embryo stage. This leads to an overgrown brain or a one that hasn’t grown to full capacity. Advanced live MRI scans have depicted that the brain activity in the frontal lobe of such children is highly reduced as well as their brain responds differently when asked to perceive social cues or expressions.

What can be Asperger’s Symptoms in a Child?

  • Trouble understanding expressions on the face, body language or other gestures
  • Cannot understand jokes or playful teasing and are confused
  • Talk without any voice modulation or without a particular rhythm
  • Have trouble making friends or even interacting with children their age
  • Avoid making any eye contact and prefer to be alone by themselves
  • Do not generally converse or share anything they find interesting
  • Do not talk about what they are feeling
  • Might get obsessively interested in one particular thing
  • Extremely stubborn about specific routines and getting upset with small changes
  • Unusual and repeated movements such as rocking, moving in circles, flapping fingers, and so
  • Clumsy movements and unable to maintain stability
  • Can speak fluently but only about very specific themes
  • Extremely different reactions to tasting, smelling or feeling something as compared to others

How to Diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome in Children?

There is no standardized childhood Asperger’s syndrome test that can be applied to every child to achieve a result. Each doctor uses various criteria and various screening methodologies to carry out a diagnosis. Amongst doctors themselves, there’s a debate in considering Asperger’s as a type of autism or separately as a specific condition. Most of the times, the focus stays on a certain set of behavioral characteristics that have a high tendency of being present in Asperger’s afflicted children, such as –

  • Avoiding eye contact and staying aloof
  • Failure to register being called by their own name
  • Difficulty in understanding or using gestures to point out objects
  • Avoid interacting with other children in general or playing with them

These behaviours may surface in the initial months itself, or even later but primarily before they are 3 years old. Your family doctor will carry out a primary screening to check for development cues and responses. Later, a team of doctors such as psychologists, neurologists, speech experts, and so on might evaluate your child to conclude if he really does have Asperger’s or not. In this, intensive cognitive tests and language assessment is conducted, as well as motor functions are observed. Evaluating various non-verbal forms of communication, their strengths and weaknesses in each aspect are seen. By observing your child in multiple areas, all the doctors can put together their understanding of each, and create a profile for your child, which can help diagnose the condition.

How is it Treated?

A therapist talking to a child

Just as diagnosis, there is no generalized Asperger’s syndrome treatment in children that have known to work for every child out there. The key factor is to work towards resolving the issues of communication, obsession, and clumsiness. A treatment program for your child will have to be customized to suit his interests, provide them with a schedule they can follow, introduce simple tasks, and reinforce the right kind of behavior for them to follow. This can be done by –

  • Group therapy sessions that focus on building social interaction skills
  • Behavioural therapy sessions that can help children with extreme emotions talk to themselves in a manner that calms them down
  • Medicines for children with severe effects of the condition, leading to anxiety or depression
  • Physical therapy session that helps them develop control over their motor skills
  • Speech therapy that helps kids understand the nuances of communication
  • Sessions for parents in order to educate them in with the right techniques to use at home

Are there any Future Challenges that Kids with Asperger’s might Face?

Timely intervention is absolutely necessary for helping children with Asperger’s start developing the right skills necessary to move ahead in life. With the right treatment, this can pretty much be resolved. However, they might continue to encounter difficulty in navigating various social scenarios ahead in life or have trouble establishing a personal relationship with someone. People with Asperger’s are known to work in most jobs of the market today, albeit with support and encouragement from their loved ones or close ones.

By interacting with more people with the same condition and learning how they overcame the odds, your child can try and inculcate those lessons to make sure they don’t face the same problems themselves.

How to Help a Child with Asperger’s?

  • Before helping your child, it is necessary to help yourself. Search for programs that help educate parents about taking care of children with Asperger’s.
  • The focus should remain on making sure that your child can live by himself and doesn’t need to be constantly dependent on people around him. Start by helping him developing skills that make him independent.
  • You might not know for sure if your child has Asperger’s or some other condition. Irrespective of so, it is best to have an honest and nuanced conversation with his teachers or doctors and talk to them in terms of your child having special needs or requiring extra attention.
  • Your child may be good at some activities and have problems with others. Look for programs that specifically address those areas that your child struggles with, and start tackling them one by one.
  • Any programs or treatment techniques that help develop a long-term engagement to ensure continued development are highly preferred.
  • At any point in time, do not let your child feel different from the family. Just like every person in the family has their own needs, so does your child. Do not load him with your own emotional problems and physical issues in handling the situation, since that would make them feel horrible about who they are. Look to friends and family for your own support, so that you can, in turn, support your own child.

Be it Asperger’s in toddlers or in grown-up kids, tackling a situation like this isn’t easy. Being informed, knowledgeable, and taking the right precautions while administering treatment, go a long way in ensuring continued development for your child. Remember to love them no matter how they are. Your love and support make them feel accepted and helps them work towards improving their skills with just as much intensity and motivation.

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