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Every child exhibits different behavioral characteristics while growing up, causing us to label them as outgoing, shy or friendly. A child showing symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is also likely to be assumed as having nothing more than a ‘different’ personality. This often makes the diagnosis of Asperger’s difficult and delayed. By being aware of the common symptoms of this disorder, parents can look out for telltale signs that point to something more than just behavioral quirks.
Asperger’s Syndrome falls under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD, due to the high level of similarity that it shares with autism and related disorders. Yet, most cases of autism are usually detected early, within the age group of 2-5, while the average age of diagnosis of Asperger’s cases is in the 6-12 age group. This is mainly because the symptoms of Asperger’s are often confused with childhood peculiarities and most parents brush them off, expecting their child to outgrow them, eventually. It’s only when they’re much older that parents realize that all is not as it should be. As with any disorder, early diagnosis makes a huge difference in its management; so it helps to be aware of the common signs of Asperger’s Syndrome, so that a specialist can be consulted at the earliest, if necessary.
Children with Asperger’s want to fit in with their peers and don’t want to be by themselves; the problem is they don’t know how to. Conventional social niceties and rules don’t come naturally to them, and making a conscious effort to do the same ends up looking awkward and clumsy. Here are some common signs of Asperger’s that are different from children who are just naturally shy.
Symptoms Related to Social Skills
- Children with Asperger’s are usually unable to maintain eye contact during conversations.
- Their conversations may sound like monologues, since they don’t understand the ‘to and fro’ nature of a regular conversation.
- Older children don’t understand subtle references or subtext – they take things very literally.
- They don’t appear to emote well and exhibit the same expression most of the time.
- Just as their body language doesn’t give away what they’re feeling, they find it hard to understand another person’s body language and this makes it difficult for them to react appropriately.
- Their sense of humor appears to be non-existent and they seldom understand subtle humor, sarcasm or references to pop culture.
- Their speech often seems to be devoid of any emotion and robotic in nature. They lack the ability to put the appropriate inflection or tone in their voice, making it sound the same regardless of the situation.
Symptoms Related to Personality Traits
- One identifying feature of Asperger’s has an extreme aversion to change of any sort, such as clothes, travel routes, kind of food, etc.
- Children with Asperger’s function well within set and rigid routines. Any change in this may result in a disturbance.
- Many children with Asperger’s often have certain repetitive movements, like twiddling their thumbs or flapping their hands. This kind of behavior often makes others label them as ‘eccentric’.
- These children are very observant and can catch the smallest details that often go unnoticed by their peers or even adults.
- They can be disturbed by too much stimulation and places like malls or weddings can affect their sense of balance.
Symptoms Related to Learning
- Children with Asperger’s can display a photographic memory, but it will usually be very specific and for any random topic. For example, a child might remember all the batting statistics of a particular cricket player and not any other.
- Such children aren’t really experts in the topic they seem to know so much about, since their knowledge is limited to that particular field of interest and not the entire broad subject.
- These children are very good at rote learning and may excel at subjects requiring the same.
- Tests show that such children often have intelligence that is rated above-average. One basic difference between children having Asperger’s and those with autism is the higher IQ in the former set, indicative of special abilities.
- Children with Asperger’s can be immensely talented, especially, since they tend to focus very deeply into something they’re interested in. They are often found particularly drawn to music or mathematics.
- They often have very good vocabularies and start reading earlier than their peers.
Symptoms Related to Physical Development
- While kids with Asperger’s don’t have as many developmental problems as kids with autism, a reduced interaction with their surroundings is visible, right from infancy.
- Kids with Asperger’s can have sleep problems such as difficulty in falling asleep, frequent waking and overall poor sleep quality.
- Some children with Asperger’s reflect their social awkwardness in their physicality too, by being clumsy with themselves and with things around them.
- While physical milestones are usually achieved without much delay, children with Asperger’s usually have a difficulty with balance and coordination. This makes it difficult for them to master skills like riding a bike or games requiring hand-eye coordination.
The symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome can range from mild to severe. Mild Asperger’s can be mistaken for childhood quirkiness and go undiagnosed till much later. Severe Asperger’s may make a child appear more ‘abnormal’ than he actually is. This can often affect a child’s self esteem and a difficult social life can make him withdraw further. It is important for parents to be aware of their child’s behavioral characteristics so that they can get the right help and support at the earliest possible.