Recognizing Asperger Syndrome
What do Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein and Bill Gates have in common besides being brilliant men who made enormous contributions to society? Some have suggested that each of them suffered from Asperger Syndrome (AS), a mild form of autism that affects social interactions.
Children with AS share common characteristics:
- They have average or even above average intelligence.
- They have difficulty interacting in social situations because they miss social cues.
- They may give poor eye contact or stand too close.
- In a group they don't recognize the give and take of reciprocal interactions.
- Sensory issues make group participation difficult.
- Many overly focus on an idea or topic.
These characteristics often make it hard for children to interact with their peers and make friends. Add to that classroom changes -- poor organizational skills and poor motor skills as well as faulty problem solving abilities may compromise their doing well academically -- and it's easy to see why children with AS share these common characteristics as well: They are stressed, struggle with self-esteem, and may become depressed.
Testing for AS
There is no cure for Asperger's but if caught early enough, it can be managed. And the earlier the diasnosis, the better. If you notice signs of AS in your child, talk to your doctor about getting an evaluation for AS. According to the Mayo Clinic, this will most likely be done by a team of professionals who will observe your child's social interaction, give IQ tests and look at academic ability, and assess motor skills and speech and language development.
If your child is diagnosed with AS, contact your school to see what resources are available. You can also help to tailor a program that best benefits your child.
The National Institutes of Health recommend a program that works on improving your child's communication skills and physical clumsiness, and addresses obsessive or repetitive routines. Depending on your child's individual needs, this could be done through training in social skills, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication for co-existing conditions (such as depression).
Children with AS do face special challenges, but if it's managed early enough, many children go to college. In fact, due to their unique abilities, many go on to experience successful careers -- maybe even president, inventor, or entrepreneur.