People with Asperger’s syndrome and autism are often referred to as ‘neuro-untypical’ because of how different their brains function as opposed to people who do not possess the disorder being ‘neurotypical.’ Asperger’s Syndrome, like autism, is part of the umbrella diagnosis autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which makes one wonder what the difference is.
Asperger’s syndrome, even though it is a lifelong developmental disorder, has less severe symptoms compared to autism. People with Asperger’s don’t experience a delay in language development, and they have either average or above-average intellectual perception. Though they have better cognitive skills than people with autism, they may still have difficulty in learning, unable to understand humor and sarcasm and may find holding proper conversation challenging.
On the other hand,” wrote Shuli Sandler, Psy.D., “to some children, the word Asperger’s can feel like a disease or a term describing what is “wrong with them.” We have seen children who were exposed to the word Asperger’s when they were diagnosed but avoid saying it, because of the sense of impairment it represents.”
Symptoms to Look Out For
Asperger’s and autism have nearly similar symptoms. Behaviors that may correlate with Asperger’s are repetitive speech, unable to hold eye contact, uncoordinated gestures and inept mannerism.
They also lack social skills and show improper interaction with others. Additionally, they have trouble interpreting verbal and non-verbal language such as gestures or facial expressions and sarcasm, which makes them insensitive to other people’s emotions.
People with Asperger’s may also display repetitive actions such as hand flapping and may become too engrossed in an object.
Ted Hutman, a licensed clinical psychologist, elaborates this, saying, “These three disorders share many of the same symptoms, but they differ in their severity and impact. Autistic disorder was the most severe. Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes called high-functioning autism, and PDD-NOS, or atypical autism, were the less severe variants.”
Seeing The World Through an Asperger’s Person’s Eyes
People are intuitive by nature, and this serves as their guide to know how to interact and communicate with others. Imagine if your brain works differently and you are stripped off of that sense of intuition. With the inability to read people, socializing can prove to be difficult.
Causes and Treatment
Researchers suggest that the cause for Asperger’s syndrome may be a combination of genetic and environmental elements. The disorder may also be the result of problems that arise during pregnancy.
There is no cure for Asperger’s, but there is a range of treatments available that may help cope with the symptoms.
Social skills training may be used to guide a person with Asperger’s in learning proper social interaction and teach him how to express himself. Cognitive behavior therapy may alter his way of thinking and teach him to manage repetitive behaviors. Speech therapy may help enhance communication skills where he may learn proper intonation and speech patterns.
Marina Benjamen, Ph.D. believes that “an effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular reinforcement of behavior.”
Identifying a Meltdown
You’ve probably heard the term ‘meltdown’ concerning people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome and are likely wondering what it is.
A meltdown is often triggered by anxiety and is a heightened reaction to an overwhelming situation. It is more like an episode where a person with autism or Asperger’s loses control because of their emotions’ failure to align with specific environmental factors.
There isn’t usually a specific, single reason for the onset. Every cause or trigger tends to build up until the person becomes overwhelmed that he feels like he will explode.
It may start out as a regular tantrum. However, a meltdown is hard to control and much more difficult to stop. Once you recognize the beginning of a meltdown where they may show signs of anxiety such as pacing, hair pulling or nail biting, the best thing to do is guide the person away from the source of his distress. Otherwise, the situation might worsen, and the Asperger person might end up hurting himself.
Understanding Asperger’s syndrome may help you understand a person with this disorder. Acknowledging that they are different may help you see them through a different light.