Asperger Syndrome
Asperger syndrome (AS), also referred to as Asperger’s, is a
developmental disorder characterized by deficiencies in social and
communication skills. The exact cause of Asperger’s is unknown,
and the prevalence is not firmly established (due partly to the use
of differing sets of diagnostic criteria).

Asperger’s is often not identified in early childhood, and many
individuals do not receive diagnosis until after puberty or when
they are adults.

Teens with Asperger’s are usually aware of their differences and
recognize when they need support from family. There are instances
where teens do not know they have Asperger’s personalities until
they are having difficulties with relationships later in adult life.

Asperger’s is a condition in which there is:

1.   Impairment in social interaction
2.   The presence of restricted, repetitive and stereotyped
behaviors and interests
3.   Significant impairment in important areas of functioning
4.   No significant delay in language
5.   No significant delay in cognitive development, self-help skills,
or adaptive behaviors (other than social interaction)
6.   The symptoms must not be better accounted for by another
specific pervasive developmental disorder or schizophrenia

Asperger’s is characterized by:

1.  Limited interests or preoccupation with a subject to the
exclusion of other activities
2.  Repetitive behaviors or rituals
3.  Peculiarities in speech and language
4.  Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and
interpersonal interaction
5.  Problems with nonverbal communication
6.  Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements

Asperger’s often leads to problems in social interaction with peers.
These problems can be severe or mild depending on the individual.
Children with this syndrome are often the target of bullying at
school due to their “strange” behavior, language, interests, and
impaired ability to interact in socially expected ways to nonverbal
cues, particularly in interpersonal conflict. They may be extremely
literal and may have difficulty interpreting and responding to
sarcasm or banter.

Most children with Asperger’s want to be social, but fail to socialize
successfully, which can lead to later withdrawal and asocial
behavior, especially in adolescence. Teens with Asperger’s often
get along a lot better with those considerably older or younger than
them, rather than those their own age.

An Asperger’s child might be regarded by teachers as a "problem
child" or a "poor performer." The child’s extremely low tolerance
for “ordinary” and “mediocre” tasks (e.g., homework) can easily
become frustrating.  A teacher may consider the child arrogant,
spiteful, and insubordinate. This misunderstanding, in combination
with the child's anxieties, can result in problematic behavior (e.g.,
violent and angry outbursts, withdrawal).

Although there is no single feature that all teens with Asperger’s
share, difficulties with social behavior are nearly universal and are
one of the most important defining criteria. These teens have
difficulty empathizing with others (i.e., putting themselves in
someone else’s shoes), and may lack the ability to communicate
their own emotional state, resulting in well-meaning remarks that
may offend, or finding it hard to know what is "acceptable".

They may have trouble understanding the emotions of other people
(e.g., messages conveyed by facial expression, eye contact and body
language). Thus, they be seen as egotistical, selfish or uncaring. In
most cases, these are unfair labels because they are neurologically
unable to understand other people's emotional states. They are
usually surprised, upset or remorseful when told that their actions
are hurtful or inappropriate.

Children with Asperger Syndrome do NOT lack emotions.
However, the concrete nature of emotional attachments they
have (i.e., to objects rather than to people) often seems curious
or can even be a cause of concern to people who do not share
their perspective.

They may have little patience for things outside their narrow
interests. In school, they may be perceived as highly intelligent
underachievers or overachievers, clearly capable of outperforming
their peers in their field of interest, yet persistently unmotivated
to do regular homework assignments.

Some children with Asperger’s Syndrome experience varying
degrees of sensory overload and are extremely sensitive to touch,
smells, sounds, tastes and sights. Sensory overload may exacerbate
problems faced by such children at school, where levels of noise in
the classroom can become intolerable for them. A child with
Asperger's  can become distracted, agitated, or even aggressive
if unwanted touch, sounds, smells, etc., persist.

Treatment for Asperger Syndrome consists of therapies that apply
behavior management strategies and address poor communication
skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness.

A typical treatment program generally includes:

·   social skills training, to teach the skills to more successfully
interact with others
·   cognitive behavioral therapy to help in better managing emotions
that may be explosive or anxious, and to cut back on obsessive
interests and repetitive routines
·   medication for co-existing conditions such as depression and
·   occupational or physical therapy to assist with poor motor
·   speech therapy  to help with the trouble of the "give and take"   
in normal conversation
·   parent training and support, to teach parents behavioral
techniques to use at home

Children with Asperger’s can learn to manage their differences,
but they may continue to find social situations and personal
relationships challenging. Many adults with Asperger’s are able to
work successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue
to need encouragement and moral support to maintain an
independent life.

Asperger's teens report a feeling of being
unwillingly detached
from the world around them. As an adult, they may have difficulty
with getting married due to poor social skills. Due to social isolation
they can be seen as the
black sheep in the community and thus
may be at risk of wrongful suspicions and allegations from others.

On the other hand, some adults with Asperger’s do get married, get
graduate degrees, become wealthy, and hold jobs. The intense focus
and tendency to work things out logically often grants these people
a high level of ability in their field of interest. When these special
interests coincide with a materially or socially useful task, the
person with Asperger Syndrome often can lead a profitable life. For
example, the child obsessed with a particular computer game may
grow up to be an accomplished computer programmer.
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Defining Autism

Autism is a complex developmental
disability that typically appears during
the first three years of life and is the
result of a neurological disorder that
affects the normal functioning of the
brain, impacting development in the
areas of social interaction and
communication skills. Both children
and adults with autism typically show
difficulties in verbal and non-verbal
communication, social interactions,
and leisure or play activities. One
should keep in mind however, that
autism is a spectrum disorder and it
affects each individual differently and
at varying degrees - this is why early
diagnosis is so crucial. By learning
the signs, a child can begin benefiting
from one of the many specialized
intervention programs.

Autism is one of five disorders that
falls under the umbrella of Pervasive
Developmental Disorders (PDD), a
category of neurological disorders
characterized by “severe and
pervasive impairment in several
areas of development.”

The five disorders under PDD are:

* Autistic Disorder
Asperger's Disorder
* Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
* Rett's Disorder
* PDD-Not Otherwise Specified

Each of these disorders has specific
diagnostic criteria which been
outlined in the American Psychiatric
Association's Diagnostic & Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-

Prevalence of Autism

Autism is the most common of the
Pervasive Developmental Disorders,
affecting an estimated 1 in 166 births
(Centers for Disease Control
Prevention, 2004).

Roughly translated, this means as
many as 1.5 million Americans today
are believed to have some form of
autism. And this number is on the

Based on statistics from the U.S.
Department of Education and other
governmental agencies, autism is
growing at a startling rate of 10-17
percent per year. At this rate, the ASA
estimates that the prevalence of
autism could reach 4 million
Americans in the next decade.

Autism knows no racial, ethnic, social
boundaries, family income, lifestyle,
or educational levels and can affect
any family, and any child.

And although the overall incidence
of autism is consistent around the
globe, it is four times more prevalent
in boys than in girls.

Children with autism and PDD are
born with the disorder or born with the
potential to develop it. It is not caused
by bad parenting. Autism is not a
mental illness. Children with autism
are not unruly kids who choose not to

Furthermore, no known psychological
factors in the development of the child
have been shown to cause autism.

The demands of raising a child with
autism are great, and families
frequently experience high levels of
stress. Recognizing and preparing
yourself for the challenges that are
in store will make a tremendous
difference to all involved, including
the parents, siblings, grandparents,
extended family, and friends.

When it comes to reducing stress,
be creative. You may want to consider
one or more of the following

* Prayer
* Exercise
* Deep breathing / relaxation
* Writing in a journal
* Keeping a daily schedule of things
to accomplish
* Advocacy
* Individual, marital or family

While there is no cure for autism,
there are treatment and education
approaches that may reduce some
of the challenges associated with
the disability. Intervention may help
to lessen disruptive behaviors, and
education can teach self-help skills
that allow for greater independence.
But just as there is no one symptom
or behavior that identifies autistic
children, there is no single treatment.
Children can learn to function within
the confines of their disability, but
treatment must be tailored to the
child's individual behaviors and
Reading Facial Cues: Social Skills
Training for Children with Aspergers