Asperger Syndrome in Children and Young Adults

Asperger Syndrome and autism spectrum disorders have become an increasing concern among parents, teachers, and family doctors. There is, generally speaking, a higher level of understanding and tolerance for children who fall anywhere on the autism spectrum. And while raised awareness of a developmental disorder is generally a good thing, there is still tremendous misunderstanding, and a tendency to spot young children who exhibit eccentric or unique social behavior and place the Asperger’s label on them. In fact, the symptoms of Asperger’s in children and young adults can be temporary phases, or pop up in children who are actually developing perfectly normally.

The most important thing to remember, whether dealing with a child with Asperger’s or just one with some quirky behaviors, is to proceed with patience and caution. If you are concerned about your child or a child you care for, don’t rush to label him or her, and before doing anything, begin with a private discussion with a family doctor. If you don’t have a family doctor or need help finding resources, the Autism Society is a great starting point.

And, of course, keep in mind that kids either who either have Asperger’s or are just a bit different can go on to lead successful and happy lives with the proper love and support.

aspergers in children

Symptoms of Asperger’s in Children

Some symptoms of Asperger’s or autism spectrum disorders appear in as early as a baby’s first few months. Others don’t surface or become noticeable until a child is placed in a social setting like daycare or play dates. For others still, symptoms can be subtle enough that it’s not apparent until young adulthood. And again, one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate Asperger’s. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms for a child who may have Asperger Syndrome:
  • Making unusual facial expressions or gestures, during conversation
  • A persistent tendency to avoid eye contact, especially during conversation. Or alternately, holding eye contact for extended periods of time, staring.
  • A heightened sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights, drastic changes in surroundings.
  • He or she may have a tendency to talk at length about just one or very few specific subjects. This is pretty common in a lot of kids, but could be an Asperger’s symptom if it’s a highly focused interest, like train schedules, for example, or the Latin names of flowers. He or she may obsessively catalog or collect statistics or facts about the subject, and show little interest in other areas.
  • Continuing difficulty in social situations. Constantly misreading social cues or misunderstanding what peers are trying to communicate.
  • Monotonous speech patterns, lacking in changes in intonation, as well as difficulty with regulating volume. Always talking loudly without realizing it in quiet places like restaurants or a library.
  • Similarly, children with Asperger’s often will talk with a formality or polished adultness that is unusual for others their age (using “return” instead of “come back” for example). Hans Asperger called his first patients “little professors.”
  • Dislike or strong anxiety in response to changing routines.
  • There may also be physical symptoms, although diagnosis does not require them. Children with Asperger’s often have poor motor skills or coordination, and appear clumsy. They can sometimes be overactive, seem bouncy, and commonly fall into repetitive motions like flipping their fingers back and forth.

A couple of other notes about the symptoms of Asperger’s: First, while delay in the development of language is a common symptom in children with autism, that’s one of the factors that sets Asperger’s apart from the rest of the spectrum. Children with Asperger’s often have very good verbal skills, but simply use them in a way that makes it difficult for them to connect socially. Similarly, cognitive skills may be perfectly well developed, and in fact children with Asperger’s are often quite intelligent.

Finally, any one or more than one of the symptoms on this list may be present, but do not in themselves indicate autism or Asperger Syndrome. In fact, diagnosis hinges on at least one factor, and that is significant and repeated difficulty in social situations. That must be present, in addition to a combination of the common symptoms, for an Asperger’s diagnosis to be made. And even then, the diagnosis can be a tricky one.

Diagnosis

The process of diagnosing a child with any autism spectrum disorder is a complex one marked by subtle criteria. In fact, there is no physical test for Asperger Syndrome, nor is there a set behavioral exam for doing so. Diagnosis of a child should never be attempted by anyone other than a health care provider with expertise in developmental disorders. The first step is again, with patience and caution, meet with the family physician. If the pediatrician believes there may be cause for concern or further examination, he or she will refer the family to a specialist, or often more than one specialist in fields related to developmental disorders, such as speech therapists and neurologists. It is equally important to rule out other potential issues that could be causing the symptoms, or related syndromes that may be exacerbating them, and then make a proper diagnosis. Parents may also choose to pursue a second opinion, considering the lack of standard examination. During this process, it’s important to find a team of physicians the family gets along with and trusts.

Treatments and Support

Unfortunately, there is no treatment that can eliminate the core symptoms of Asperger’s, so in some form or another, they continue throughout life. There are also no definitive treatments for coping with the syndrome, especially since every patient is so very different. However, Asperger’s is a disorder that can be understood, managed, and incorporated into a highly productive and happy life.

The most important baselines for good care are a loving and patient environment, and a trusted team of professionals. From there, most caregivers will recommend speech, physical and social therapy to learn how to manage the symptoms in daily life—essentially teaching and practicing behaviors that do not come naturally.

There may also be a need to treat other issues related to, but separate from the main diagnosis of Asperger’s. For example, children with AS will sometimes experience hyperactivity, anxiety and depression that need to be dealt with simultaneously.

Finally, it’s important to learn more about the child and his or her Asperger’s tendencies. Rather than necessarily trying to squelch them, families may choose to embrace some of their behaviors. It can be very beneficial to encourage them to pursue their fixations as a passionate hobby or even a career. Some very successful people have taken their Asperger’s symptoms and parlayed them into a fulfilling and productive living.

Comments (14)

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    rosie

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    This website is so helpful. our beautiful 8 year old son is displaying most of the classic signs but to me it seems fairly mild. have always had a bit of an inkling of AS since he was a toddler lining up his mandarin segments! he is obsessed with Lego.
    Thank you for all this information. of course now we start the appointments… but it feels like a lightbulb moment. we can help him because we have knowledge.

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      admin

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      I am so glad to hear that we’ve helped Rosie. Good luck on your journey!
      -Logan

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        kimberly

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        I am a grandmother of a 10 year old girl. How do we get her physcian too test her. She has so many of the symptoms. She us having such a hard time with peers. She is so loving and its heartbreaking.

        Reply

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    Peggy

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    Very helpful information – my 25 year old daughter displays a lot of the symptoms of Asbergers but has not been diagnosed with it because she is also hearing impaired. As her Mother, I see beyond the hearing issues and catch all the emotional/anti-social behavior. I will definitely discuss this with her psycologist at the next appointment. Any tips on information that would be helpful to give the psycologist?

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      admin

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      Thank you for your question Peggy. The best thing to do at your next appointment is just to give them as much information as you can. It often helps to make a list beforehand so you don’t forget anything in the mess of the moment.

      Good luck to you and your daughter both.

      -Logan

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    Theresa

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    My son is 6 years old, and we have been trying to work with him to help him with social and language problems. After reading your website- he displays many of the characteristics mentioned. We are getting a neuropsych eval to determine how to proceed with helping him. I feel like a weight has been lifted, and we might have an answer and better ways to help him. This has been a long road for us to get to this point and I am hoping for the best for him. Thank you for this website!

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      Logan

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      I am so very glad we could help Theresa. Good luck to you and your son.
      -Logan

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    sabrina

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    I took my son to a regional center they evaluated him feb 2013 almost a year ago till this day i get no answers hes only 2 years old & since months ago i noticed he was a bit different then his sibblings..hes very hyperactive broke his wrist due to this..hes very anxious and inpatient that it makes him yell even if hes just sitting alone..he does not socialize well because he likes being alone and neither does he play well with others he will hit them and bite as well…ever since he was 5 months old hes had his favorite blanket till this day which he sticks his finger in the tag and rubs it on his cheeks even to go out he carries the blanket..without his blanket & pacifier he wont be still he will throw tantrums if his binky is not to be found and wont sleep without his binky..he learned how to walk at 11 months but since then i have to hold his hand out in the street because hes so clumsy he trips every little while …he stares at people with an angry mad looking stare that it scares me..IM JUST A MOTHER WHO WANTS ANSWERS AND CANT SEEM TO GET THEM ): HES MY SECOND CHILD OUT OF FOUR & TO BE HONEST HIS FATHER AND BOTH UNCLES HAVE ADHD

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      Melina Hines

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      My son is three and is very,much the same way…he is also my second of four and be bites and hits he never sits still…. He plays alone.. He takes his brother and sisters food he takes their toys and doesn’t seem to care that its hurting their feelings…. He’s mean to them he will not listen for anything.. He is also very sweet when he wants to be… He will fall walking just two inches and cannot ride his bike…. He looks everywhere but where he is going and he has a fascination with John deer tractors… He will not let anyone touch them or play with them because he gets very upset…. He yells rather than talks and he will only talk about what be wants too… He cannot for the life of him hold a conversation for more than a minute or two… And his siblings r not like this in anyway…. I cant seem to get any answers either…hes so smart but I worry what will become of,him going to school and further on down the road…… Needing answers as well

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    megan

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    i got ADHD and austism and aspergers and buch of others

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      june

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      Sorry if you dont mind me asking but ive been thinking of looking for and really wanted to find some one with some of the same problems or someone whos going through the same thing and the feelings I am because i feel like i only know myself going through the same thing i dont know anyone else who is Id like you to let me know? and what age are you as well thankyou if you could because I would like to ask you what its like for you and how you’d cope with it and what you do or what youve done

      Reply

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    june

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    Does this occur in 14,15 year olds later on at this age and can start to be spotted at an older stage for them that havent noticed realized or recognized before? I really think that you have a perfect understanding and nearly mostly everything im sure of on this website has a connection. feels like it all makes sense and its how id describe myself

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    june

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    It seems to be everything I relate to, but I need to know what to do next I need some help or support from some one with a clear view and understanding. thankyou

    Reply

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    Islam

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    I am lost 🙁 my son constantly asks about consequences of life situations. When questions are answered, he takes it literally. I have read many articles including yours and I do appreciate your support.; however, I am still confused. For example, Be careful you might break your arm or leg. He asks ” Am I made of glass?” He makes me laugh but I still get annoyed. What will happen if …? What if I forget? He is always worried of something. When his questions are answered, he shocks us with more confusing questions.

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