Children and teenagers with this disorder show the following symptoms:
- Difficulty relating to others.
- A tendency to be naive/trusting of others.
- They display a lack of empathy (they find it difficult to understand other people’s feelings).
- They do not detect subtext in speech, and their way of expressing themselves and understanding things is literal.
- They find it very hard to adapt to change. They tend to become upset by changes to their routine.
- They may be very sensitive to loud noises and strong colours, lights, odours or tastes.
- Their interests and activities are very limited and they tend to repeat them.
These symptoms make it difficult for patients to have a normal social life and they also affect family life. People with this disorder may appear normal and have a normal level of intelligence but find it hard to relate to others and communicate.
Who is affected by Asperger’s syndrome?
It is a very common disorder (3-7 of every 1000 births). There are currently more recorded cases in boys than in girls, but this data is likely due to it not being recognised and diagnosed in girls as often.
Structured reliable clinical interviews help to define clinical symptoms at different ages. It is not currently possible to diagnose Asperger’s at birth as the necessary biological markers do not exist yet.
A differential diagnosis is very important to rule out other neurodevelopmental disorders such as foetal alcohol syndrome, and those with a genetic cause such as ADHD.
A mental health professional will prepare treatment, which should focus on teaching the patient social skills and competencies (for example, reading social situations, adjusting the tone of voice according to context, taking turns in conversation, etc.) They can also help patients organise their time and avoid periods of inactivity or excessive time spent on their limiting interests. A stable and planned environment with no abrupt change is essential for the patient's well-being.
It is not currently possible to prevent Asperger’s syndrome as it is probably of genetic origin, which implies multiple genes interacting with the environment.
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