Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's syndrome (or disorder) was named for the Viennese pediatrician who first described it in the 1940s. Since then it has been described as high-functioning autism, considered a milder form of autism, and even dubbed a disability with a "dash of autism."

Originally classified as a separate disorder, it is now considered to be a located on the autism spectrum. While it shares many of the same characteristics of classic autism, there are key elements that distinguish Asperger's syndrome. Autism is usually diagnosed in early childhood due in a large part to delays in cognitive development. Asperger's, on the other hand, often is not diagnosed until much later – sometimes not until adulthood. Individuals with Asperger's are of average or above average intelligence. It is their difficulties with social interactions and communications that can lead to diagnosis.

Other indicators of Asperger's syndrome include:

  • Wanting to fit in socially, but lacking understanding of conventional social norms
  • Failure to understand gestures, sarcasm, irony, or humor
  • Lack of empathy and limited eye contact
  • Robotic, monotone, overly loud, or high-pitched language
  • Obsessive knowledge of selective categories of information, but inability to grasp abstract concepts

Diagnosing Asperger's Syndrome

Diagnoses of Asperger's disorder has increased in recent years. Whether this is due to an increased incidence or better awareness of the syndrome is unclear. While the disability is similar to autism, an individual must have normal language development and be of at least average intelligence to receive a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.

The American Psychiatric Association states that the following criteria must be met in order to diagnose an individual with Asperger's Syndrome:

  1. Severe and sustained impairment in social interaction
  2. Development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities
  3. Such activities and behavior cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning

Treatment for Asperger's Disorder

There is no "cure" for Asperger's syndrome. Instead, individuals with the disorder have found that a combination of treatments works best to address and live with the disorder. These treatments include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Social skills training classes either one-on-one or in a group environment
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, and stimulants

Possibility of Early Detection

As with most ASD disabilities, it is generally thought that early detection of Asperger's syndrome provides the best chance for effective treatment. Recent CDC findings as well international medical journals have suggested a link between a family history of autoimmune disease and the predisposition for disorders on the autistic spectrum, including Asperger's.

Anecdotal evidence from experts in reproductive immunology suggests a maternal inflammatory flare during the second trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with ASD. A history of miscarriages and the existence of a sibling diagnosed with autism or Asperger's appears to impact the risk as well.

Currently, as one of the world's top infertility treatment centers, Braverman Reproductive Immunology is moderating a discussion forum on the possible connections of fetal predisposition detection, miscarriages, and autistic development. Women who are concerned about the risk of autism in future children due to a previous history of miscarriage, as well as women who have a child diagnosed with ASD, are encouraged to join the dialog.

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