Aspergers Syndrome – known as AS (and also called Asperger’s) is a disorder that is included within the Autism Spectrum Disorder group. It was first diagnosed by an Austrian pediatrician named Hans Asperger, who noticed a group of symptoms within some of his young patients. The disorder itself as we know it was defined in 1981 and evolved until it was standardized in the early 1990s. Although most people are diagnosed with the disorder at age seven or eight – or older, Aspergers symptoms in children do appear at a much younger age – sometimes in kids in their first year of life.
There is a suspected genetic component to AS, although no solid causes have been identified. Likewise, there is no single treatment or cure for someone diagnosed with Asperger’s – instead, the child (or adult) has the option to undergo behavioral therapy to minimize symptoms and to improve function. It works to address repetitive or obsessive routines, poor communication skills or abilities, and clumsiness. Fortunately, most kids appear to improve as they grow up, but in many cases, communication and social difficulties remain.
Aspergers symptoms in children may vary. Some kids show signs of the disorder at a very young age (under one year old) while some kids appear to be reaching developmental milestones as normal and then start to regress, usually around three. In other kids, symptoms appear in force around six or seven years of age. Each case is different, and the degree of severity of symptoms may affect whether the parents or caregivers notice there’s a difference in their child.
Symptoms of Aspergers in children include deficits in physical coordination, communication, and development of varied interests. Typically, although not always, a child with AD will show lack of empathy, clumsiness, inadequate math skills, limited non-verbal communication, unusual speech, and obsessive interests. Younger kids, like toddlers (age one to four) may show advanced vocabulary, delayed pointing, delayed use of gestures, delayed potty training, limited eye contact, and preoccupation with a single topic. These toddlers often need a rigid routine and repetition in daily activities.
An infant may also show a group of symptoms that may mean the child has AD. Aspergers symptoms in children under the age of one include abnormal non-verbal communication, failure to reach certain milestones by age one, lack of social skills, obsession with complex topics, reflex abnormalities, and poor coordination. If you have noticed one or more of these signs in your child, mention it to your pediatrician. Although children are typically not diagnosed until older (around seven or eight), he or she may make a tentative diagnosis and you can begin treatment to help reduce your child’s symptoms.