Special Needs: What to Know About Asperger’s Syndrome

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What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (or PDD- Pervasive Developmental Disorder) which is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and repetitive behavioral patterns.
Children with Asperger’s are many times characterized as being “odd” or “different”. Many times a person cannot even point to a specific reason why an Asperger’s child is “odd”, and many times they are severely made fun of by peers for being “different”.
Characteristics of Asperger’s Children
  • Engaging in one-sided, long-winded conversations, without noticing if the listener is listening or trying to change the subject
  • Displaying unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures
  • Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects, such as baseball statistics, train schedules, weather or snakes
  • Appearing not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others’ feelings
  • Having a hard time “reading” other people or understanding humor
  • This syndrome, just like many others that I am highlighting, are still being researched and categorized in order to help children properly. Some doctors still do not believe in these types of developmental disorders, although most do now. The hard thing, I believe, is that SO many of these disorders (all generally categorized under PDD) tend to overlap quite a bit. Asperger’s Syndrome is a diagnosis given when a child has autistic tendencies, but is not fully autistic. The biggest problem for children with Asperger’s Syndrome is being able to socially interact.

    From my experience with my son that children who are highly gifted, have many of the same symptoms and characteristics as Asperger’s Syndrome. For us that has been a difficult line to draw. Although he is highly gifted, his severe social impairments cause us to regard him as a child with Asperger’s. Asperger’s and some with giftedness share the same symptoms suchs such as severe social interaction problems including social cues (eye contact, body language, etc.), empathy, and formal style of speaking.

    Additionally Asperger’s Syndrome also seems to overlap with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) which we were also looking at when trying to diagnose our son. Symptoms that both disorder share include: heightened sensitivity, becoming overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures.

    As well as Asperger’s, Autism, Giftedness, and PDD all sharing the symptoms of difficulty understand humor & body language, lack of eye contact, and inability to take another’s perspective.

    For this reason alone doctors have a very difficult time correctly diagnosing a child’s problems, let alone completely understanding all the symptoms of even one of these disorders!

    If you suspect your child or student may have Asperger’s or any of these disorders my best advice for you to help them in the classroom or at home is really truly try to get to know them. Learn what makes them happy, learn what sets them off. Avoid sticky situations as much as possible, and help the child learn what is expected of him/her. Understand that many of their “oddities” are not made up to drive you crazy or make their peers mad, it’s just how their mind works!

    OASIS MAAP is a great place to begin learning the differences between Asperger’s and Autism, and where to go for help and support!

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