Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder characterized by serious difficulties in social interaction and very restricted patterns of behavior and interests. Asperger's syndrome is a disease from the autism spectrum disorders, but it differs from other autism related disorders by preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. This disorder falls into the milder end of this spectrum. Individuals affected by Asperger's syndrome are characterized by extreme inflexibility of thought and all-absorbing narrow areas of interest. As a result, these individuals are usually excellent in memory skills, math or science. The symptoms and effects of this developmental disorder may sometimes be very mild, so that the child often goes undiagnosed and may just appear peculiar or strange.
Symptoms of Asperger's syndrome
As a pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger’s syndrome manifests in a series of symptoms. Most prominent of them are an impairment in social interaction, extremely restricted patterns of behavior and physical clumsiness. Patients suffering from this syndrome show no delay in cognitive and language development. People with Asperger’s syndrome usually manifest odd nonverbal communication: they avoid eye contact, they make almost no facial expressions at all, and they have normally uncomfortable body postures and gestures. They are almost obsessed with a small number of specific topics such as sports statistics, structure of the molecules, certain animal species or similar. They do not show any kind of empathy towards the feelings of others and, at the same time, they have hard times understanding jokes.
Causes of Asperger's syndrome
Scientists yet do not know what exactly causes Asperger’s syndrome. Some of them believe there is a strong genetic component involved in this disease. Hans Asperger, who first described this disorder, recognized similar symptoms among his patients' family members, especially fathers. The higher incidence of Asperger’s syndrome is found in families in which members have behavioral symptoms similar to the syndrome, but in a more limited form. These symptoms may include difficulties in reading or social interaction. Moreover, boys are far more likely to develop Asperger's syndrome than girls.
A small number of cases are associated with exposure to teratogens, during the first eight weeks of conception. These agents normally cause birth defects.
Treatment for Asperger's syndrome
There is no known cure for Asperger’s syndrome but there is a treatment, which is aimed to manage patients’ behavior and train their social skills. Communication and social skills training tend to help children to learn the rules of socialization and communication, and to teach them how to speak in a more natural rhythm. Cognitive behavioral therapy deals with various problems such as: interrupting, obsessions, meltdowns or angry outbursts. Behavioral therapists will also try to teach a patient how to recognize feelings and deal with anxiety and stress.