By Eileen Costello
Most children with symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, receive an ADHD diagnosis — or misdiagnosis — before a pediatrician concludes that it’s AS. The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders and ADHD overlap. Most children on the autism spectrum have symptoms of ADHD — difficulty settling down, social awkwardness, the ability to focus only on things that interest them, and impulsivity.
Although symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome are part of on the autism spectrum, the symptoms are often milder than those of some forms of autism. More severe forms of autism are often diagnosed in the first two years of a child’s life, but symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome are usually diagnosed at a later age. A major reason for that is while children with AS may have moderate delays in the speech development, most AS children communicate by age three.
Researchers don’t fully understand what causes symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, although there seems to be a strong genetic component.
Children with symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, like all individuals on the spectrum, have difficulties in three areas: communication, social interaction, and restricted interests. A child with AS might have some or all of these symptoms; however, symptoms are often less severe than in a child with autism. The following is a breakdown of each type of impairment.
Parents may be slow to pick up on symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome in their child. Its subtle combination of clues that leave parents wondering if anything is wrong or if the symptoms are part of their child’s personality. When a child goes to preschool, social difficulties become more evident. Typically, AS kids are unable to make friends, have a hard time reading other people or understanding humor.
If you suspect your child has symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, consult with a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, a child psychiatrist, or a psychologist with expertise in the autism spectrum. The evaluation will likely involve observing your child and talking to you about his development, social interaction, and communication skills. Your child may undergo several tests to determine her level of intellect and academic abilities.
Most children benefit from early, specialized interventions that focus on behavior management and social-skills training: learning how to interpret gestures, eye contact, tone of voice, humor, and sarcasm, for example. Cognitive behavior therapy may help them manage obsessive behavior and anxiety. About half of children with symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome will be treated with medication.
Schools are getting better at providing services for children with symptoms formerly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. Many offer pragmatic language therapy, which helps a child learn the basics of social interaction. Parents should make sure that social skills accommodations are part of their child’s IEP. With the right accommodations, you can help your child learn to advocate for himself as he approaches adulthood.
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