Autism Spectrum Disorders
Asperger’s Syndrome – Symptoms
Although there are many possible symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, the main symptom is significant trouble with social situations. Your child may have mild to severe symptoms or have a few or many of these symptoms. Because of the wide variety of symptoms, no two children with Asperger’s are alike.
Symptoms during childhood:
Parents often first notice the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome when their child starts preschool and begins to interact with other children. Children with Asperger’s syndrome may:
- Not pick up on social cues and may lack inborn social skills, such as being able to read others’ body language, start or maintain a conversation, and take turns talking.
- Dislike any changes in routines.
- Appear to lack empathy.
- Be unable to recognize subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech. So your child may not understand a joke or may take a sarcastic comment literally. And his or her speech may be flat and hard to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent.
- Have a formal style of speaking that is advanced for his or her age. For example, the child may use the word “beckon” instead of “call” or the word “return” instead of “come back.”
- Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized.
- Avoid eye contact or stare at others.
- Have unusual facial expressions or postures.
- Be preoccupied with only one or few interests, which he or she may be very knowledgeable about. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are overly interested in parts of a whole or in unusual activities, such as designing houses, drawing highly detailed scenes, or studying astronomy. They may show an unusual interest in certain topics such as snakes, names of stars, or dinosaurs.
- Have delayed motor development. Your child may be late in learning to use a fork or spoon, ride a bike, or catch a ball. He or she may have an awkward walk. Handwriting is often poor.
- Have heightened sensitivity and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures. For more information about these symptoms, see sensory processing disorder.
Symptoms during childhood continued:
- A child with one or two of these symptoms does not necessarily have Asperger’s syndrome. To be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a child must have a combination of these symptoms and significant trouble with social situations.
- Although the condition is in some ways similar to autism, a child with Asperger’s syndrome typically has normal language and intellectual development. Also, those with Asperger’s syndrome typically make more of an effort than those with autism to make friends and engage in activities with others.
Many children with Asperger’s syndrome also have coexisting conditions and may have symptoms of these conditions also. They include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Anxiety disorder.
- Depression, especially in adolescents.
- Nonverbal learning disorder.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Social anxiety disorder.