What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome is a form of Autism and is now diagnosed as part of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) but has it own specific symptoms and behaviours which are usually identified in infancy and early childhood.
Spectrum disorders like Autism and Asperger's have common areas of difficulty but each individual is affected differently.
Asperger's Syndrome Symptoms
Asperger's Syndrome primarily affects individuals on a social level. It influences how people process signals and relate to others. In children this becomes apparent in their interactions with siblings and peers.
Children with Asperger Syndrome are often of above average intelligence , but they have difficulties with three main areas of social behaviour.
These are sometimes referred to as the ‘triad of impairments’
- Social communication – understanding conversation and its related facial gestures and tone of voice
- Social interaction – difficulties with social norms and behaviours
- Social imagination – understanding other people’s feelings, playing pretend games, predicting what will happen
Asperger's Behaviours and Characteristics to Look For
Those with Asperger's have particular characteristics that can be recognised:
- Routines - prefer doing things in a certain way and may become anxious or upset if these routines change;
- Sensory Processing Difficulties – this can vary greatly between people and could involve any of the senses (taste, touch, smell, sight or sound). They can involve the person either being over-sensitive, sensory seeking or being under responsive;
- Specific Interests – hobbies and interests that they are passionate about.
Living with Asperger's
Occupational therapy can address specific sensory processing issues and help to put strategies in place to reduce the chances of sensory overload or sensory seeking behaviour becoming overwhelming.
Therapy methods may include completing a Sensory Profile or the SPM ( Sensory Processing Measure) and developing appropriate Sensory Input at school and at home to facilitate better self regulation. Programs like the Wilbarger Brushing Program, the Therapeutic Listening Program, Brain Works and the Alert program maybe incorporated. The aim would be for each child to have there own individualise Toolbox with specific sensory input that they identify as tools that help them self regulate.
Social skills and appropriate interactions and reactions in certain situations would also be addressed.
Parents are included in the therapy sessions so they can develop a better understanding of how their child processes sensory information and how it impacts on their lives. As the caregivers and the child learn to manage their sensory input and sensory needs so will their lives become less stressful.
The child will then be able to take on the challenges of interacting in everyday life with more confidence. This increase in self esteem often results in increased interactions with other which may lead to ongoing friendships and successes in other aspects of their lives.