Today there are many different types of disabilities and syndromes. When you have a child to be diagnosed with a disability or a syndrome life can suddenly become overwhelming. This is especially true if they have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Parents sometimes feel guilty because their child has a disability or syndrome. Parents may feel that they are responsible for their child’s disability or syndrome. Parents may feel guilty about their child being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome since it is a neurological disorder. This particular syndrome is not widely recognized by the general public. Since Asperger’s Syndrome is not widely recognized by the general public, the public sometimes may not understand the behavior of someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome. This can be a challenge for a parent who tries to explain their child’s behavior to someone who has never heard of Asperger’s. Parents until recently may have known their child was behaving in an unusual manner but did not where to go for help. These are just some of the challenges that parents’ face when their child has Asperger’s because it has some of the same characteristics as Autism. This paper will review the definition and characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome, what assessments are available to diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome, and what particular children are most often diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Asperger’s Syndrome was not made an official disorder until 1994. Asperger’s was discovered by Hans Asperger in the 1940’s. Asperger’s Syndrome is different from autism and is under the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Asperger has a long definition. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV of the American Psychiatric Association (cited in Klin ; Volkmar, 1995) Asperger’s syndrome follows the same format as autism. The definition of Asperger’s syndrome actually uses autism as a reference point. Asperger’s syndrome involves the absences of some abnormalities in certain areas of functioning that are affected in autism. People with Asperger’s can be highly intelligent. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV of the American Psychiatric Association (citied in Klin ; Volkmar, 1995) the definition of Asperger Syndrome there is a qualitative impairment in social interaction. There should be at least two of the following impairments in social interaction: a marked impairment in multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction. A failure to develop peer relationships. A failure to spontaneously seek and share enjoyment, interest or achievement with others. Also a lack of social or emotional reciprocity, to exchange with others. Another area affected is behavior they may have restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as Manifested by at least one of the following: (1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus, (2) unable to change or stick to nonfunctional routines or rituals. (3) repetitive motor mannerisms and (4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects. Also Asperger’s has no clinically significant delay in language, cognitive development, or in adaptive behavior.
There is still uncertainty in diagnosing someone with Asperger because of the similarities in high functioning autism and Asperger. According to Attwood (1998) there can be two stages to identifying Asperger. The first stage is to use a rating scale that involves both parents and teachers. There are two new rating scales one developed in Sweden and the other was developed in Australia (Attwood 1998). The second stage is to have a diagnostic assessment done by an experienced clinician in the behaviors and abilities of children with developmental disorders, using established criteria that gives a clear description of the syndrome (Attwood 1998). According to Attwood (1998) there is no universal agreement as to which diagnostic criteria to use. At the present time clinicians can use four sets of criteria. According to Rubin and Laurent (2004) there is a curriculum-based assessment called SCERTS Model. The SCERTS Model was designed to provide a specific purpose for educational planning (Rubin and Laurent, 2004). Because there are no universal diagnostic criteria and finding an experienced clinician who specializes in Asperger it can be a challenge for parents to get the right diagnoses for their child. According to Tsatsanis, Foley, and Donehower (2004), there has been greater interest in achieving an understanding for the needs of children with Asperger syndrome. Due to the fact there has been a greater interest in Asperger syndrome there might finally be a universal diagnostic criterion.
Asperger’s syndrome is a relatively new term for parents and school systmes. In the past it was rare to have a child diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome or even autism. Since Asperger has become an official disorder there have been more children diagnosed with this disorder. School systems can encounter several children with this disorder. According to Attwood (1998), boys are referred more for diagnostic assessment than girls. According to Ehlers and Gillberg (cited in Attwood, 1998) the evidence indicates the boy to girl ratio is 4:1, which is the same ratio with autism. At the present time there has been no research to investigate why boys are referred more for diagnostic testing than girls.
Asperger’s is such a relatively new term parents and school systems need to be educated on this disorder. People with this disorder can be highly intelligent but have odd behaviors. We as educators need to understand the behaviors of children with Asperger’s Syndrome so they will not get left behind in the classroom. With on going research maybe in the future there will be one diagnostic test that all clinicians can use to properly identify someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. When a child is labeled with Asperger’s Syndrome remember this child can be highly intelligent but with some odd social behaviors.
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