Asperger’s Syndrome

The disorder previously known as … Aspergers

What was Asperger’s Syndrome? 

Asperger’s Syndrome was a neurobiological disorder named after the Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger, who first documented the condition in 1944. It was often described as a pervasive developmental dysfunction said to lie within the “high functioning end” of the autistic spectrum of disorders. At the SCDC we believe that an Asperger’s diagnosis was a helpful distinction from the lower functioning people on the spectrum, and people who used to fall under the classification of Asperger’s were better understood using this classification. Whilst much knowledge and acceptance has occurred around the diagnosis of being “Aspie”, it is our experience that patients with this diagnosis are now feeling dissatisfied that they are being classified with others who are some more functionally impaired.

It’s primary characteristics are similar to those of Autism, yet it can be differentiated from Autism by later onset, and relatively well preserved language and cognitive abilities, but the disorder in manifestation can range from mild to severe. While language development appears normal, individuals with AS tend to be extremely literal and exhibit problems using language in a social context.

Asperger’s can generally be characterised by naively inadequate social interaction, an inability to make friends, impaired emotional intonation and gesturing, pedantic monologues, restricted repertoire of interests, and the appearance of having a lack of empathy with others.

The Asperger’s individual has much difficulty with transitions or changes, preferring things to remain as they have been. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues or body language, and very often, the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. AS individuals are often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, and may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to notice.

As with all developmental disorders, it needs to be remembered that each person is a unique individual, with individual etiology. There is considerable variability in functional levels attained.

Diagnostic criteria of Asperger’s Syndrome (DMS-IV) (Now removed from the DSM-5) 

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    1. Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
    2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
    3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e. g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
    4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  2. 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. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
    3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
    4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age- appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood
  6. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia

Treatment for Asperger’s Disorder for Children

Because AS can present patterns of behaviors and problems that differ widely from child to child, there isn’t a “typical” or prescribed treatment regimen. However, the patient  may benefit from the following forms of treatment:

  •  Parent education and training
  •  Specialized educational interventions for the child
  •  social skills training
  • Language therapy
  • Behavioural/cognitive therapy

Here at the Sydney Cognitive Development Centre we offer comprehensive case management for your child and all their care givers including doctors, schools, occupational therapists, speech therapists. We offer at our centre the following services:

  • Assessment of the cognitive, social and behavioural characteristics that underlie Asperger’s Syndrome- ruling out other diagnoses and making co-morbid diagnoses
  • Social skill training
  • Specialised educational interventions by our special education teacher
  • Case conferencing with teachers,school counsellors, principals, and other health professionals
  • Psychological therapy to address issues with anxiety and difficulties coping with change

An effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular reinforcement of behavior. It’s important to know that there are many people who can provide support and treatment for your child. Finding the right program for your child is key, and getting help early is important. Children with Asperger’s syndrome can and do experience great gains with the appropriate treatment and education.

Treatment for Asperger’s Disorder for Adults 

At the SCDC we offer a comprehensive program for adults with ASD. The majority of our patients need help with anxiety, coping with change and social skill manangement. We do a combination of therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy, behavioural therapy (including ACT) and social skill training.