What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder that is classified as one of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). Often it may be incorrectly called Asperger's disease; however, it is actually a condition characterized by significant impairment in social interaction as well as the development of repetitive and restricted fields of interest, activities, and interests.
Comparing Asperger's Syndrome and Autism
While there are some similarities between Asperger's Syndrome and Autism, individuals with Asperger's usually have average to above-average IQ, and do not demonstrate clinically significant delays in language or self-help skills. While they may have an extremely good command of language and a very rich vocabulary, they are unable to use language appropriately in a social context and often speak in monotone, with little nuance and inflection in their voice.
What Causes Asperger’s Syndrome?
The causes of Asperger’s Syndrome remain unknown, although there appears to be a definite genetic component, as it tends to run in families. Asperger's is NOT caused by bad parenting or problems in the family. Evidence has shown that there may be certain 'triggers' which precipitate the condition, including environmental factors like pollution, food intolerances (particularly to foods containing wheat, gluten, sugar and dairy products), digestive problems, and even childhood vaccinations (particularly the MMRI). There are also suggestions that Asperger's Syndrome may sometimes be linked to high levels of Candida in the stomach. Clearly much more research is needed in this area.
Asperger’s in Adults
Like many disorders, sometimes an accurate diagnosis of Asperger’s is not reached until adulthood. However, while an adult with Asperger’s may develop language normally, they typically have extreme difficulty with social interactions, communication skills, and motor coordination. They are usually either painfully shy or obnoxiously outgoing, and as a result, are often misunderstood for their inappropriate reactions (or lack thereof).
While they may function at a reasonable level, these difficulties can drastically affect their daily lives, from struggling to develop peer or personal relationships, becoming overwhelmed by sensory overload at grocery stores, and fixating on hobbies—all which interfere with the ability to hold a job.
Proper assessment in adults should factor in cognitive and functional abilities with emphasis on psychological and communication, as well as any comorbid conditions. Left untreated, a severe case of Asperger’s can lead to serious harm for the individual as well as others, resulting from characteristics such as an innate lack of concern for consequences, societal naivety, and misinterpretation of relationships, rules, and judgment. However, properly diagnosed and treated, many children and adults with Aspergers Syndrome can lead productive lives, especially if they are guided into a career which suits their skills and level of emotional, social and cognitive abilities.
In addition to the above childhood symptoms that canpersist into adulthood, adults may also have:
- Sexual problems, resulting from inappropriate conduct and inability to form adult relationships due to lack of empathetic and/or social skills
- Weight issues or eating disorders such as anorexia, often caused by anxiety, sensory sensitivity associated with food, or routines or rituals interrupting meal patterns
- Comorbid emotional conditions such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability
- Seizures, epilepsy – though unlikely, one third of people with autistic-spectrum disorders develop these conditions