Asperger Syndrome: What is it, what are its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment methods?
Asperger syndrome, which falls under the title of pervasive developmental disorders, is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that causes significant problems, especially in social relationships.
Asperger syndrome, which falls under the title of pervasive developmental disorders, is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that causes significant problems, especially in social relationships. Although it has many similarities with autism spectrum disorder, there are significant differences between these two disorders both clinically and behaviorally. Neurodevelopmental disorders that affect the structure or functioning of the brain may cause the person to experience communication and interaction problems, especially in the social sphere. It has become possible to strengthen social communication skills thanks to approach-based treatment methods and customized training practices developed to minimize such problems. In order to manage the process correctly from start to finish, it is very important that the disease is diagnosed at an early stage and that the child benefits from specialized education opportunities while still in the developmental process.
What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger syndrome can be defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder that does not cause any delay in language or other cognitive development stages, but causes significant problems in mutual social interaction. Although there is no problem in the way the person perceives the world and events, there are obvious limitations in his behavior, interests and ways of interacting.
This disorder was first described by Hans Asperger in 1944 as “people who have a lack of empathy, have difficulty expressing their feelings, have difficulty understanding socially accepted topics, have the attitude of a professor regarding the subjects they are interested in, but cannot control expression techniques such as voice and facial expressions.” With the DSM-V, it was accepted as a subgroup of autism spectrum disorder and was added to high-functioning autistic disorders. Autism is one of the most common pervasive developmental disorders. Pervasive developmental disorders, which significantly affect language development, communication skills, social and behavioral development stages, and the ability to adapt to the environment, are usually noticed in the early stages of life and show a lifelong progression. Asperger syndrome is the only developmental disorder among the common disorders that generally has the best prognosis and, in some cases, progresses so mildly that it is first noticed in adulthood. Correct recognition of this neurodevelopmental problem, which can occur with different clinical features, and early detection of emerging symptoms and findings are extremely important in order to maintain personal development.
Asperger Syndrome Symptoms
Asperger syndrome usually causes the person to have an introverted attitude, avoid social communication, and distance themselves from other people. These symptoms are common behaviors that can occur due to many psychiatric diseases. In terms of clinical features, many diseases such as prodromal schizophrenia, schizoid personality disorder, residual schizophrenia, avoidant personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder can lead to similar findings with Asperger syndrome. Therefore, people with Asperger syndrome have a high risk of being misdiagnosed. At this point, it is necessary to know the specific symptoms of the disease accurately and to consider the symptoms as differential diagnoses. It is possible to mention certain areas where problems can be detected in people with Asperger syndrome:
- Speech area: Although there is no delay in language skills in people with this syndrome, different features are noticeable in the field of speech. Speech differences such as having problems with the use of pronouns, using some words too frequently, and frequently coining new words are observed. In addition, even if a person uses language smoothly as a means of self-expression, he or she may have difficulty understanding the other party’s communication through language. While explaining the subject he is interested in, he continues to talk without noticing whether the other person shows interest or listens to him, and continues to speak in long monologues despite the other party’s efforts to change the subject. Intonation and emphasis errors seen during speech are also among the common symptoms in people with Asperger syndrome.
- Social communication area: People with Asperger syndrome have a desire to establish social relationships, but even if the person manages to establish warm relationships with their parents, they have serious difficulties in establishing social relationships with their peers. His inability to recognize and interpret facial expressions, his inability to understand traditional social rules, and his extremely weak empathy ability are the main factors that make it difficult to establish social relationships.
- Areas of interest: Limitation of interests is another common symptom with Asperger syndrome. This symptom, which can be overlooked during childhood, becomes more noticeable as the person enters adolescence. He/she has different and extremely limited interests than normal, and this weakens social communication skills. Psychological problems in addition to the syndrome are common, especially during adolescence. During this period, problems with personal care are noticeable in approximately half of the patients. Findings such as difficulty in adapting to school life, withdrawal from social communication and introversion generally become evident between the ages of 13 and 19.
Asperger Syndrome Diagnosis
Diagnosis of Asperger syndrome is extremely difficult due to the frequent occurrence of additional mental disorders that accompany the syndrome. Diagnosis of Asperger syndrome becomes more difficult as the first symptoms appear around the age of 4 and other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder are also seen in these children’s families. Considering the importance of clinical appearance in diagnosing the syndrome, it is important to recognize it in the early development period in order to make the correct diagnosis; Especially in the preschool period, the existence of characteristic features such as language development, social interaction style, behavioral patterns and limited areas of interest should be carefully questioned.
Asperger Syndrome Treatment Methods
The main aim of the treatment is to improve the patient’s social communication skills and increase his/her harmony with the environment. The most important factors affecting social adaptation in Asperger syndrome are the severity of the disease, the cognitive capacity of the patient, the presence of comorbid psychiatric disease, and the attitude of family and other environmental factors. In order to properly control the syndrome, these variables that directly affect social adaptation must first be evaluated and arranged in a way that is beneficial for the patient. Accompanying mental illnesses should be treated, family and close circle should be made aware, interventions to increase the patient’s cognitive capacity should be planned, and the severity of the disease should be controlled with medical or psychotherapeutic methods.
When the development of individuals with Asperger syndrome who were followed from preschool to adolescence was evaluated, it was determined that early treatment interventions increased the level of cognitive skills and that there was some improvement in social functionality with age. In line with this information, it is possible to say that individually planned holistic treatment methods positively affect the course of the disease.
What is the Difference Between Asperger Syndrome and Autism?
According to the diagnostic manual of mental disorders (DSM-V) published by the American Psychiatric Association, Asperger syndrome is accepted as a subgroup of autism spectrum disorder and is among the high-functioning autistic disorders. It is possible to distinguish these two diseases, which are similar in terms of both the neurodevelopmental features of the brain and some common behavioral patterns, in some aspects. The most obvious difference between Asperger syndrome and autism is the developmental features seen in the field of language during childhood. Language-related developmental delay is common in people diagnosed with autism, and these people are usually diagnosed after the age of 2. However, there are no problems with language development in Asperger syndrome, and these babies start talking at almost the same time as their peers.