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Asperger Syndrome

(Asperger Disorder)

Definition

Asperger syndrome is a brain disorder. It results in social, behavioral, and communication problems.
In the past, it used to be its own condition. It is now included in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Causes

This is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means that it is caused by problems with how the brain develops. The reason why this happens is not known. It is thought to be caused by genetics or problems during pregnancy, such as infection.
Infant Brain—Period of Rapid Development
Infant Brain and skull
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in boys. Other things that may raise the risk are:
  • Having a brother or sister who has it
  • Having a mother who is 40 years of age or older or a father who is 50 years of age or older
  • Problems during pregnancy or delivery
  • Genetic problems
There may also be other developmental, medical, or mental health problems. The reason why is not known.

Symptoms

Problems start early in life. There may be:
  • Communication and social interaction problems, such as:
    • Not looking others in the eye
    • Problems with back and forth communication
    • Not pointing or showing things to others
    • Talking about the same thing for a long time without noticing others are not interested
    • Having body language that does not match what is being said
    • Not understanding another person's body language
    • Having a strange tone of voice, such as like a robot
    • Not understanding another person's feelings and needs
  • Narrow interests and behaviors, such as:
    • Strange behaviors, such as repeating words or phrases
    • Having a strong interest in specific topics
    • Getting upset by small changes in routine
    • Being sensitive to sensory input, such as noise

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked questions about behavior, social skills, and communication abilities. Parents will be asked about their child's behavior. A physical will be done.
Tests will be done to learn more about how the person's brain works. This can be done with neuropsychological tests. The tests will be given by a care team that is experienced in diagnosing ASD.
These tests may be done to rule out health problems that have similar symptoms:
  • Blood tests
  • Hearing tests
An electroencephalogram (EEG) may also be done to record brain activity.

Treatment

The goal is to improve function and quality of life. Most people who are treated can learn how to cope with this problem.
Treatment should be started early. Options are:
  • Speech and occupational therapy to improve function
  • Social skills training to improve how a person relates to others
  • Applied behavioral analysis to improve behaviors, such as communication and social skills
  • Services that provide support in school
  • Mental health counseling
  • Medicine to help manage symptoms, such as anxiety

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem. The cause is not known.

RESOURCES

Asperger Autism Spectrum Education Network
http://www.aspennj.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Autism Society Canada
http://www.autismsocietycanada.ca
Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References

Asperger syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/all-disorders/asperger-syndrome-information-page. Accessed September 10, 2020.
Asperger's syndrome. Autism Society website. Available at: http://www.autism-society.org/about-autism/aspergers-syndrome. Accessed September 10, 2020.
Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/autism-spectrum-disorders . Accessed September 9, 2020.
Johnson CP, Myers SM, et al. Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007 Nov;120(5):1183-1215.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN
  • Review Date: 03/2020
  • Update Date: 09/10/2020
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