How to know if your child has Asperger’s

April 07, 2017 | by Erica Sokol, MS, LCPC, NCC

Are you noticing something off with your child — with how he/she behaves, communicates or socializes?

About 1 in 68 kids in the United States have autism. Many of us have heard of a mild type of autism called Asperger syndrome (AS), but many of us aren’t exactly sure what it is.

As of 2013, Asperger’s is now classified under autism spectrum disorder rather than as a separate condition. The term "autism spectrum" refers to a wide range of developmental disabilities with varying degrees of severity.

Kids with Asperger’s are generally considered to be on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum. They usually don't have language or intellect problems. In fact, most kids with AS have average to above-average intelligence, good language and cognitive skills, and even advanced voculabulary.

Kids with AS can have skills that seem well developed in some areas and lacking in others. This leaves parents at a loss for how to recognize it.

How can you tell if your child is displaying signs of Asperger’s? Some features of Asperger’s in kids include:

  • Poor social interactions (may relate better to adults than other kids)
  • Narrow interests/preoccupations (obsessions with particular subjects)
  • Repetitive routines, inflexiblity, a need to finish tasks that have started
  • Peculiar or repetititve behaviors or mannerisms
  • Odd speech patterns (may speak in monotone or loudly)
  • Extensive vocabulary, formal style of speaking
  • Limited eye contact
  • Trouble reading the body language of others or social cues
  • Sensitivity to the environment (light, noise, etc.)
  • Motor delays, awkward movements, clumsiness
  • Difficulty with give-and-take of conversation
  • Literal interpretation of language (may not understand irony and humor)
  • Difficulty understanding others’ feelings, lack of empathy

A child with a few of these features may not necessarily have Asperger's. To be officially diagnosed, a child must have a combination of symptoms that affect daily life — family, friends, school and self-esteem. You’ll need a medical expert to rule out other possible conditions and make an official diagnosis.

Boys are four times more likely than girls to have AS, and most kids are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9.

While children with AS can function in everyday life, they are often socially awkward. They may have a  hard time relating to others, so making friends can be difficult. Children with AS usually want to fit in and interact with others, but they often don’t know how to do it.

As a result, kids and teens with Asperger’s are often viewed by their peers as “odd” and are frequently a target for bullying and teasing. Many of them are at risk for developing mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression, especially in adolescence.

With support, your child can learn to interact more successfully despite any differences. But early diagnosis is important. Children with Asperger’s who are diagnosed and treated early in life have an increased chance of being successful in school and later in life.

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, don’t wait. Linden Oaks Behavorial Health offers Aspirations, an intensive outpatient program for adolescents who struggle with Asperger's, along with anxiety and/or a mood disorder.

The focus is on helping teens better manage their emotions and become able to function more smoothly in school and other settings. Individual and family therapy offers parents a chance to talk about what's working or not working at home. The teens go home with exercises to guide them in practicing their new skills at school and elsewhere.

To learn more, call the Linden Oaks Help Line 24/7 at 630-305-5027.

Get support for Asperger’s at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

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