In 1993 the World Health Organization (WHO), for the first time,included Asperger’s syndrome or more precise Asperger’s disorder, as one of several Pervasive Development Disorders. There is recognition in diagnostic manuals that autism, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, is a heterogeneous disorder and that there appear to be several subtypes, one of which is Asperger’s syndrome. This defines Asperger’s as a form of autism, but for many doctors, teachers and parents they are unaware of what that means to their family and how to recognize the symptoms of autism or more specifically Asperger’s.
I have spent many years working with children and adults with developmental disabilities; specifically mental retardation and autism. My degree is in social work and I have focused on developing interventions to assist a child or adult with autism to function as best they can in their world. I have worked with them to become the most independent person they can. Most of my time is spent educating parents, teachers and others playing a major role in the child’s life.
A person with Asperger’s often appears to be a typical child for 90% of the time. They tend to be very intelligent, speaking beyond their peers levels. They play with their toys in a more practical manner than creative. They learn more about their favorite subjects than their peers. Their penmanship is painfully perfect. They are certain as to what foods they will eat and those they will not. The remaining 10% is covered by the parts of their personality that is a bit “odd”. They aren’t able to try new foods. They are not able to read a persons non-verbal clues. They are not able to keep up with their peers in finishing the “copying” parts of their school work because of their desire to have the penmanship perfect, so much so that they constantly will erase and begain again and again. These children do not look anyone in their eyes. They may not be able to see the importance of needing and giving hugs and kisses to their parents. They are suffering from nutritional issues due to their lack of variety in their diets.
Education is the key to bringing autism to the forfront of the medical and educational professions. Education for parents, specifically new parents, to identify what is expected growth patterns of the newborn. This also includes giving the parents an idea of what is considered signs and symptoms that your child may need interventions. It is proven that the earlier the intervention for a child with any type of developmental disability, specifically autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s the better the diagnosis. A parent with the proper education in suspected autism spectric disorder symptoms will be able to advocate on behalf of their child sooner and receive the appropriate services.
Two years ago a young girl of 8 years old was carrying around a diagnosis of bi-polar and oppositional defiant disorder. She was given medications that were not helping as they were for a diagnosis she didn’t have. The medications were giving her severe side effects. I was apart of her team when she came to receive services. I recognized some of the symptoms typical for autism rather than bi-polar. I mentioned this to my supervisor who was also thinking along the same line. We had her see another pschyatrist that properly diagnosed her with Asperger’s. Her medication was changed and proper interventions were begun. The child who was uncontrollable, angry, and misunderstood became a totally different person. She was able to focus on her tasks at hand, her school work improved, her teachers were able to keep her in the class without disruptions, and she was able to learn more. Her relationships with her parents and younger brother was greatly improved. Her parents now knew that they weren’t the problem, they were know a part of the solution. Her life is greatly improved. Why? She has Asperger’s, a high functioning form of autism. She was able to be treated with the correct medications and interventions and was finally understood for who she is.
Education is the key for Asperger’s and the rest of the austism spectrum disorder to become well known and properly diagnosed. Check out Good Morning America’s archives, they have done an excellent job at keeping Autism in the news. The Autism Society is another great resource for parents and educators to find out what is new in the autism treatment front. If you do an internet search you will find a number of sources of information on autism as well as support groups for families. In Western North Carolina, there are several agencies that support families with information, activities and support groups. FIRST-Families, Information, Resouces, Support and Technology, Western Alliance, Family Support Network are just a few. This will give you a few ideas of what else you could look under.
In Tony Atwood’s The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, he has a quote on the cover flap. “I usually say to the child, “Congratulations, you have Asperger’s syndrome”, and explain that this means he or she is not mad, bad or defective, but has a different way of thinking.” Even so, they should receive the benefits that being a part of the autism spectrum disorder classification affords them.