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Asperger syndrome

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A young child standing below the ribbon representing Asperger's Awareness.

Asperger's Syndrome is a developmental disorder, closely related to autism. This syndrome is commonly referred to as Asperger's syndrome, Asperger syndrome, or simply just Asperger's. It can heavily impair the individual's capabilities for normal social interaction and communication. It increases the challenge of interpreting emotions and body language. Although it usually does not affect a person's language abilities or reduce one's intelligence, it can pose as an intimidating force. It impacts the individual's ability to communicate and socialize, among other things. Although there is no currently known cure, there is a variety of treatments ranging from cognitive behavioral therapy to anti-depressant medication.[1]

Symptoms

Asperger's is usually diagnosed early on in a child's life.

Although one of the most mild forms of autism, Asperger's still includes a variety of pressing symptoms that can range from mild to very severe. These include issues with social skills, such as lacking a basic understanding of how to interact with other people and how to deal with unfamiliar social scenarios. People with Asperger's have difficulties with communicating and maintaining conversation. Interpreting social cues and expressions are a challenge all in itself and heavily contribute to the difficulty with making friends. Those with Asperger's often develop odd body language, such as lengthy or limited eye contact, unusual vocal inflections, and quirks such as wringing hands, running fingers through hair, or other self-comforting mechanisms. This syndrome also influences people to maintain very specific routines and rituals, a behavior that often emerges in children. Examples of this include: a child organizing all of his or her toys in line before falling asleep, constantly carrying around and rubbing a favorite blanket, or developing an obsessive interest over one subject for lengthy periods of time. [2]

Treatment

Currently, there is no known cure for Asperger's. Despite this, there are many methods and manners that exist to diminish its symptoms. These methods primarily focus on educating those with the syndrome to understand how to cope with its negative effects. In fact, a wide array of treatments are now available. Although these methods of treatment mainly consist of therapy and medication, they both primarily focus on improving social and communicative competence. This allows the individual to maintain a reasonably normal life. [3]

Therapy

It is common for those diagnosed with Asperger's to experience a distinct feeling of separation from those around them. This disconnect with their peers can contribute to a variety of emotional problems. A common method for alleviating such issues is counseling, which is available to all ages. There is a variety of more specific treatments as well, such as training in social skills and communication. One of the most notable symptoms of Asperger's is the difficulty to interact with others in a social setting, a skill which does not come naturally for those with Asperger's. Trainers often angle their teachings as if they are coaching their patients on how to learn a new language, using a very direct, routine-heavy method. This helps with understanding social cues, communication strategies, proper usage of "gesturing, eye contact, tone of voice, humor, sarcasm," and speaking in a more "natural rhythm."[4] Another specific treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, which centers around diminishing behavioral problems. It helps individuals to properly react to challenging or unfamiliar scenarios, such as going to a party with completely brand-new people or getting into an argument. Other issues cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on are "interrupting, obsessions, meltdowns or angry outbursts . . . recognizing feelings and coping with anxiety." [5]

Medication

Although there is nothing currently on the market designed to specifically help people with Asperger's, there are many medications available that alleviate the symptoms. Some of the medications that may help with the syndrome are Intuniyv, SSRIs, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Abilify and Revia. One of the more notable drugs out of the list is SSRIs, a type of medication that treats depression. Another is Revia, which helps with irrational anger and/or irritability. Another would be Intuniv, which is prescribed to diminish hyperactivity and inattention. Taking such medication may help with the various symptoms of this disorder. [6]

Diagnosing

This syndrome is most commonly diagnosed during childhood. But, because of the vast similarities Asperger's shares with autism, it is commonly misdiagnosed. On the other hand, sometimes those with the syndrome are not aware they have it, for the symptoms can manifest themselves very early on in a child or later in life. Diagnosing can include a vast array of screening instruments and evaluations made by medical professionals. Due to the lack of absolute synonymity in the diagnosing process, children can be diagnosed incorrectly. If this is the case Asperger's will most likely be mistaken for other social disorders.

The method for diagnosing Asperger's includes two steps. The first, simpler step involves a screening of the child. The second is usually much more extensive and demanding. This lengthy process involves a mental evaluation of the patient, often involving a team consisting of a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, speech therapist, and any extra medical professionals needed. They will evaluate the child's social and language skills, IQ, nonverbal methods of communicating, mental capabilities, etc. Once every factor has been analyzed the medical professional in charge will take into account all gathered information and make a diagnosis. [7]

History

Hans Asperger researching the syndrome in a young child.

Discovery

Hans Asperger, born in 1908, experienced some of the symptoms Asperger's includes as a child. Later on in his life, while working as director of the University Children's Clinic in Vienna in 1944, he officially discovered the syndrome. He coined the newly-discovered disorder as "autistic psychopathy," recognizing that those affected by it dealt with a highly debilitating lack of social skills. He first realized the possibility of Asperger's syndrome after monitoring four children at his clinic. The four children were especially notable for their inability to function smoothly in social situations. Nonverbal communication proved especially difficult, for they were unable to identify with their peers and pick up on normal social cues. They exhibited a conspicuous awkwardness when forced to interact with others. Despite containing an average intellect, the children were inept at functioning in social situations. Additionally, they conversed in a "disjointed" and "overly formal" manner with others and often unintentionally controlled conversation. The doctor decided to classify "autistic psychopathy," as a social personality disorder.[8]


Development in Understanding

Despite Dr. Hans classifying Asperger's as its own syndrome, many of his peers believed it to merely be a more moderate form of autism. For many years after Asperger discovered the syndrome it was referred to as "high-functioning autism." Some still, such as Uta Frith, professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience of University College London, attributes the symptoms of Asperger's as resulting from Autism. She, like many others, classifies those with AS as "having a dash of Autism." More recently, in 1994, Asperger's was officially declared as separate disorder from autism. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) recorded AS as being an independent disorder of its own. Even more recently, the DSM-IV altered its listings and established "autism spectrum disorder" as encompassing assorted social disorders, autism, and Asperger's syndrome.[9]

Video

A study on David Jordan, a man living with Asperger's Syndrome. Second Video: Insight into the details of Asperger's Syndrome.

References

  1. Nordqvist, Christian. What is Asperger's Syndrome? medicalnewstoday. Web. Published on May 9, 2012.
  2. Weintraub, Alan G. Asperger's Syndrome Web MD. Web. Reviewed on May 12, 2013.
  3. Weintraub, Alan G. Asperger's Syndrome Mayo Clinic. Web. Reviewed on May 12, 2013.
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff. Asperger's syndrome Mayo Clinic. Web. Published on November 18 2010.
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. Asperger's syndrome Mayo Clinic. Web. Published on November 18 2010.
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. Asperger's syndrome Mayo Clinic. Web. Published on November 18 2010.
  7. Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Web. Updated Last updated November 6, 2013.
  8. Unknown Author. How was Asperger syndrome (AS) discovered? Share Care. Web. Accessed on December 18 2013.
  9. Unknown Author. Asperger syndrome Autism Society. Web. Accessed on December 18 2013.

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