My View on Aspergerís Syndrome
Written by Bakermommy
Aspergerís Syndrome (AS) is, in my opinion, the hardest of all PDDs to understand. Family, schools and inept clinicians often don't see it and can't understand it. Children are often labeled "quirky" and parents are told to wait, "He'll/She'll catch up".
AS varies from child to child, and you'll never see the same symptoms in any two children, just variants. One child who hand flaps all the time is the same as another child who touches his face sometimes. Both are responses to stress.
There are two ways of understanding AS, the historically "clinical" way as put by the DSM-IV or throwing that DSM-IV crap out the window. Let's toss it for now, ok?
First off Gillberg's & Szatmari's criterias both present a better view. I feel that The Australian Scale for Aspergerís Syndrome, by Tony Attwood is the best.
Language: The DSM refers to early language as a marker (it amazes me how stupid that is). The ASAS breaks the use of language down to how the child communicates today. This is a much better marker. Now the DSM refers to NOT a significant delay in language. With AS you CAN see maybe a slight delay in language, but the child usually takes on a very adult way of speaking in a short amount of time. Almost like going from no language to "OMG, will you listen to him talk!!" in no time.
Sometimes the AS child is the one who you'll refer to as "He sees it once, and knows it forever"
Which brings us to visual. AS kids are VERY visual. This can mask their problems. They typically learn by rote/memorizing. They are the "ask & answer" type. They select from a running mental list and provide "their" rote/learned response. They typically have above average or superior IQs. Something that the schools can't understand, "What do you mean he has a problem, look at these scores! He's a top student. NEXT"
The problems are seen in higher grades when the work switches from visual/rote to abstract/critical thinking. Where context is needed. Take "D" for example:
-Assignment: Using pictures draw the combinations that equal 12. Use bats and balls. Balls for one number and bats for the other number.
D. did it perfectly. He drew the balls and then bats. The bats had wings, ears and feet. See what I mean, no context. He didn't generalize because he had no visual of a (baseball) bat. He selected the BAT from his mental list.
Rules & Routine. This is another one that can vary. Some are called the "Rule Police"; they want others to obey the rules so that they can expand their "control" over a group. They are often tattletales. They can prefer to interact with younger kids or adults; they like to help adults by being assistants. I personally think it's because they have "observed" that adults are the rule givers and enforcers and they want to be "like" that. They must believe that these adults live with the calm and control that they crave.
They HATE to be wrong, and will remind you when YOU are wrong. It's hard to lie to them because they remember everything.
Social skills. This is a tough one. On the one hand, they want to interact and participate, but they lack the skills to do it the right way. Sensory plays a big role here. Take a classroom where everyone is doing his or her own thing. An AS kid can view this as "way too much, and "see" nothing that they can be part of. On the other hand, if it's quiet reading THEN that's something he/she can sit with someone.
Age and maturity also play a big role here, AS kids develop coping and calming skills to help them cope. So it's easy to see inconsistent behaviors in different situations.
If you want to read anything, start to Tony Attwood and go from there. I also happen to think that his scale, "The Australian Scale for Aspergerís Syndrome" is the best one. Don't get stuck on the EXACT criteria, it's more of a generalization.
I thought D. was helping me by reminding me that I forgot the napkins when I set the table. Then I saw how he asked for napkins at every meal, every day for years. Turns out it's a routine; he needs the napkin to be at the table before he sits down. Why?? He needs the order, the control and the calm to be "in place". Quirky?? Yes! A feature of the criteria describing a routine or ritual?? Yes!!
Obsessive Interests- This is the big one. The DSM would have you believe that ONLY the classic narrow obsessive interest exists. There is more than that. It can be but NOT limited to: Interests that change over a few months. Interests that can evolve. Like being engrossed with letters, then words, then reading or how many syllables a word has.
Ever hear of an addictive personality? Ever go on a food kick? Like having the same food for two weeks then your sick of it. Well it's the same thing. Don't just read "Obsessive Interest" and stop there.
EGO- this is big. It clicked for me when I realized that all his conversations were either about him or centered on him. It's the ME child. "I'm first, My turn, I race to the door first, I want to be first for ice cream, First in the car, Push buttons first". They sometimes WANT what they see, yet have no interest (or little) once THEY get it. They can have little or no interest in the latest fad or craze among peers.
Transitioning- AS kids (varies a lot!) sometimes develop coping and calming to help them deal with stress. This coping can vary from place to place or situation. However many parents report that once a child comes home, like from school, that they "shutdown". Home is control central, often a child will engage in an activity that is solitary for a time to transition between the school and home. The time can vary, but it can going to their room to "decompress", video games, computer, etc. Shutting down is a coping skill, don't stop it. An AS child "needs what he/she needs" and that's it. Sometimes it's 20 minutes or 1 1/2hours. AS adults refer to this enough that we know a "decompression time" is needed.
.... and that's my view on Aspergerís
Debate continues as to where Aspergerís fits into the spectrum. It can coexist with something else. It also can look like Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder or Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. Some children can also exhibit Hyperlexia. Aspergerís children often have great success with Social Stories.
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1: July 4, 2002