Kids Health Info

Aspergers Syndrome

  • The following information is for parents, families and friends of children who have already been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. If you are concerned about your child's behaviour, please see your family doctor. Do not try to make a diagnosis yourself.

    Asperger's Syndrome is a part of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and refers to children who have a high level of intellectual ability and function. Please read the Autism Spectrum Disorder fact sheet for more information about the various forms of Autism.

    Signs and symptoms

    Signs and symptoms may include:

    • An obsessional interest in a subject. For example, an obsession with bus timetables or natural disasters, but little or no interest in other subjects.

    • Poor social interactions - showing no interest in talking, playing or interacting with others in any way, despite the child's high level of language. However, this is not always the case and some children engage and interact well with others.

    • A lack of common sense.

    • Learning difficulties and/or a delay in learning to speak.

    • Clumsiness or poor coordination skills, compared with the agility that is often common in children with Autism.

    The intellectual ability of children with Asperger's Syndrome can range from 'normal' to superior intellectual (IQ) levels. They often show a high level of language skills, but some may experience delays in learning to speak.

    As with any form of ASD, no two people with Asperger's Syndrome show exactly the same signs.

    Associated difficulties

    A child with Asperger's Syndrome may not be identified and therefore diagnosed until primary school because of their high level of language and special interests.

    Children with Asperger's Syndrome are likely to experience social difficulties during this time, such as participating in day-to-day life (e.g. playing with others). They are also more likely, than the general population, to experience medical conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety or depression. 

    Causes

    The cause of Asperger's Syndrome in children is unknown. At this time, genes are thought to be involved. Research is continuing, with the aim of finding the cause and more treatment options. 

    Testing for Asperger's Syndrome

    A diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome is based on a specialist paediatrician and a psychologist assessing your child. As the symptoms vary greatly from person to person, there is no single test for Asperger's Syndrome. If you are concerned about your child's behaviour, please see your family doctor for a referral to a specialist paediatrician or psychologist.

    The Royal Children's Hospital Autism Assessment Team includes a paediatrician, psychologist and speech pathologist, who can assess your child's speech, language and other forms of development. An assessment includes a parent interview, and observation of your child's behaviour while in the company of other children.

    Your child's hearing will also be checked as this may be a cause of their difficulties. Your child may be tested for medical conditions that are known to be associated with ASD. Your doctor will discuss the need for tests with you. Ask any questions you may have about the tests and procedures required.

    Treatment

    Treatment varies to meet the individual needs of the child and the family. A child showing signs of Asperger's Syndrome will be referred to the relevant specialists, depending on the nature of the impairment/s. Treatment varies to meet the individual needs of the child and the family.

    Treatment may include:

    • Special education settings - there are a number of early intervention programs and specialist schools.

    • Social skill development - Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapists work one-on-one with a child to help them 'learn how to learn' and to develop social and communication skills. For information on how to find a therapist, go to www.abia.net.au.

    • Behaviour therapy - a psychologist may help identify triggers for behavioural difficulties (such as outbursts) and advise the family how to develop ways to avoid or manage these behavioural issues.

    • Speech therapy - speech pathologists help autistic children to connect with others through conversation by improving the child's language and social skills.

    • Medication - may be used for depression or if a child is violent or aggressive. 

         
    • Environmental changes - occupational therapists may help with picture cards (e.g. a picture of a bed that a child can point to if they do not speak) and other aids to help structure your child's home environment.

    An action plan for the family may include information resources, parent training, strategies for family support and an action plan for the child.

    Follow-up

    The needs of the child and the family may change over time, and treatment will change to meet these needs.

    For more information

    Visit the following websites for more information:

     

     

    Developed by the RCH Dept of Quality and Improvement, with thanks to RCH psychologists, paediatrician and General Practitioners for their significant input. First published: August 2008. Updated December 2012.

Disclaimer
This is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easily understood. The Royal Children's Hospital accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in the handouts.