Asperger’s syndrome owes its name to an Austrian pediatrician / psychiatrist and can be defined as a “condition of higher functioning autism”, because those affected have good (and sometimes excellent) intellectual abilities, reach a satisfactory level of autonomy and, in most cases, use language appropriately
Children and Asperger’s Syndrome
1. What is Asperger’s Syndrome
“There Asperger’s syndrome it owes its name to an Austrian pediatrician / psychiatrist and can be called one higher functioning autism condition“he explains Leonardo Zoccante, child neuropsychiatrist of the integrated university hospital of Verona. “Those who are interested, in fact, have good (and sometimes excellent) intellectual abilities, reach a satisfactory level of autonomy and, in most cases, use language in a sufficiently appropriate way”.
Although the term syndrome can be misleading it is not a disease, a disability or a handicap. “The most correct expression to use is condition of neurodiversity“the psychologist explained to nostrofiglio.it Giovanni Magoni, co-founder of the non-profit organization CulturAutismo. Specifying: “Neurotypical are the people who share the same way of organizing thought, while neurodiverse are the people who have a different way of thinking. Which certainly does not mean inferior”.
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2. The manifestations of Asperger’s syndrome
As in general for i autism spectrum disorders, also Asperger’s syndrome affects above all the areas of social relationship and communication: “The child is unable to understand the mechanisms of social functioning, and consequently to naturally manifest those behaviors that generally allow him to enter into a harmonious relationship with the outside world “says Zoccali.
From the point of view of communication, however, there may be difficulties with respect to the integration between verbal and non-verbal sphere. “Some people can speak without gesticulating, without looking the interlocutor in the eye or showing a poor modulation of facial expressions”, explains Magoni. It’s still: language understanding is often literal (irony and metaphors can be very difficult to grasp) and it can be linguistic reciprocity is difficult, that is, the ability to conduct a conversation.
Other very characteristic aspects are certain rigidity of thought, also justified by the preference for predictable situations and environments, easier to interpret and manage, and a tendency to what are defined “restricted” interests. In practice, children with the syndrome can show truly accentuated curiosity or interest only in a certain topic, to which they dedicate themselves exclusively: exactly what Greta Thunberg does with climate issues.
Often, though not always, these aspects are combined with what doctors define “motor clumsiness“, which is expressed with difficulty in learning to walk, poor ability in movement games and in activities that require the use of hands, such as catching the ball.
3. It is more common in males
The frequency of the syndrome is not yet known with certainty, but it is known that it is more frequent in males. However, it must be said that the syndrome is most likely under-diagnosed in females, because in children there can be different manifestations (including eating disorders) and because many of them are able to “disguise” social difficulties, which perhaps only emerge in adolescence or adulthood, when social demands become more articulated.
4) When the diagnosis can be made
“The diagnosis can be made from 3-4 years of age: it is naturally up to child neuropsychiatry to formulate it after a careful evaluation of the case “says Zoccale, stressing that in some cases it can be diagnosed much later or even never.
However, it may be useful for parents to know which are the most commonly encountered signs, not to make the diagnosis themselves, but to be able to seek help from the specialist as soon as possible. Even in this case, in fact, early intervention can help to better control any inconvenience caused to the child by the syndrome.
5. The most common signs of Asperger’s syndrome
- communication difficulties: it may happen that the child with Asperger’s syndrome learns to speak even earlier than the average of his peers (around 12-18 months), but that over time develops a monotonous and pedantic language, which makes it difficult to communicate with him ;
- relationship difficulties: difficulty or inability to relate to peers with appropriate and non-repulsive behaviors;
- limits in the manifestation of empathy. There is a common belief that Asperger people are “cold”, unable to empathize with others. “In reality – Magoni points out – there could be no difficulties with the so-called emotional empathy, but with its manifestation: an Aspie child probably notices if mom is sad, but it may not behave as a neurotypical child would in the same situation. For example, he does not necessarily go and hug her to console her “;
- details sensory sensitivity;
- absence or reduction of facial expressions.
6. The development of the Aspie child’s intellect