Identifying Asperger's Syndrome versus Autism
What causes Asperger's Syndrome?
We discovered that Asperger's syndrome in the clients we've seen is not related to autism. Instead, they are both caused by entirely different epigenetically inherited problems in the cell and therefore have separate treatment procedures.
How do you diagnose Asperger's Syndrome?
Fortunately, there is a very simple and fast diagnostic test a person can use at home. An Asperger's Syndrome client feels like they are surrounded by a glass wall, as if they were inside a giant test tube. Since this problem has been there since birth, it feels 'normal' to them. To test for this, have someone else slowly bring their hand towards the client's arm. If they have Asperger's, then they can only see the hand, but not feel its presence. As it gets closer to the client's body, the client will suddenly be able to 'feel' the presence of the hand. This usually happens within an inch or two of their arm.
This 'glass wall' can be on the left half of the body only, on the right half only, or on both sides. Clients diagnosed with Asperger's have both sides of their body covered. However, some people who do not have an Asperger's diagnosis can have half of the 'glass wall' problem - they don't realize this because they sense the world through the 'uncovered' side of their body. This can cause issues in life, as in playing sports, as they can't sense their surroundings on one side of their body.
What does the treatment do?
It eliminates the 'glass wall' experience around the client's body. This can be quite a remarkable experience; as one client said, "I never knew how big the sky was!" This unfamiliar feeling that they are suddenly out of a giant glass test tube can be exhilarating, or a bit concerning to the client. Treatment includes treating any anxiety that might arise with this huge change in their perception.
What is Asperger's Syndrome using DSM criteria?
There is general agreement that Asperger's syndrome is a type of autism. However, children and adults with Asperger's syndrome typically function better and also have normal intelligence and near-normal language development (although they may develop problems communicating as they get older).
Common symptoms include:
- Problems with social skills: Children with Asperger's syndrome generally have difficulty interacting with others and often are awkward in social situations. They generally do not make friends easily.
- Eccentric or repetitive behaviors: Children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such as hand wringing or finger twisting.
- Unusual preoccupations or rituals: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop rituals that he or she refuses to alter, such as getting dressed in a specific order.
- Communication difficulties: People with Asperger's syndrome may not make eye contact when speaking with someone. They may have trouble using facial expressions and gestures, and understanding body language. They also tend to have problems understanding language in context.
- Limited range of interests: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop an intense, almost obsessive, interest in a few areas, such as sports schedules, weather, or maps.
- Coordination problems: The movements of children with Asperger's syndrome may seem clumsy or awkward.
- Skilled or talented: Many children with Asperger's syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math.
The Diagnostic Handbook of the Psychiatric Association DSM IV defines Asperger's syndrome as follows:
- (I) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
- Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
- Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
- A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g.. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
- Lack of social or emotional reciprocity
- Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
- Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
- Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g. hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
- Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
(II) Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
(VI) Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia."
Because there is so much confusion around Asperger's Syndrome and autism, we've included a short description of autism below:
What is Autism?
Autism is defined as a developmental disorder that affects the child’s ability to make contact, develop language, and engage in interpersonal communication. It is a 'spectrum disorder' - it can have a range of symptoms and severity.
Characteristics of the Autistic Disorder in the DSM
The criteria that characterize autism are defined in the Diagnostic Handbook of the Psychiatric Association DSM IV. It is important to state that at least 6 of the following parameters should be apparent in order to suspect autism.
Clear Inability to Interact Socially
- Absence of non-verbal communication, such as eye contact, facial expression, body language
- Basic inability to relate to others
- Inability to share or participate in a pleasurable activity
- Inability to express affection
Clear Inability to Communicate
- Lack of language development
- Lack of initiative for verbal expression
- Repetitive sounds
Stereotypical Ritualistic Behavior
- Limited interest in objects
- Intensive, obsessive use of specific objects
- Stereotypical, repetitive movements
- Lack of spontaneous and imaginary play
Identified by Clinical Observations
- Does not respond to their (own) name
- Inappropriate laughter or crying
- Lack of ability to interpret facial expressions
- Often verbal or babbling (preverbal) sounds are lacking
- Use of the adult’s hand to obtain what is desired
- Attachment to a certain object
- Various phobias such as water, noises, toilet training
- Food fixations
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2.0 November 11, 2011: Added the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome.
1.0 Sept 29, 2009: First draft.