Information on Asperger's Syndrome for a Speech

I was asked to answer some questions about on Asperger's Syndrome for a Speech. Here are the questions and my answers.

1. What is Asperger’s?

Aspergers syndrome is a neurological difference which is part of the autism spectrum. It is different from normal types of autism in that there are no speech delays or IQ impairment.

The condition was named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who studied a group of children who lacked non-verbal communication skills (ie: they could speak but had difficulty understanding gestures, tone and facial expression). Although his paper was published in 1944, Aspergers did not become a diagnosis until the mid-1990’s primarily because his research papers weren’t translated.

2. What percentage of boys and girls are affected?

The prevalence of Aspergers syndrome is largely unknown but it is suggested that it is as high as 1 in 250 children. This would mean 9 million people in Australia and 123 million in the US. Boys are eight times more likely to have it than girls (1 million girls in Australia and 14 million in the US).

It is quite likely however that there are a lot more girls who remain undiagnosed due to differences in the way support is offered from one gender to another.

3. Will a child ever grow out of this and is medication required?

Since Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological difference, people do not grow out of it. People with Asperger’s syndrome do however adjust to their individual strengths and weaknesses. This means that depending upon age and other factors including environmental ones, someone may appear to be more less “aspergers” at various times.

There is no medication which is known to be effective against aspergers syndrome however many medications are used to combat the side-effects and co-conditions. In particular, Ritalin/Concerta is often used to assist with ADHD co-conditions, Luvox and Risperdal are used to combat OCD and Anxiety or mania and melatonin is often used with sleep issues.

4. Are there other diagnoses that go along with Asperger’s?

There are a number of co-conditions which frequently occur alongside Asperger’s syndrome. These include; ADHD, Tourette’s, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety and general learning disorders.

5. What are the positive behaviors of a child with Asperger’s?

Honesty – While it is possible for a child with Asperger’s syndrome to lie, it’s far less common than in neurotypical children. Children with Asperger’s often have special interests which allow them to focus (or obsess) well beyond the normal means of children of the same age. Unfortunately, these special interests tend to be on quite narrow topics. They also often have a very good memory for the recall of events.

6. Does the child have difficulties in school or can they stay mainstreamed?

Children with Asperger’s syndrome will usually have difficulties in school but with proper supports they can still be mainstreamed. In particular, they often lack social skills, organizational skills and executive functioning.

7. What are some “ticks” a child with Asperger’s may have?

Not all children with Asperger’s syndrome have tics but some will, particularly if they are on medications. Common tics tend to be facial gestures and unusual gestures.

Children with Asperger’s syndrome also have a lot of “stimming” behaviours. These are not tics but are mostly involuntary repetitive sensory behaviours. Examples of stimming could include; knee bobbing, teeth grinding, squinting, clasping and unclasping hands, making loud repetitive noises or gurgling and nail biting.

8. How well will a child with Asperger’s, perform in front of large crowds?

A child with Asperger’s syndrome will have a different crowd performance depending upon many variables. For example, a child with an anxiety co-condition will be unable to perform in front of crowds at all while a child who has been given fair warning, is performing about their special interest and has appropriate sensory controls in place (for example ear muffs if facing a loud crowd) will be able to perform very well indeed.

Quite a number of well-known actors and actresses have aspergers syndrome.

9. Do you think that Asperger’s is considered a disability or an ability to be something great?

Asperger’s Syndrome is both a disability and ability. On the one hand, a person with Asperger’s Syndrome can be reduced to a gibbering wreck simply by having poor environmental controls which allow sensory overload. For example a person with aspergers syndrome may not be able to shop in certain stores which play loud music. This is clearly a disability.

On the other hand however, having aspergers syndrome allows one to focus on topics to the exclusion of all else and has led to the development of many of the world’s greatest scientific achievements.

10. Who do you know of that has become someone powerful in the world that has Asperger’s?

People with confirmed Asperger’s syndrome include; Dan Aykroyd (of Ghostbuster’s fame), Daryl Hannah (from Splash), Tim Page (Pulitzer Prize-winning critic/ author), John Elder Robison (the man who made the trick guitars for the band Kiss), Gary McKinnon (a computer hacker who broke into US and UK military sites) and Satoshi Tajiri (the creator of Pokemon).

There are also quite a number of historical figures who have “suspected” Asperger’s syndrome but were never diagnosed including; Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Hans Christian Anderson, Alan Turing, Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.