Rosemary Boon Registered Psychologist
M.A.(Psych), Grad. Dip. Ed. Studies (Sch.Counsel),
Grad. Dip. Ed., B.Sc., MAPS, AACNEM.
Telephone and Facsimile:
MAIN SITE MAP
Home / About L.D.P.S & Services Offered / Learning Disabilities / Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder / The Learning Pyramid /
Articles, Papers & Information Sheets / Classes & Workshops / Related Links & Resources & References / Client Feedback
QUICK JUMPS ON THIS PAGE
What is Asperger's?
Aspergers Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder named after the Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger, who first documented the condition in 1944. It is often described as a pervasive developmental dysfunction said to lie within the "high functioning end" of the autistic spectrum of disorders.
It's primary characteristics are similar to those of Autism, yet it can be differentiated from Autism by later onset, and relatively well preserved language and cognitive abilities, but the disorder in manifestation can range from mild to severe. While language development appears normal, individuals with AS tend to be extremely literal and exhibit problems using language in a social context. Because of their "high degree of functionality", those with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) are often viewed as eccentric or odd, and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying.
Estimates suggest at least 1 in 10,000 individuals have Asperger's syndrome and males are more often affected than females. There is a tendency for the disorder to run in families.
Asperger's can generally be characterised by naively inadequate social interaction, an inability to make friends, impaired emotional intonation and gesturing, pedantic monologues, restricted repertoire of interests (e.g. rail & air time tables), and the appearance of having a lack of empathy with others.
The Asperger's individual has much difficulty with transitions or changes, preferring things to remain as they have been. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues or body language, and very often, the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. AS individuals are often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, and may prefer soft clothing (e.g. labels and seams in socks will often irritate), certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to notice.
As with all developmental disorders, it needs to be remembered that each person is a unique individual, with individual etiology. There is considerable variability in functional levels attained.
DSM-IV states that Asperger's syndrome is a qualitative impairment in social interaction as manifested by at least two of the following:-
marked impairment in the use of multiple non-verbal behaviours such as eye to eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.
failure to develop peer relationships to developmental level
a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests or achievements with other people (eg., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people).
a lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
Additionally, according to DSM-IV, for Asperger's to be present, restricted repetitive and steroeotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities as manifested by at least one of the following:-
encompassing preoccupation with one or more sterotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.
apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals.
stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (eg. Finger or hand flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).
persistent preoccupation with parts of the body.
The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Usually with Asperger's syndrome, there is no clinically significant general delay in language (eg. Single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases by age 3 years). Cognitive development is usually not significantly impaired, nor is the development of age appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behaviour (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood. It is therefore difficult to diagnose at an early age.
Finally, for Asperger's to be diagnosed by DSM-IV criteria, there must be no criteria met for any other specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.
Generally, people with Asperger's have feelings for others and care about social relationships, but they tend to lack the skills needed for such social interaction1..
The actual causes of Asperger's syndrome are presently unknown, however, it has been observed that AS is often found in children with pre-,peri-,or post natal problems and nearly half of those diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome have suffered lack of oxygen at birth.
It has been noted in clinical studies that the brain's right hemisphere is dominant for the nuances of social conduct and interaction, and that the right lobe may have a role in adherance to social rules2., and studies carried out in 1994 and 1995 appear to confirm that Asperger's may be a selective learning disability of the right hemisphere3-4.
The right hemisphere, particularly the right frontal lobe, is functionally and anatomically structured for multidimensional processing. It is involved in processes such as attention, visuospatial skills, emotional interpretation and expression that require the integration of diverse sensory and cognitive input5..
Many of the weaknesses observed in AS can be remediated with specific types of interventions aimed at imparting social and pragmatic skills. The often co-morbid anxiety that leads to significant rigidity can be also addressed. Interdisciplinary interventions of a highly comprehensive, intensive and highly structured nature are usually necessary.
Some or all of the following may be used in conjunction with other interventions -
goal-setting, lifestyle, diet and nutrition
social skills training
adaptive skills development
family/employer education and training
other interventions as appropriate to the individual
With intensive training, AS individuals are able to function independently. Adults with Asperger's can have relationships, provided of course they have a fully understanding partner and are aware of their own deficits. The Asperger's person will need to learn to self monitor and work on this area of themselves. Many have families and live happy and productive lives. A few people with Asperger's syndrome are very successful and until recently were not diagnosed as 'having' anything but were seen as being brilliant, eccentric, absent minded, socially inept, and perhaps a little awkward physically. Many will need continuing support and education due to social interaction problems.
The Wholistic Approach at LDPS
After a thorough history and psychometric assessment including a QEEG, an individualised programme will be devised aimed at restoring balance in the autonomic nervous system, cognitive function and outlook. These may include a combination of any of the following:- education and counselling, diet and nutrition, breathwork, biofeedback and/or neurofeedback training, heart rate variability training, meditation and integrative movement exercises.
Consultation is by appointment only, for further information please contact:-
Telephone and Facsimile:
1.Denckla, M.B., 1996, Clinical Disorders Providing Impetus For The Study of Social-Emotional Development., Paper presented at the 48th annual meeting of The American Academy of Neurology, San Francisco, March 23rd-30th.
2.Luria, A.R., 1973, The frontal lobes and regulation of behaviour. In K.H. Pribram & A. R. Luria (Eds), Psychophysiology of the Frontal Lobes. (pp. 3-26). New York: Academic Press.
3. Ellis, H.D., Ellis, D.M., Fraser, W. & Deb, S., 1994, A preliminary study of right hemisphere cognitive deficits and impaired social judgements among young people with Asperger's Syndrome. European Child Psychiatry, 3(4), 255-266.
4. McKelvey, J.R., Lambert, R., Mottron, L., & Shevell, M.I., 1995, Right hemisphere dysfunction in Asperger's syndrome, Journal of Child Neurology, 10(4), 310-314.
5. Miller, B.L. & Cummings, J.L., (eds.)1999, The Human Frontal Lobes, Guilford Press, New York, NY.
DSM-IV is a coded reference manual published by the American Psychiatric Association to provide clear descriptions of diagnostic categories in order to enable clinicians and investigators to diagnose, communicate about, study, and treat people with various mental disorders. To view the DSM-IV criteria and revisions online please go to BraveNetÒ Clinical Capsules at http://www.behavenet.com/capsules/index.htm. Use your browsers back button to return to Learning Discoveries, or better still, why not bookmark this site and add to your favourites?
Asperger's Syndrome Parent Support Unit - New South Wales, Australia - article and contact details.
Most of the above books are available through your local library or may be purchased on-line at
Sydney +61 2 9727 5794
Sydney +61 2 9754 2999
P.O. Box 7120
Bass Hill NSW 2197