Understanding Asperger Syndrome

Language encompasses far more than the definitions of individual words. A spoken sentence takes on much of its meaning through nonverbal cues and the surrounding environment. Most people take for granted their ability to use and respond to language in its appropriate context and to grasp messages that aren’t explicit. Children and adults with Asperger Syndrome often possess language skills but cannot detect or employ these nuances of social interactions.

Asperger Syndrome exists under the label of Autistic Spectrum Disorders as many of the indicators are observed in both conditions. Children may be affected by few or many symptoms which can vary in severity. Based on the combination, the level of impairment exists on the autistic spectrum. Asperger Syndrome is commonly understood as a form of high-functioning autism, though the less obvious characteristics of this condition make it harder to diagnose.

Common symptoms of Autism in children

difficulty socialising

unable to appreciate language beyond literal meaning

may not pay attention to nonverbal signals (e.g. body language, facial expressions)

inability to adapt to and participate in social situations (peer isolation)

monotone speech

not demonstrating empathy for other people

obsessions over certain subjects (rote-memorized facts or statistics)

Fear or anxiety towards change

inflexibility with daily routines

Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sensory stimuli (usually auditory or tactile)

preference for certain textures (e.g. in clothing)

Painful reactions to seemingly neutral sounds

Poor motor skills

Difficulty with concepts of spatial awareness

Repetitive motor movements (rocking, spinning, hand flapping)

What causes Asperger’s?

As with almost every developmental disorder, Asperger Syndrome has no definitive cause or explanation. It seems that most children with developmental problems have experienced complications before, during or after birth. However there is no way to predict what form of disorder, if any, may arise from this or whether preventative measures can be taken. Some studies have indicated that the right side of the brain, specifically the frontal lobe, may be affected in children with Asperger’s as it is this area that is responsible for social awareness and behaviour.

The difference between Autism and Asperger’s

Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are often grouped together but it is important to understand their distinction. Occasionally Asperger’s is labelled as a high-functioning form of autism but this does not reflect the major difference between the two disorders. Children with Asperger Syndrome do not experience the same language or cognitive deficits as children with autism and for this reason are able to interact more with the people around them and demonstrate interest or knowledge in particular subjects. While children with autism often (but not always) have some form of intellectual disability, children with Asperger Syndrome do not, by definition, have significant intellectual problems. This means that children with Asperger’s also have a better chance of responding to treatment and being able to live more independently as they grow older.

The reason that communication deficiencies are not noted in children who have Asperger Syndrome is because it has a later onset – initial development of language and cognition has generally taken place which allows basic communication to occur. Although children with Asperger’s may use language to communicate more than those with autism they still tend to lack much of the social awareness that would make their interactions as effortless and adaptive as those of children with no developmental disorder.

The physiology of Asperger Syndrome

Speech and language develop in synchrony with the growing brain. So do motor skills, balance, coordination and sensory integration. If any part of this process is disturbed, it is highly likely that the resulting problems will not be restricted to only one developmental domain. Developmental interruptions or delay can manifest as anything from dyslexia, auditory processing disorder or learning disabilities to more severe disorders such as Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or Autism. It is not possible to predict why some children will be affected by one type of problem and not another or whether it could have been prevented. All of the aforementioned disorders come about through some abnormality in the developmental process and the only way to understand this is to have an appreciation of how normal development takes place.

Although children with Asperger’s do not suffer any significant language delays on a basic level they do not perceive the subtleties of different inflexion or tone, nor does their auditory processing reach the point of allowing them to comprehend abstract uses of language to express humour or irony. Children with Asperger Syndrome rarely have hearing problems but do tend to display abnormal listening patterns.

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Auditory Training Programs for Asperger’s

Combined with Developmental Movement Exercises

Our senses are only useful when the connections from the organ to the brain are operating normally, but many children with developmental disorders suffer from neurosensory dysfunction. This is a weakness in the way sensory information from various parts of the body is integrated and transmitted to the brain and is particularly obvious in children with Asperger’s in terms of their hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to touch or sounds. Because the vestibule is where the initial sensory integration takes place, the Auditory Training Program is often combined with a program of Developmental Movement Exercises so that the vestibule is stimulated through both sound and sensory input.

When children are born, they emerge from the womb with primitive reflexes – physical responses initiated without conscious thought or intention. These reflexes allow the child to cope with the influx of new sensory information from the post-utero environment, but should soon be overtaken and inhibited by voluntary actions – these are referred to as postural reflexes or postural control. It has been found that problems with neurosensory integration may be attributed to partially uninhibited primitive reflexes. The rationale behind Developmental Movement Exercises is that sensory systems and reflexes are indivisible, and that any existing primitive reflexes can be actively inhibited by exercising the postural reflexes. Postural reflexes have the effect of maintaining and controlling posture, physical actions and equilibrium.

Learn more about the Auditory Training Program

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