Realizing that there may be something wrong with your child can be hard to accept. No one knows that better than Kenia Nunez, a young professional mother of 10-year-old Marken, who has Asperger syndrome. Nunez, who has found her place as an advocate for those with the condition, has discovered that being well-informed has given her family the tools to support her son and help him thrive.
Children with Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning type of autism, often have average-to-above-average intellect but lack social skills. This can be potentially devastating in many areas of the child’s life. People with Asperger syndrome become overfocused or obsessed on a single object or topic, ignoring all others. They want to know everything about this topic, and often talk about little else. Most sufferers have trouble making eye contact, miss social cues like personal space or small talk and may not have a filter to stop them from saying very inappropriate things.
Asperger can be difficult to diagnose. “It’s mislabeled a lot,” Nunez told BET.com. “It can come off as defiant, rude, 'needs a good spanking,' no filter.”
People with Asperger do not withdraw from the world in the way that people with other forms of autism do. They will often approach other people. However, their problems with speech and language in a social setting often lead to isolation.
There is no cure for any type of autism, but they can be managed with therapy. Treatment usually focuses on improving communication, behavior and social skills, and it should be tailored to fulfill the child’s specific deficits. It can be as simple as patiently telling the child what they’re doing wrong and constantly reinforcing positive behavior if relating to others is their main issue.
For parents with school-age children, there are many services available within the school system for students with Asperger, including accommodations for testing, speech therapy or the help of a para-professional. Teachers may not know a lot about Asperger syndrome, but you can help them learn to guarantee that your child is getting the support she needs to succeed in the classroom.
According to the National Institutes of Health, people with Asperger syndrome have trouble forming relationships with children their own age or other adults, because they:
-Are unable to respond emotionally in normal social interactions
-Are not flexible about routines or rituals
-Have difficulty showing, bringing or pointing out objects of interest to other people
-Have problems with eye contact, facial expressions, body postures or gestures (nonverbal communication).
-Do not express pleasure at other people's happiness
-Children with Asperger syndrome may show delays in motor development and unusual physical behaviors, such as:
-Delays in being able to ride a bicycle, catch a ball or climb play equipment
-Clumsiness when walking or doing other activities
-Repetitive behaviors, in which they sometimes injure themselves
-Repetitive finger flapping, twisting or whole body movements
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your child:
-Does not respond to people
-Has odd or peculiar speech
-Has behavior that may lead to self-harm
To learn more about Asperger syndrome, visit The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership.