Asperger's Syndrome is a form of Autism and may present as a person with a highly evolved intellectual capacity or focus but with limited or no ability to empathize with another person or understand another person's opinion or perspective.
Let's start with the basics. Asperger's Syndrome is a developmental disability. That means it is something you are born with, that affects the way you develop, and the way you understand the world.
While every person with Aspergers is a unique individual with a unique personality and individual issues, Aspergers kids have similar symptoms (i.e., challenges in the following areas):
1. SOCIAL FUNCTIONING
2. SENSORY ISSUES
3. OBSESSIVE INTERESTS
Let's talk about difficulties with social functioning. An individual with Aspergers will often have difficulties with social functioning, whether that's a child having difficulty getting along with other kids on the playground, or an adult not understanding office politics. After interviewing hundreds of parents for my book, I have found that the single most common symptom among kids who had been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome is poor social functioning.
Your child probably will prefer to play by himself instead of with others. He likely will have difficulty making friends. He won't understand social cues.
The social grace and "hidden social messages" we take for granted are like a foreign language to someone with Aspergers. Another common symptom are sensory issues.
He will also likely have sensory issues, such as thinking something is too loud, that fabric is too rough, or that something is moving too fast or smells bad. These issues are also very common--especially oversensitive to light, sound, even smells. In adults, these issues often translate into their environment. It is often very difficult for someone with Aspergers to work in a noisy chaotic office. Papers rustling, phones ringing or even the smell of a co-worker's perfume can be overwhelming to these sensitive souls.
Many "Aspies" (a term often used for those with Asperger's syndrome) have a lot of difficulty with the feel of their clothing. Many moms have told me that they only buy clothes from thrift stores for their children because they are much softer and worn. Others have to wash pairs of jeans 10 or 20 times before they can be worn by their son or daughter. Adults can have challenges with suits or ties.
These issues can be overwhelming, especially to a child, but help is available, as you will soon see.
Obsessive interests are typical. And this focus on one subject to the exclusion of others, often contributes to their social isolation. Obsessive interests are part and parcel of Aspergers syndrome and most children with Asperger's have special interests that they talk about all the time. One child might be obsessed with train schedules. Another with World War II history. A third with volcanoes. And so on.
The inability to truly be interested in a wide range of subjects contributes to a child's social isolation especially when kids start school. While their friends are talking about sports or Pokemon, the Aspergers youngster may exclusively talk about trains. It doesn't take long before his or her school mates loose interest in both the subject of trains AND in your child.
Aspies are often fixated on routines. Insistence on routine is nearly universal. It is possible that any change in routine can cause a meltdown. Yet this insistence on sticking to routine helps someone with Aspergers feel grounded. But many parents feel that this fixation with routine can be to the extreme. With children, even small deviations from routines, such as sitting at a different place around the dinner table, can cause a meltdown.
Most kids with Aspergers need to know when everything is happening in order not to feel completely overwhelmed. If there will be a change in your child's routine (such as a vacation), tell him or her in advance. Write down what you will do, where you will go, what time you will leave, etc. The more that your child can understand what the changes will be, the easier it will be for him or her to accept them.
But there is hope!
This does not mean it is all bad. Those with Asperger's are usually very honest and are hard working when it is something they are interested in. They are loving and intelligent in their own way. They often have excellent memories and are not afraid to think for themselves. Most do very well in school, especially in math and science. If channeled correctly, the obsession with a particular subject can result in a highly valued employee to the right employer.