Although Asperger's Syndrome is not an independent diagnosis anymore, with the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013 by the American Psychological Association, it is considered to be at the mild end of the new diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
Electroencephalography [EEG] recordings among children with Asperger's, autism, and normal mental health show differences in patterns in brain connectivity.
Children with autism and Asperger's showed weaker connections in a region of the left hemisphere that is involved in language, called the arcuate fasciculus, than that in typically-developing children.
However, there were several other regions in the left hemisphere that were stronger in children with Asperger's syndrome than in children with autism and typically-developing children.
Symptoms in Childhood
- inability to understand body language
- inability to give empathy
- disliking towards changes in routine
- inability to recognize changes in tone that may change the meaning of one's speech
- tendency to speak with a flat tone and without emotion
- avoidance of eye contact
- deep interest in a select few activities or topics, instead of being open to a variety of topics
- delayed motor development
Symptoms in Adolescence
- lack of interest in following social trends or fads (which allows for creating thinking and striving for unique goals and interest)
- respect for set rules and integrity (which can lead to more focus in education or other goals)
Symptoms in Adulthood
- attention to detail
- ability to improve social skills
- focused interests
How is Asperger's Developed?
- The direct cause is changes in the brain, compared to neurotypical people.
- precise causes of Asperger's have not been determined
Researchers believe these factors are involved in the cause of Asperger's syndrome:
- genetics (since it has been seen to run within families)
- environmental toxins (such as chemicals and viruses)
- teratogens (something that causes malformation of an embryo)
- Asperger's syndrome does not have a cure
- However, specific symptoms can be reduced by various medications, such as Abilify (irritability), Tenex (hyperactivity), and Risperdal Consta (agitation/insomnia)
- Communication skills and social interaction can be improved with different types of therapy and social skills training
Seventeen-year-old Caleb Rush has a mild form of Asperger's -- so mild, in fact, that it is almost unidentifiable. This is because he has improved over the years. Still, though, he experiences symptoms of his rather mild case of autism spectrum disorder, and is willing to share them. He states, "I don't like talking to people I don't know. [My Asperger's syndrome] doesn't cause any major events, but sometimes I yell at my family and get in trouble because they're annoying." To elaborate on the latter statement, Rush has revealed that when his family members try to tell him something that would potentially help him, he simply does not care to listen and decides to ignore them. He shares that when he becomes frustrated, he yells at them in hopes that they will stop their efforts, and he does not feel bad for them afterwards. In addition, Rush says, "I follow my routine every day, and if it changes, I get mad," which is typical for a person who is diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Even though this neurological disorder is a part of his life, he has overcome some of his difficulties, and can still overcome more.
fMRI of functional connectivity patterns
fMRI scans showing brain connectivity in someone with with autism spectrum disorder
High-Definition Fiber Tracking (HDFT) comparison between a normal brain and (Temple Grandin's) brain with Asperger's. Based on research done Dr. Walter Schneider at Pittsburgh University.
- more males tend to have Asperger's than females
- the DSM, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), is the "mental health diagnostic bible" for doctors in America
- many people with Asperger's have high IQs, and 1 in 10 people with ASD have savant syndrome, which is characterized by having extraordinary mental capabilities (like in the movie Rain Man
- many famous people have Asperger's, including Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Bill Gates, Andy Warhol, and Robin Williams
- Asperger's syndrome is named after the Austrian pediatric doctor Hans Asperger