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Expert: Asperger Syndrome and How To Recognise The Signs

Expert: Asperger Syndrome and How To Recognise The Signs

A trend has emerged in recent years, of popular TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Hannibal, and Sherlock; featuring characters who are, or appear to be, on the Autism Spectrum. While many people feel that these shows tend to portray a stereotypical notion of the condition, their popularity has forced Autism into the limelight and created a new level of awareness.

But what is Asperger Syndrome? How does it relate to Autism, and how can we recognise the signs? Aileen Cruise, General Manager of Aspire Ireland, is here to give us more information:

Asperger Syndrome is a condition on the Autism Spectrum which impacts on the way that individuals view the world, interact with others and communicate. The terminology has changed in recent years, with the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome being phased out and replaced with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Level 1, or High Functioning Autism; though it is still commonly referred to as Asperger Syndrome.

While people who have Asperger Syndrome can have many talents, a high level of intelligence and unique skills; some can experience challenges in forming relationships, managing anxiety, social inclusion, and challenges in employment and education.

"If you have met one person with Asperger Syndrome; you have met one person with Asperger Syndrome."

Perhaps the most significant challenge is the ‘hidden’ element of the condition, which can make it difficult for others to understand the impact that Asperger Syndrome can have. Living with Asperger Syndrome has been described as landing in a strange country, not knowing the language, the culture and the social norms, yet being expected to get on with daily life regardless.

What are the most common features of Asperger Syndrome?

Increased awareness of ASD and Asperger Syndrome means that more people recognise the early characteristics, and as a result, we can see an increase in the number of children and adults seeking assessments. Asperger Syndrome is typically diagnosed from four years old but is not often recognised until much later than that.

In children, parents and teachers may notice that the child …

  • Finds it difficult to approach and play with others
  • ​Has an extensive vocabulary, but difficulty communicating with others
  • Is able to retain huge volumes of information about subjects of interest, and speaks incessantly about those topics.

They may…

  • Have a limited diet
  • ​Be sensitive to sounds, light or smells
  • Have difficulty understanding facial expressions, body language and personal space in others.

They may also come across as overly honest, with a limited filter; So don’t ask how you look in your new jeans if you don’t want an honest opinion!

In recent years, there has also been an increase in the amount of adults seeking assessment; when challenges arise in college, employment or relationships. As the saying goes: If you have met one person with Asperger Syndrome; you have met one person with Asperger Syndrome. It impacts on every person’s life in a different way and it’s important to learn how the diagnosis relates to the individual, rather than understanding it as a set criteria.

Finding Support

With the right support, children and adults with Asperger Syndrome can live very happy and fulfilling lives, and go on to do extraordinary things. These supports include counselling, speech and language, play and drama therapy, occupational therapy and educational support.

Support can also be put in place in school, college and in the workplace to ensure that individuals are comfortable in their environments and can meet their full potential. Support required can vary depending on the person, and an assessment can not only provide specific information about the diagnosis, it can also point to the most appropriate services to avail of.

What Do I Do If I Think My Child Might Have Asperger Syndrome?

There are two main routes that can be taken by individuals and families who would like to seek an assessment for ASD/Asperger Syndrome. Your GP or local health centre can refer you to the HSE to start the assessment process. Alternatively, you can contact a private professional directly to arrange an appointment. Contact details for some of these are available on aspireireland.ie.

Read More: Autism Spectrum Disorder - Conall's Story

What next?

The assessment process can vary depending on the professional, and it's important to ask what exactly will take place, should you have any concerns. If a diagnosis is confirmed, you should receive a report stating the diagnosis results, and suggestions for what interventions can be put in place to appropriately support the individual. Many individuals and families can feel isolated at this time, and unsure about the next step. It is important to remember that the diagnosis is simply information that can be used to put supports in place, and that the person who has been diagnosed has not changed due to this new information.

What is Aspire Ireland?

Aspire was established by a group of parents in 1995 to address a lack of support for individuals with Asperger Syndrome and their families, and to promote an understanding of the condition in the community. We now provide a range of supports and training for individuals of all ages, families and professionals to ensure that people with Asperger Syndrome have the same opportunities to work, socialise and participate as everyone else.

If you feel that you or a family member may have Asperger Syndrome, has recently been diagnosed or you are not sure where to turn to for support, Aspire- The Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland is here to help.
Please visit our website on www.aspireireland.ie or call our helpline Monday to Friday 10am-4pm on 01 8780027.

This article is part of a new series looking at different conditions which affect children and families; getting expert advice on how to spot the signs, and manage symptoms. There'll be plenty more in the coming weeks in our child health section; but for now check out Expert: What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?


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