- What is Asperger’s?
- What causes Asperger’s in children?
- Common signs of Asperger’s in children
- What is an Asperger’s meltdown?
- How to help a child with Asperger's
If you’re a parent, it’s a great idea to educate yourself on how Asperger’s Syndrome and other conditions may manifest in children. Whether you’ve noticed anything unusual about your child’s behaviour and communication or are just curious about what you may want to look out for in your children, learning about signs of Asperger’s in children is very worthwhile.
Understanding the condition and how Asperger’s in children can best be handled to support the child is key, whether you have a child with Asperger’s yourself or not. Keep reading to find out more about what Asperger’s Syndrome is and how it affects children.
What is Asperger’s?
Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder that affects how a person develops, interprets language, socializes and communicates. It was once considered to be its own disorder, but in recent years doctors and researchers have classified it as a type of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The condition is named after Hans Asperger. He was a Vietnamese paediatrician who, in 1944, first described similar symptoms present in a few of his patients. He noticed that although they had normal intelligence and language development, they had impaired motor, social and communication skills. Asperger’s Syndrome is a type of neurodivergence.
Some doctors classify Asperger’s as “autism without intellectual or language impairment”. The difference is that autism is usually diagnosed before age 3 and Asperger’s is usually diagnosed after age 3. There is no cure for this condition, but a child having Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t mean that they won’t grow up to live a healthy and fulfilling life. In fact, a lot of people with Asperger’s are unusually very intelligent – their brain just works in a different way to most people. 🧠
Diagnosing the condition at an early age can help you support your child in the best way possible, so it’s important for parents to look out for signs of Asperger’s in babies, toddlers, kids and teenagers.
What causes Asperger’s in children?
It’s unclear what exactly may cause Asperger’s in children. Currently, there is no specific known cause for the condition, though researchers and doctors believe it has to do with genetics and brain abnormalities.
Some also link it to medications or substances that the child’s mother may have used during pregnancy that causes genetic anomalies. Another suspected cause is abnormal chromosomes being present while the foetus is developing. Also, babies born to older parents may be at a higher risk for developing Asperger’s.
Please note that Asperger’s in children has absolutely nothing to do with poor parenting or how parents raise their children.
Genetics may also play a part in the development of Asperger’s Syndrome. Studies have shown that Asperger’s can be present in a family lineage which would suggest that genetics are at play.
Common signs of Asperger’s in children
Signs of Asperger’s in kids can be similar to other behavioural and developmental issues. For this reason, it’s best to consult a doctor who will evaluate the symptoms of your child and make an appropriate diagnosis.
Receiving a proper diagnosis of this condition in your child will help with establishing the right treatment, therapy, academic institutions, and social skill building activities. Sometimes, children may be incorrectly diagnosed with an issue such as ADHD or ADD, and may end up being diagnosed with Asperger’s later on after careful evaluation.
Nevertheless, it’s important to know what symptoms to look for in your child. Here, we’ll share a few common signs of Asperger’s in children of different ages.
Asperger’s in Babies 👶
You may be able to see Asperger’s symptoms in your child from a very early age. Early signs of Asperger’s in babies include:
Decreased activity levels at 6 months old
Usually by 6 months old, babies are very active and can do things such as clapping their hands, sitting up, and making eye contact. They are also very playful and responsive to different gestures, stimuli such as sound or pictures, and environments. If your baby is not engaging with their environment by 6 months old, it is worth looking into whether your baby may be neurodivergent.
Baby does not respond to their name
Most infants will be responding to their name by the time they’re 9 months old. If your baby does not, it may be a cause for concern.
All babies learn by repetition, but you may find that a baby with Asperger’s will have repetitive behaviours such as rocking back and forth or flapping their hands. Not all repetitive behaviour is a sign of Asperger’s, but if they continue this type of behaviour past 6 months, it may be a cause for concern.
Fixating on unusual objects
It’s no secret that babies love to look around. In some cases, they may fix their gaze on an object that seems interesting to them. A baby with Asperger’s may fix their gaze on unusual objects like ceilings, floor patterns, or specific parts of an object (but not the object itself).
Asperger’s In Toddlers and Children 🧒
There are several signs of Asperger’s in toddlers (children aged 1-3 years old) and children over 3 years that you should look out for. Symptoms of Asperger’s in kids include:
Deficiencies in behaviour
Your toddler may not be able to emotionally respond to their parents or other relatives. They may also be uninterested in playing with other children their age. Though they usually have good language development, toddlers with Asperger’s tend to prefer non-verbal communication (communicating with their eyes, hands, etc).
Restricted or repetitive behaviour
These toddlers may always be arranging their toys in a line or flipping the objects around them. They may also consistently do things like rock back and forth, spin around, flap their arms, and repeat the same words over and over. They may also prefer routines and oppose any changes that may take place.
Over or underreaction to sensory aspects
Kids with Asperger’s may not respond in a desirable or expected way to things such as temperature changes, pain, smells, and dangerous objects. These issues may cause problems with social interactions, and the child may not have a good grasp of safety.
Signs of Asperger’s in teenagers and older kids tend to follow similar patterns to how the condition manifests in young children. Signs of Asperger’s in a 4 year old can be very similar to Asperger’s symptoms in older kids and teens. As your child with Asperger’s gets older, difficulties with communicating and reading social cues may become clear. Older kids with Asperger’s often develop specific obsessions and need quite a lot of routine in their day. 📝
Though it’s important to be aware of the different signs of Asperger’s in children, please note that some children naturally develop a little slower than others, and as such take a longer time to reach certain milestones.
Delayed development does not necessarily mean that your child has Asperger’s, and the signs we’ve outlined here are meant as guidance. If you believe your child may be neurodivergent or is experiencing developmental delay, it’s best to contact your child’s doctor so that an evaluation can be done by a professional.
What is an Asperger’s meltdown?
An Asperger’s meltdown is when someone with Asperger’s temporarily loses control because of their emotional response to something happening around them. For example, they may have heard some music they don’t like or loud sounds that bothered them.
A meltdown isn’t usually caused by a specific thing. The specific trigger may build up over time until the person becomes overwhelmed with sensory information. Think of a bottle of cola that has been shaken up, and the pressure builds up. When you try to open the bottle, cola spews everywhere uncontrollably.
Depending on the cause of the meltdown, one way to help your child calm down is to remove them from whatever element caused the meltdown. Next, you try to isolate them and have them engage in a calming activity such as listening to music they like, or have them take a nap.
Situations like that can be embarrassing, but remember that the person having the meltdown doesn’t have control over what happens. It’s best to not approach the situation in a hostile or impatient way. Instead, try to help your child to calm down in the best way possible, and find strategies that work for them. ✔️
What is the best way to help a child with Asperger’s?
Asperger’s can be challenging for both children and parents/guardians, but there are many ways that you can offer support and help your child adjust to their condition.
- Look for educational programmes or support groups for caregivers. You will need all the education and support you can get in order to effectively care for your child.
- Teach your child how to help themselves so they can achieve independence. Teach them things like how to introduce themselves to others or how to tie their shoelace, and practice it many times over in a calm and patient way.
- Inform others that your child has special needs. It may not always be obvious, so they may not know how to react to certain situations and may end up making a situation worse.
- Enroll them in speech and language therapy to help with communication, occupational therapy to help with everyday activities, and psychological therapy to help them manage their emotions better.
- Treat your child like a normal part of the family, while simultaneously balancing their special needs with the needs of others in the household. Don’t treat them like they’re fragile.
- Create a "safe word” for your child to use in situations where they are confused or feel overwhelmed so that you’ll know to remove them from it and avoid a meltdown.
As you learn to support your child with Asperger’s, you may be worried about their care while at kindergarten or school. Great teachers and perhaps some tutoring will go a long way towards helping your neurodivergent child thrive at school. 👨🏽🏫
It’s a great idea for you to maintain open lines of communication with your child’s teachers or caretakers, and many schools employ staff members who are focused on special needs. If you’re worried about your child potentially getting teased or bullied in school, check out our helpful guide to dealing with this so you’re prepared if anything of that nature should come up.
Asperger’s can be difficult to deal with, but with advancements in care and technology, your child with this condition can certainly live a healthy and fulfilling life. In fact, neurodivergence can be seen as an asset, and some believe there is a link between Asperger’s and genius. By helping your child to cope with their symptoms, they can go on to do well in school as well as become a functioning and contributing member to society.
If you have concerns about your child’s development, take them to a doctor to get evaluated – it’s the first step towards helping your child with Asperger’s!