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Asperger’s in Children: Signs and Symptoms

Asperger’s in Children

Asperger’s Syndrome is typically defined as a ‘high-functioning’ form of autism, wherein those affected may display much subtler signs and symptoms.

In general, children and teenagers who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome encounter relatively mild difficulties in their education and can both communicate and socialise with others quite well.  However, they may experience discomfort and anxiety in social situations, struggle with certain aspects of communication and find it difficult to understand things like body language, sarcasm, figurative speech and humour.

They may also develop behaviours and habits of a repetitive and/or obsessive nature, which can interfere with their development and quality of life.

Most cases of Asperger’s Syndrome are identified in children between the ages of five and nine, though it is possible for some children to be diagnosed at the age of three years old. 

In addition, research suggests that boys are up to four times more likely to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome than girls.

Aspergers in children

Asperger’s Symptoms in Children                 

It can often be difficult to identify Asperger's symptoms in children due to the way all children develop in different ways and at a different speed.  Many of the most characteristic signs and symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome may indicate nothing more than a standard progression in a child’s growth and development.

However, it is important to ensure that any indicative signs or symptoms that cause concern are brought to the attention of an appropriate professional at the earliest possible stage. 

Just a few examples of common Asperger’s symptoms in children include the following:

  • Limited social interactions and avoidance of social situations
  • A tendency to talk about one topic obsessively or habitually
  • The inability to understand or empathise with the emotions of others
  • Unusual tone of voice, volume or sounds when speaking
  • Problems using and interpreting body language or gestures
  • An intensive obsession with one or two specific narrow subjects
  • Fear of change and anxiety where routines are altered or interrupted
  • Issues with motor skills, coordination or excessive clumsiness
  • Hypersensitivity to sound, light and textures
  • An aloof attitude and tendency to avoid people
  • Inability to maintain eye contact during conversation

Importantly, children with Asperger’s Syndrome often have just as accomplished language skills for their age as children who do not have the disorder.  They may have a developed and advanced vocabulary, excellent grammar skills and be confident communicators.

This is why it can be difficult to pick up on the early signs and symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, as they can be comparatively mild in nature and may even be deliberately hidden by those affected.

Asperger’s in Girls vs Asperger’s in Boys

As previously mentioned, boys are approximately four times more likely to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome than girls.  However, this does not necessarily mean that Asperger’s in boys is 400% more common than Asperger’s in girls.

Several studies have brought to light evidence suggesting that Asperger’s in girls could be more commonplace than the figures indicate, though is far less likely to be detected and therefore diagnosed.

The reasons for this are unclear - some have theorised that girls may be naturally more adept in hiding the signs of Asperger’s than boys, or that the symptoms they experience are not as severe in nature.

It is known, however, that girls with Asperger’s are usually diagnosed at a significantly later stage in their childhood than boys with Asperger’s.

Diagnosing Asperger’s in Kids 

Reaching a formal diagnosis of Asperger’s in kids involves extensive observations and detailed analysis of a child’s behaviour and general wellbeing.  Parents are advised to consult with qualified professionals at the earliest possible stage, if they have any concerns regarding a child’s use of language, social development or patterns of behaviour in general.

An initial consultation with a paediatrician will take place to determine whether further investigation is necessary. After which, testing and assessments will be conducted by a team of psychological and medical professionals.  During which, the issues and difficulties that may be affecting the child’s growth, development and wellbeing will be assessed, in order for a subsequent action plan to be drawn up and implemented.

The evaluation process will also seek to determine whether any other conditions or underlying health issues could be causing the problem.  In some instances, a suspected case of Asperger’s Syndrome may subsequently be diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). 

Each of which calls for a different approach to management accordingly.

How Early Can Asperger’s in Toddlers be Detected?

Early detection of Asperger’s Syndrome holds the key to successful management and helping the child overcome the difficulties they may be facing. Asperger’s in toddlers is sometimes possible to detect from a relatively early age - some signs and symptoms of the condition become evident by the time a child is three years old.

However, most children with autism are diagnosed between the ages of five and nine.  Prior to this, it can be difficult to differentiate between the genuine signs of Asperger’s Syndrome and the everyday challenges children face as they grow, learn and develop.

Recognising the Signs of Asperger’s Syndrome

Knowing when to act is important - the advice from experts is to go with your gut. If you are concerned regarding any aspect of your child’s behaviour or development in general, it should be brought the attention of appropriate professional as soon as possible.

Particularly if you notice any of the following behaviours, it could be indicative of Asperger’s Syndrome:

  • No response to a parent’s smile or facial expressions
  • Limited or no eye contact during conversation
  • No appropriate use of facial impressions
  • A seemingly apathetic and uninterested attitude in general
  • Outbursts of anger, frustration or rage at random times
  • General reluctance to communicate with others
  • Not responding appropriately when called by name
  • An undeveloped understanding of consequences
  • Lack of fear and emotion when engaging in dangerous behaviours

If you would like to learn more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and how to provide appropriate support for children with Asperger’s Syndrome, we have a free Autism Awareness Course you may be interested in.

Sign up online, or contact the admissions team at Oxford Home Study Centre anytime for more information.