Term Paper: Asperger's Syndrome Mentally Capable, Socially Inept

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Asperger's Syndrome


Asperger Syndrome in Learners


Asperger's Syndrome or disorder has been classified as a sub-type of autism, characterized mainly by social ineptness and unusual cognitive capabilities (Atwood 2006). It was first observed by Hans Asperger, a Viennese pediatrician, in 1944 with some of his patients. But he was unable to aptly describe the condition. In the mid 40s, the psychological study of childhood became more recognized as an area of science in Europe and America. For want of an adequate description, he suggested the term autistische psychopathen. But this description would make it a mental illness like schizophrenia, which it was not. It was then suggested that the syndrome be applied to one who thinks and perceives the world in a different way from that of others in 1994, the American Psychiatric Association came out with a textbook, which included Asperger's syndrome or disorder. The condition was described as among several pervasive developmental disorders with similar symptoms as autism. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-IV recognized it as one of the subtypes of autism, a heterogeneous disorder. This inclusion and explanation were accepted and praised by clinicians as a wise decision. Asperger's Syndrome or disorder was recognized as a long-term, stable disorder with signs that can improve with early intervention and treatment (Attwood, Mayes et al. 2001).

Children like those observed by Asperger in the 40s exhibited "high functioning autism" or HFA (Attwood 2006). They showed signs of autism in early childhood but proved to possess greater intellectual capability and better social and adaptive behavior than those with autism. The child with Asperger's Syndrome also promised better outcome than the autistic child. Comparative studies between these children showed a difference in cognitive, social, motor and neuropsychological aspects. Until new evidence is presented, there is no difference between Asperger's Syndrome and high-functioning autism or HFA (Attwood).

Applying the DSM criteria of the American Psychiatric Association, there are between 0.3 and 8.4 Asperger's Syndrome cases per 10,000 children (Attwood 2006, Mayes 2001). These cases would vary from 1 in 33,000 and 1 in 1,100 children. Many clinicians use the Gillberg diagnostic criteria. According to these criteria, the prevalence of Asperger's Syndrome cases is between 36 and 48 per 10,000 children. This would translate to one in between 250 or 200 children (Attwood, Mayes).

Children with Asperger's Syndrome suffer from a lack of social or emotional skills (Attwood 2006). They fail to develop peer relationships suitable to their developmental level. There are as yet no standard tests to measure their social interaction and social reasoning skills. To date, interpretations are done subjectively or from subjective clinical judgment. Their concept of friendship is usually immature and two years behind his or her age. He or she has fewer friends and plays less frequently than other children and at shorter duration. He develops an abnormal pattern of friendships. He prefers either younger children or adults. As a learner, a child with Asperger's Syndrome fears failure and sometimes even refuses to try to engage in an activity out of fear of failure. He lacks cognitive flexibility in problem-solving. He is quite attentive to detail. He tends to prioritize and identify errors often overlooked by others. He has difficulty is distinguishing between what is relevant or redundant and what is not. He also encounters problems verbalizing his thoughts. He may be able to handle complex mathematical problems but finds difficulty explaining how he handles them. Even teenagers and adults with Asperger's Syndrome suffer from a lack of planning and organizational skills and poor working memory. They tend to be distracted often. They need someone like an executive secretary to lend support (Attwood).

Like children and others with autism, a child with Asperger's Syndrome or as has problems using the right or tone of voice, the right expressions to a particular social situation, hand-eye coordination and eye contact (Attwood 2006). He tends to be absorbed in a particular topic. He is unable to tell when others are bored in a conversation with him and on the topic of his preference. In school, he is often described as a "nerd." He engages in repetitive behaviors, such as counting groups of coins and marbles or buttoning and unbuttoning a jacket or shirt repetitiously. At around the age of 3, the child with as usually develops a high performance IQ than a child with autism. At the same time, he displays deficiencies in social and communication skills. He also displays physical clumsiness and lack of coordination. On the whole, he is deficient in nonverbal communications and age-appropriate peer relationships. These result in unshared enjoyment, interests and accomplishments. He is unable to reciprocate socially. The repetitive and rigid pattern of behavior, interests and activities he develops deter his social, occupational and educational functioning (Frey).


Most students with as attend general education classrooms (Myles and Simpson 2002, Huffman 2001, Bower 2006). They are under the supervision of general education teachers with the support of special educators and service staff. These children or learners typically possess average intellectual abilities. Many of them have rote memory skills, which can help them achieve academic success. However, they often confront serious problems connected with academic performance. These problems and these learners' overall learning deficiency is related to their social and communications disabilities, which characterize their disorder. In addition, their obsessive and rigidly fixed interests, thinking styles, inflexibility, poor problem-solving and organizational skills and difficulty in distinguishing between what is relevant from what is irrelevant reduce the benefits they can gain from general education. They have trouble generalizing knowledge and skills. This is a decided disadvantage in normal education curricula. Nevertheless, most of them can succeed in school. Many of them manage to attend college and even enjoy establish successful careers (Myles and Simpson. Huffman, Bower).

A study conducted on the academic achievement of as students showed scores within the average range (Myles and Simpson 2002). They scored well in oral expression and reading recognition tests. They scored poorly in mathematics, particularly in solving equations and mathematical calculation problems. Results of the study reveals that students with as had difficulty understanding oral messages and reaching or developing logical solutions to routine or true-to-life situations or problems (Myles and Simpson).

Children and other sufferers of autism disorders are often intolerant of cold, heat, pain, tickling, itching, some textures of clothing and even human touch (Bower 2006). Sufferers themselves attested to these. This sensitivity to touch will almost certainly create problems in social interactions and relationships, especially under changing circumstances. A comparative study between individuals with as and those without showed that as individuals demonstrated greater sensitivity to high-frequency vibrations than those without the disorder (Bower).

AS is believed to run in families yet no specific genes have been identified to account for the condition (Bower 2006). Since 2004, researchers have linked it with autism because of the similarity of brain processes involved in both disorders. A comparative study was conducted on the brain activity of symptom-free parents of children with as and adults with no such disorders. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure the rate of blood flow, which would indicate cell activity in the respondents in two tests. The first required the identification of a shape, while the second required looking at pictures of a woman's to best describe the thoughts and feelings. Parents of children with as obtained lower scores than the other group (Bower)

AS children generally have an IQ higher than 70 and socially maladapted (Huffman 2001). The cause or origin remains unknown beyond 20% of those with the disorder. Possible causes include rubella, cytomegalovirus infection, herpes simplex, anoxic or ischemic injury, thalidomide exposure and extremely low birth weight. There appears to be some genetic connection as in the case of tuberous sclerosis, untreated phenylketonuria and weak X syndrome in autism. The most common complaint is inadequate language, which affects social skills. The detectable inadequacy is in the form of stereotypies or repetitive but purposeless movements like hand flapping, rocking or pacing. These habits increase with stress and decrease with age. Besides delayed speech, other observed symptoms are poor language comprehension, language regression, lack of attention to others and unprovoked aggression. Evaluation should include observation of these symptoms, a thorough history and physical examination, including auditory examination. Tests should detect the level of fragile X and lead and phenulketonuria. Extensive metabolic tests and neuroimaging are necessary only in certain cases or certain conditions. as, which is still recognized as a sub-type of autism, cannot be cured. The best that can be done is to maximize the sufferer's functional capability. He should be placed in a regular classroom but helped to remained focused. Some doctors prescribe select serotonin reuptake and inhibitors or referred to a child psychiatrist for guidance in making decisions (Huffman).

Instructional Strategies and Interventions for as Learners

Today, as has had pronounced impact not only on sufferers themselves and their families but also on educators and other professions (Myles and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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