Asperger’s disorder isn’t as easily recognized as autism, Rhett’s syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified. In fact, most Asperger’s children can go half their adult lives without ever being diagnosed! The number of Asperger’s adults is a very rough guesstimate because no one knows for sure until something really out of the ordinary happens to these adults and they see a diagnostic clinician for the first time. Who diagnoses Asperger’s?
In children who are mid to low functioning, it’s more apparent. Their learning of language isn’t delayed as with other autism spectrum disorders, but how they use it and understand it is really abnormal. Reasoning is difficult because everything has to be straightforward and matter of fact. None of the usual expressive language patterns are understood as expressive or comparative; they are all considered factual and instructive. An Asperger’s child who is jokingly told to “go play in traffic” will follow through on the “request” because they don’t understand that someone was only kidding/teasing.
Socially, these children lack empathy. They can’t place themselves in someone else’s shoes nor do they even understand the expression! When they strike out or aggress against someone else, they don’t consider how that will affect the other person, only that it relieves them of their negative feelings. At times, it can even seem sociopathic in nature, which is frightening to most parents and is often what prompts them to seek help. When the parents do seek help for these behaviors, this is the time that the children are properly diagnosed as having Asperger’s, whereas before they may just have been thought of as odd or violent.
One of the most difficult diagnostics of Asperger’s but perhaps the most easily recognized is the obsessive and compulsive behaviors. These children are compelled to do the exact same pattern over and over again. They may feel the need to wash their hands seven times after using the bathroom, or wake up at precisely six in the morning every day. This obvious behavior pattern helps doctors diagnose Asperger’s a lot easier.