Is Asperger’s Genetic?

It hasn’t, as of the date of this publication, been proven that Asperger’s is genetic. However, Asperger’s has shown to have a higher occurrence between siblings and cousins in the same family. Some undiagnosed parents have had children who were then later diagnosed alongside their parents as having Asperger’s. These occurrences have pointed to the possibility that Asperger’s is genetic, and genetic testing research has been and still is being conducted on families where Asperger’s appears to have a genetic link.

No test has been able to find a chromosomal link to Asperger’s either. Strands of DNA have been mapped out for many diseases and disorders already, but Asperger’s hasn’t been located to sit anywhere on the double helix, at least not yet. Scientists are hoping that by first finding the genetic connection between family members they can then turn their attention to the position of Asperger’s on the DNA strands. If it’s found to be passed, as theorized, from father to son or daughter, like balding, scientists can then look for it among the Y chromosomes. Because girls are also diagnosed, more rarely, with Asperger’s, this probably is A) not the place to look for it, or B) all girls with Asperger’s are being misdiagnosed.

You can see then, how complicated this gets the more research is done. The opposite could also be the area to look. X chromosomes exist in both male and female children. Prior to eight weeks conception, everyone starts their life as a girl. Something triggers an influx of testosterone, washing over the fetus and transforming it from girl to boy. Half the X chromosomes the fetus started with are destroyed and replaced with Y chromosomes. If Asperger’s occurs from environmental toxins being introduced at the same time, the X chromosomes are left alone and the Y chromosomes are affected in the midst of their transformation. This is another “genetic” theory suggesting that Asperger’s is in part passed down through the mother’s bloodlines and in part accidental introduction of toxins at a critical point of fetal development. It also explains why a few girls receive the diagnosis of Asperger’s too.

Scientists have to narrow their field of research and focus on one area over a set period of years. Narrowing the focus on one genetic theory helps to establish the control parameters so the data collected is sound. Several of these exact same studies with the exact same parameters have to be conducted to rule out any anomalies that occur during the research. Only then are the results proved conclusive, and a firm affirmation that Asperger’s has a genetic connection can be loudly proclaimed. You can see how the researchers in each of these areas of Asperger’s genetic theories would have a very difficult time trying to find the definitive answer for this question, and why it takes them so long to give the families and children with Asperger’s a solid answer.

More on, “How To Help Asperger’s Kids

Causes of Asperger’s Disorder

The causes are unknown. There are several theories on how a child develops Asperger’s, but none of them have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. One school of thought is that the fetus, around eight weeks of development in utero, is accidentally exposed to teratogens. Teratogens are poisonous compounds that are biological in origin, which directly impact the fetus’s brain. Since eight weeks in utero marks many changes for the fetus, it’s uncertain if this is even a valid theory. In order to test it, many women would have to willingly become pregnant and subject their unborn children to the teratogens that are the suspected agents in this theory, and that just isn’t a medically or ethically acceptable approach. Environmental causes have long been a theory to explain many deviations in development for many disorders and diseases, so this is nothing new.

Asperger’s has a higher rate of occurrence in some families, and thus a higher probability for genetics as a cause. While research studies on DNA samples are still being examined and tested, this theory is still unproven. It is, however, much more likely to be proven within the next decade than any other theory on the causes of Asperger’s.

Any other theory of school of thought on the causes of Asperger’s has been ruled out. It isn’t caused by the parents, by the environment the child grows up in, by the home nation or country of origin, or even by vaccines. It isn’t caused by detached and unemotional mothers, or fathers who aren’t physically present during the first five years of a child’s life. All of these previously assumed causes are defunct and out of date with what has been learned about Asperger’s in the last two decades alone.

Learn the process of diagnosing asperger’s. Also check Dr. Tony Attwood & Asperger’s. 

The Process of Diagnosing Asperger’s

When a parent first suspects that their child is a little out of the ordinary or a doctor, teacher or other professional notices that the child doesn’t move, speak, or think the way same- aged peers do, a referral is made. The referral is usually to see a psychiatrist, behavior analyst, or early childhood specialist. Slowly, different but similar disorders are ruled out. Eventually, with a thick medical file in hand, the parent takes the child to an autism spectrum specialist. Through a series of intellectual and mental/ emotional tests, the autism spectrum specialist pinpoints the exact diagnosis as Asperger’s.

Children with Asperger’s will have average to above average intelligence. Their memorization skills demonstrate an almost savant type of skill. Emotionally prone to spontaneous rage, tears, or laughter at things or times that are inappropriate, Asperger’s children react quickly and seemingly without thinking. There may be some physical development issues; a very noticeable clumsiness or inability to move through physical space without awkward movements. Socially they can’t connect in meaningful ways or establish friendships and relationships that last. Anxiety develops as a side effect of an inability to connect to others. Outwardly they might be perceived more as social outcasts or socially awkward.

The diagnostic specialist who hands you the final decree of Asperger’s won’t be able to ascertain it without a complete oral history from you, the parents, about you, your home, your child’s growth and behavior since birth, and the concerns that finally brought you to the point your at with your child. Because a key point in diagnosing Asperger’s and differentiating it from autism is the child’s ability to speak at an age appropriate for most toddlers, it is necessary that the parents remember as much about the child’s developmental milestones as possible.

Concerns:
1). What causes Asperger’s disease?
2). Who diagnoses Asperger’s? How to diagnose Asperger’s in children?
3). How To help Asperger’s kids

How To Help Asperger’s Kids

Asperger’s, with the release of the 2013 DSM V manual of psychological diagnostic criteria, will now reframe Asperger’s as high functioning autism. That being said, the same therapies that were used before will still be used to help Asperger’s /autism kids. The following is a list of typical therapies for these children with regards to their most challenging issues.

  • Reframing/rephrasing: Language is a barrier. Even when they are verbal, high functioning children with autism don’t quite understand certain expressions of speech, which the rest of us take for granted. When they look puzzled or don’t seem to understand what was said, we have to use “exact language” to get the point or the question across. This takes practice, but parents get used to it in a hurry.
  • Clarifying the context: Social situations are another trouble area for these kids. Adults and helper children often accompany the child with autism and help them when they don’t understand why another child is acting the way he or she is. It decreases the number of fights children with autism get into because what they misunderstood is made clear before the situation gets out of hand. Read about Teaching and Working With Kids With Autism.
  • Social stories: This is a very effective tool that works similarly to clarifying the context, except that it starts out as fictional. The adult tells a situational story to the child and then asks him or her open ended questions about what he or she thinks will happen next and how the people and kids in the story feel about what is happening. It prompts the Asperger’s/ high functioning autistic child to think about how they would act or respond or feel in the same situation. It’s a starting point for teaching empathy, not because these kids don’t have any empathy but because they don’t really think about anything outside of their world.
  • Praise/rewards: Positive reinforcement for expected behaviors and behaviors the child self-corrected is a must. If a parent or teacher constantly told them about everything they did wrong and never said a word about anything they did right, no progress would ever be made. Even a high five is an acceptable reinforcer, because the child then knows he or she is on the right track.
  • Redirection: This is a tricky one. Parents have to know when it’s good to redirect a child with autism/Asperger’s and when it isn’t. Many of them have short attention spans and thus are redirected to more positive talk and work, but the timing has to be right too. You don’t want to inadvertently reward a bad behavior with something positive when redirecting, so use it carefully and wisely.

These are the top five ways parents can help their child with Asperger’s/ high functioning autism. There are more, but these pertain most often to the children that have the most trouble in these specific areas.

Dr. Tony Attwood Asperger

Tony Attwood & Asperger’s

A known author on the subject of Asperger’s, Dr. Attwood lives and works out of his clinic in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He sponsors a website with his name that describes in detail what Asperger’s is, how it is diagnosed, what are the common diagnostic traits and sees thousands of adult and child patients every year, diagnosing them with or excluding them from, Asperger’s. In Australia, he is the leading authority and the go-to doctor on Asperger’s.

Not too many people have heard of him in the United States, but Dr. Attwood began to delve into clinical and pediatric psychology at the very beginning of his educational pursuits. After marrying his wife, Sarah, and having three children, Dr. Attwood settled down in Brisbane, where he sees patients out of his home office two days a week. He focuses the rest of his time writing papers and books on Asperger’s, as well as regularly updating his website.

Parents who have received word that their child has Asperger’s or who have been living with a child with Asperger’s for some time can find a wealth of information on the disorder on Dr. Attwood’s site, http:// www.tonyattwood.com.au/. Those wishing to participate in Dr. Attwood’s clinical research studies may also find the information for those studies and an application with contact info on the site as well.

His book, The Complete Guide To Asperger’s, has been published in over thirty-two languages worldwide, recognizing the fact that Asperger’s, as well as all other autism disorders, has no limitations. It doesn’t differentiate between Asian, European, South or Central American, rich or poor, or any other statistics that ordinarily categorize groups of people. He has a couple other books that would also help parents, but this is his most current one and is based on several of his clinical experiences, patients, and research studies.

Dr. Attwood conducts webinars and tours on occasion for Asperger’s conferences internationally. His website also connects parents to his schedule as well as special interest groups in the world of Asperger’s. Programs and group supports for women and girls with Asperger’s, adults diagnosed later in life with Asperger’s and co-diagnoses support groups can all connect through his site. Fellow contemporaries and doctors involved in research and treatment of Asperger’s also offer their services through Dr. Attwood’s personal site.

Really, it’s a one stop shop for most everything Asperger’s. Parents and doctors and educational professionals who do not know Attwood, his books, his papers, and his work might eventually trip over his site searching the web for Asperger’s information. Once they find it, they really don’t have to look for anything else, except maybe additional sites for therapy toys for their child. (That is the one thing he doesn’t reference or provide a lot of links for.)

However, for those that want to know more about Attwood himself, you can just type his name into a search engine. There are a couple hundred links about the man and everything he’s done in the last twenty five years. He’s even appeared on ABC in the United States and several talk shows about his books and his experience. It’s surprising then, that not many people have heard that much about him.

Given that he lives in Australia and only sees patients two days a week in his home, parents can’t expect to get an appointment with him. Some of the people who had wanted his opinion as a second opinion in order to solidify the diagnosis first received on their child have been on a wait list for a couple of years!

Is autism and aspergers the same thing?

Treatment For Aspergers

Treatment Options For Asperger’s

Medicinally, there is no medication that directly treats Asperger’s as a whole. Most of the medications used are for comorbid, or coinciding, conditions and behaviors. Olanzapine and Risperidone have been prescribed to teenage children with Asperger’s as a means of controlling the obsessive and repetitive behaviors, as well as aggression, often experienced by the children and their families. Because these two medicines are atypical antipsychotics, pediatricians and other doctors are extremely cautious about prescribing them to teenagers and it is highly unlikely they would prescribe them to any child under the age of twelve.

SSRIs are commonly prescribed to adults who have depression and/ or anxiety. In teenagers and some children with Asperger’s, they may be prescribed to treat some more of the repetitive behaviors so commonly seen with the disorder. Again, this is not a common practice because the side effects of medication on children are more severe than on adults.

Overall, the most common approach to treatment for children with Asperger’s is behavior modification. While this may be more difficult than having your child swallow some pills, it has a much longer lasting effect on the child who goes through it. Because children with Asperger’s have notoriously excellent memories and recent things verbatim, they can take what the therapist says to heart but then parents and other supporting adults have to help them practice it in action as well as word. Social therapy is a major component in this approach, as many Asperger’s children experience most of their difficulties in this particular department. Other therapies often used, but not limited to, are physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social communication intervention when signs of extreme aggression have occurred because of misunderstandings between the child with Asperger’s and his or her peers.

Check out Asperger’s Disorder/Syndrome Diagnostics.

Asperger’s Disorder/Syndrome Diagnostics

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.

What Research is Being Done on Asperger’s Syndrome

A few studies of notoriety worth checking out right now are being conducted by a couple of groups. One group is testing the hypothesis that, like autism, Asperger’s exhibits neurological differences in brain composition, both chemically and physically. They are applying functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging technology to scan for any differences from the average human brain. It’s already been proven that children with autism have altered brains and brain functions but now they are attempting to see if Asperger’s, which falls on the autism spectrum, shows the same on an FMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) too.

Other research by another scientific group is looking at the use of an antidepressant for treatment of the OCD qualities of Asperger’s. It is thought that if the drug proves effective, it would provide both the Asperger’s children as well as their parents with some relief from these extreme compulsive behaviors.

Yet another research group is looking at the genetic material of many volunteers with Asperger’s to see if it is in fact, inherited. If it can be determined that Asperger’s is inherited, that would unlock part of the autism puzzle and scientists could start looking for the genes that cause it. It is assumed that, if it is indeed genetic, it’s a recessive gene that requires two carriers to produce a child with Asperger’s.

About a half dozen major institutions in the country are conducting some research on the topic of Asperger’s. Because most of them hope to beat out another research group in discovering a cause and/ or a cure, not all of them are willing to share what research they are currently working on. When something of great import in research in this field does occur, it does hit the national and local news fairly quick.

Who Diagnoses Asperger’s? How to Diagnose Asperger’s in Children?