Asperger's syndrome is a neurological disorder in the family of autism spectrum disorders. Because every child exhibits a different set of symptoms, there is no precise checklist of behaviors that must all be present for a diagnosis. Instead, there are many behaviors that may be signs of Asperger's syndrome. Here we've rounded up 10 of the common behaviors to watch for, as shared by moms whose kids have the condition.
1. Fixation on One Activity
Many children with Asperger's syndrome are preoccupied with a single or a few interests and focus on them for hours on end. As Circle of Moms member Karen R. shares: "The most common report from every parent I know . . . is that their kid fixated on something (their cars, their blue toys, their books) and played or attended [to] that thing for an outrageously long time."
2. "Little Professor" Speech
"Typically a child with Asperger's sounds like a little professor," shares one Circle of Moms member, Sheila D. "They tend to have advanced verbal skills, but due to the autism aspect of the syndrome they might seem fixated on a topic that they want to talk about all the time." Children with Asperger's syndrome may also speak more formally than usual for their age or prefer talking to adults.
3. Difficulty Reading Social Cues
Social difficulties are another key sign of Asperger's syndrome. Reading body language may be hard, as well as taking turns or holding a conversation. As Eliana F. shares: "Group work at school is also hard for him, as he does not understand waiting his turn or accepting others point of view." Similarly, Colleen notes: "My son is very social, but he doesn't engage in two way conversations. He just talks and talks." As a result of their social difficulties, children with Asperger's syndrome may seem isolated from their peers.
4. Need For Routine
"Structure plays a big part in our lives now," shares Wendy B. Like many children with Asperger's syndrome, Wendy's granddaughter needs routines. "Otherwise it is very confusing for her. So shower is at 8:30 p.m. Bedtime is at 9:30 p.m. Breakfast at 8:30 a.m., lunch at 12, supper at 6. You get the message, very structured. If I want to take her shopping, I start telling her a few days ahead — that way, it doesn't upset her, but we still follow the same routine."
5. Emotional Meltdowns
"My boy tends to have meltdowns when he gets overwhelmed," shares Circle of Moms member Ylice. She's not alone: many children with Asperger's syndrome can't handle routines or plans going awry. Amanda B. describes it as an "inability to control emotions when things are 'out of order.'"
6. Lack of Empathy
Another sign of Asperger's syndrome is a seeming lack of empathy for others. Jennifer B. explains that her daughter "has no clue that people around here have feelings or wants and needs. She's kinda like in her own little bubble as far as that goes. She can be totally aloof, in the clouds."
7. Can't Understand Speech Subtleties
Some people with Asperger's syndrom have a hard time understanding speech tone, pitch, and accent. As Alice D. explains, they may take words very literally and be unable to understand sarcasm or jokes: "He doesn't get jokes and things like that — he can't tell if someone is kidding or if they are being serious."
8. Unusual Body Language
Other signs of Asperger's syndrome include unusual facial expressions or postures, and either staring a lot at others or avoiding eye contact altogether. Dana W. relays of her brother with Asperger's syndrome: "He would never ever look people in the eyes."
9. Delayed Motor Development
From handwriting to riding a bike, poor or delayed motor skills of many kinds could be a sign of Asperger's syndrome. As Kim F. shares of her son, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in the second grade, "He was not athletic and had poor motor skills. Couldn't skip, gallop etc."
10. Sensory Sensitivities
Many children with Asperger's syndrome have heightened sensory sensitivity. As a result, they can be easily overstimulated by certain sensations, whether it's strong lights, loud noises, or textures. Jennifer B. notes of her daughter: "Even now she doesn't like wearing some fabrics because of the way they feel. There are some sensations that she just does not like! Certain sounds, touches, etc."
If you think your child may have Asperger's syndrome, many readers say that the best path is to get an expert's evaluation as soon as possible. And don't be discouraged! As Sheila D. wisely advises: "It is typical to be scared and nervous, but a diagnosis of Asperger's is not the end of the road for your child. It is a tool that will help you to help your child navigate a very different path than his 'neurotypical' peers. Find a local support group. Get informed, and be the best mom you can be."
The preceding information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.