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What are the Early Signs of Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's syndrome is a mild form of autism and because children affected by the disorder have normal to above average intelligence, learn to speak early, or have an advanced vocabulary, they are often not diagnosed until later (after age 4).
However, early intervention is key to help manage the condition more effectively.
Here are eight early signs of Asperger's syndrome that parents who have concerns about their child should look for.
- Demands or Insists on Routines or Rituals: An Asperger's child may demand to eat the same foods every day, perform certain activities at the exact same time, or complete a certain sequence of events the same way each time (i.e. put on shirt, then pants, then socks when getting dressed). They can become unsettled or throw a tantrum when the routine or ritual is not followed.
- Peculiarities in Speech and Language: Many children with Asperger's begin to speak at an early age (before 14 mos.). They may have a large vocabulary and speak in a rather formal manner (for instance saying, “Please return that to me" instead of “Give that back"). Their voice may also be monotone (has no change in pitch or tone to indicate excitement, surprise, or anger). Others misinterpret their way of speaking as being disinterested or aloof.
- Limited Facial Expressions: Asperger's children may rarely smile, show surprise, disappointment, or anger. They also have difficulty in identifying or acknowledging these nonverbal cues in others. It makes them appear to lack empathy or have little interest in others.
- Clumsy or Uncoordinated: Many parents of Asperger's children report that their child had difficulty with balance, walking, jumping, catching, kicking a ball, and other gross motor skills. Asperger's children may be accident prone and have difficulty with coordination.
- Abnormal Eye Contact: Most autistic children will avoid looking directly at other people. They may look at others but without direct eye contact. Some Asperger's individuals state it makes them uncomfortable and disoriented to look at a person and speak at the same time. Instead, they may look down or use their peripheral vision when speaking to others.
- Don't Respond to Name: One of the early signs of Asperger's that most parents notice is that their child doesn't respond when their name is called. At first, the child is thought to be deaf or hearing impaired. After hearing is determined to be normal, it becomes apparent the child doesn't understand that he or she should respond to his or her name. They may have to be physically redirected to turn and respond when called.
- No Interactive Play/ Lack of Interest in Peers: Children with Asperger's tend to be loners. They have little interest in playing with other children. At an early age, most children engage in parallel play (playing next to another child without actually playing with them), but autistic children even avoid this level of play.They seem to prefer to be left alone and it is often difficult to coax them into interacting with other children.
- No Gesturing/Sharing: Typically developing children point to objects or people that engage their attention. They also bring objects to share or show to others. Asperger's children rarely point and don't seek to engage others (including their parents) in shared play. They also don't bring objects to show to others or try to interest other children or adults in conversation.
Many of the early signs of Asperger's Syndrome appear around a child's third birthday. However, some parents have stated they detected symptoms in earlier infancy. With the proper interventions and therapies, many Asperger's children can grow up to live relatively happy, healthy, and independent lives.
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The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.