Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome

Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger

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Updated on Mar 28, 2014

No two children with Asperger’s Syndrome are alike. Because it’s on a spectrum, there are subtle differences between each case, making diagnosis difficult, and misdiagnosis worryingly common. Early intervention is the number one way to help kids function, so it’s important that parents stay informed about key indicators.

Keep in mind, however, a child who has some of the red flags mentioned doesn't necessarily have Asperger’s. Diagnosis is a job for a doctor; these are some guidelines for parents to be aware of.

Here are five questions parents should ask themselves:

1. How does my child play with other kids?

Doctors now say this is the fundamental question when dealing with a child who may have a developmental disorder.

Pretend play is typically much more difficult for kids with Asperger’s. Abstract and creative thinking do not come naturally to them. So instead of imagining a play scene, a child with Asperger’s will often quote lines from movies, books or TV shows, usually verbatim. Many parents mistake the play-acting for “rich pretend play” because they hear the extensive vocabulary and the intricate dialogue.

Parents may also misunderstand their child’s play at home, which is very different than on the playground. They tend to assume that if their child plays fine at home, then he must play fine with the other kids too. But adults tend to follow their own kids, and will cater to their needs during play.

“Try to imagine playing with them like a 5-year-old, not like an adult,” advises Dr. Laurie Leventhal-Belfer, licensed psychologist, “and see how things go when you want to change things in their play.”

Test your child’s reaction to change in play by bringing in a new character to the scene, or tell him you want to play with different toys. This will be very difficult for children with Asperger’s. They are accustomed to routine, and often melt down in the face of change.

Common Misdiagnosis: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

The “perfectionist” characteristic is very common in Asperger’s children. Many of their mannerisms are similar to those of OCD, and can be seen during play, for instance, when a child always lines up his blocks in alphabetical order or largest to smallest.

2. What kind of conversations does my child have?

Verbal dialogue is another key indicator. Children with Asperger’s tend to have one-sided conversations with their peers. The conversation will either be led solely by the Asperger’s child, or it will end abruptly.

“We have children who, all they want to talk about is their area of interest,” explains Dr. Alice Locke Chezar, MFT, ATR, family therapist, “and they know it inside out and backwards. It could be science, or cars, or the year before that it could have been dinosaurs. He could go on for 15 minutes in great detail.”

Asperger’s causes children to speak with only concrete, intellectual vocabulary about topics that they’ve learned. Small talk remains a foreign concept to Asperger’s kids. They must work with speech and language pathologists, and are essentially trained how to have normal, everyday conversation.

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