What is Asperger's Disorder?

It often begins this way; a parent notices something different with their child. The child is often inquisitive, sometimes to a fault, and can talk about a particular subject for hours and hours. This child has problems making friends and sometimes does not seem to understand the emotions of others. He or she has problems focusing in school, or at home, all though focus is easily obtained when it comes to his or her interests. The child does not understand how to relate to others and has problems seeing things from other’s point of view. Often these problems are first noticed in school, with a teacher or school counseling requesting the child be tested for ADHD. Most often, the child is diagnosed with ADHD and spends the next few years slowly getting worse as they age. At this point, most parents are at a loss and suspect something else is wrong with their child. 

The problem is not ADHD but likely Asperger’s Disorder, which is also known as High Functioning Autism. Many children are on the autism spectrum and have received diagnoses of ADHD, only to have this diagnosis change as they age. But what is Asperger’s Disorder, and how is it treated? 

What is Asperger’s Disorder?

Asperger’s Disorder is a form of Autism by which the child has problems interacting with the world. The child often exists within his or her mind and has problems disengaging from themselves. To that end, this child may have problems focusing on others and can appear obsessive. The main component of Asperger’s Disorder is problems with socialization. A child with Asperger’s does not often understand the mindset of others. As a result, when another child acts differently, they do not understand and do not know how to respond. Children with Asperger’s have been called “rude” and “blunt” as they often speak what is on their mind, and do not consider the feelings of others.

Most people with Asperger’s are highly logical. They want to understand how something works, and often break things down into parts. As they can be obsessive, this can seem abnormal to others, especially peers. For example, instead of playing with a toy truck like most children, a child with Asperger’s may try to take apart the truck to see how it works. This may annoy other children, causing problems in the peer group. When working with someone with Asperger’s, try to explain things logically, and leave out emotion.

With the example above, Asperger’s is often misdiagnosed as ADHD. A child with Asperger’s often will hyper-focus on something they find interesting. As a result, they may “tune out” everything else around them. This causes others to assume they are not paying attention and often will lead to a diagnosis of ADHD. When expressing interest in a topic, the child may become hyperactive and have difficulty disengaging. Conduct problems are also common with Asperger’s, as the child often will ignore rules or norms for ones they find “logical” or appealing. 

Can Asperger’s be Cured?

The short answer is no. Asperger’s is not a condition like depression or anxiety. Asperger’s, and any form of Autism is a developmental disorder that remains a part of who the person is. This is NOT a bad thing! Often people with Asperger’s are intelligent, out of the box thinkers that do well in logic based fields like math, science, and computers. Our society needs people who see things differently and have the motivation to get things done. People with Asperger’s can be highly productive if motivated. 

Instead of focusing on how to “cure” Asperger’s, a better solution is to learn how to use the positive traits of Asperger’s, while at the same time learning to manage the negative traits. A therapist specializing in Asperger’s will try to teach social skills, coping skills to manage anxiety and change, and how the Client can use their strengths to their advantage. 

How I Treat Asperger’s Disorder

When treating Asperger’s Disorder, my first goal is to form a relationship that is both compassionate and informative. I want to learn about the person, not the condition. I will learn about their hobbies, goals, and motivations, and will begin to develop a plan for the future. Long term goals are critical in treating Asperger’s, as many people with Asperger’s have problems sticking to long-term goals. During this time I will also learn about any conditions, addictions, or disorders that are also present, and begin working on them as well. Social anxiety, for example, is common for people with Asperger’s, 

I include the family in the treatment of Asperger’s, as the family is a large influence. At times I will have family sessions, in which I teach all members of the family how to better communicate and relate to each other. This includes the parents, and also siblings in many cases. Most conditions require family therapy for maximum improvement, and in Asperger’s or any form of Autism, family therapy is critical.  

Addiction is another condition common for people with Asperger’s. Specifically, most of my child or adolescent Clients are also addicted to the Internet. Internet addiction is devastating as it causes the Client to isolate, causing damage to relationships. Often, at the same time, I work to treat the symptoms of Asperger’s, Internet Addiction, and Social Anxiety for many of my Clients. 

I think my Child has Asperger’s, What do I do Now?

If you are in the Houston or Cypress area, I recommend you Contact Me and schedule an appointment. I will talk to you and your child and will determine if Asperger’s is a possible diagnosis. Regardless of the diagnosis, I can help you and your child by teaching him or her socialization, coping skills, and how to better interact with your child. I will work with your child to utilize the strengths Asperger’s provides.

Do Not Give Up

Asperger’s Disorder is NOT a death sentence. Many hear the words “autism” and feel there is little hope for their child. Many with Asperger’s Disorder live normal lives. Chances are there are adults in your life with Asperger’s, who are undiagnosed. Asperger’s Disorder has its strengths, as most are intelligent, and are great problem solvers. I work with my clients to utilize the strengths of Asperger’s and to work around the negatives. Do not give up on your child, as your child can learn how to have a productive, happy life.

 

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Nathan Driskell

Hello, my name is Nathan Driskell and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor – Supervisor in the Houston / Cypress area specializing in the treatment of Internet Addiction & Asperger’s / Autism. I work with children, adolescents, adults, couples & families.

You can reach me at my website or call me directly at 832-559-3520 if you have any questions. Thank You!
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