Asperger Syndrome: Implications and Interventions
Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a condition characterized by developmental delays most notable in social contexts. AS is most commonly identified by obsessive and repetitive behaviors and unawareness of nonverbal communication. Both Asperger syndrome and autism are forms of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). It is important to note the distinctions between the two PDD’s. We do not see impairment of adaptive skills, cognitive development, or language delay in those affected by Aspergers as we do in individuals with autism (Carpenter, Spratt, & Macias, 2013). Autism effects around 13 per 10,000 people, and Asperger disorder is seen in only 3 ...view middle of the document...
Researchers believe that both genes and specific abnormalities in the brain are associated with the disease. There is a sense of urgency towards discovering more about the spectrum of autism because it is the most heritable of all developmental neuropsychiatric conditions (El-Fishawy & State, 2010). Being able to zero in on what is happening on a genetic and cellular level will open doors towards discovering new ways to not only treat the disease, but provide new ways to screen for diagnosis.
While there has been an array of studies, genetic testing, and brain analysis of those diagnosed with Aspergers, scientists have been unable to pinpoint a specific gene responsible for this condition. Through these studies, it seems that Aspergers is mulitfactorial, meaning there are many genes and environmental factors that will influence the severity of the disorder. There is no dispute that Asperger Syndrome is not a monogenic disorder and that many gene variations are linked to it.
Abnormalities in thought, behavior, and emotions are correlated with Aspergers. These components are associated with regions of the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and the fusiform face area. The mirror neuron system is a brain mechanism connected to theory of mind. The ability to think outside of yourself and interpret others emotions and thought processes also known as empathy, is impaired in those with Asperger syndrome (AS), which is in line with the manifestations of common symptoms. Areas in the brain, “empathy circuits” are all dependent on each other to ensure cohesive functioning. Areas of the prefrontal cortex are monumental components of these empathy circuits. The prefrontal cortex allows for self understanding, accurate perception of others, and interpretative skills (Marshack, 2014). The amygdala helps us know if there is a reason for fear. Often, eye contact is a reliable gauge in interpreting intentions because it is a major form of non-verbal communication. The absence of eye contact is common in those with AS. This deficit eliminates intimacy and understanding of one another through non-verbal cues (Marshack, 2014). It is hard for individuals with AS to “zoom out” and see the big picture. Hyper focus and concentration on a very specific interest or category hinders their ability to process other people’s different ways of thinking, a deficit of central coherence. Limited self-awareness leads to difficulty problem solving and carrying on conversation about an “uninteresting” topic; this is when we see below average executive functioning. As you can see, lacking crucial areas pertaining to cognition explains behavioral components of Asperger Syndrome.
Because Asperger Syndrome has signs and symptoms that are subtler than autism, specific criterion must be met in order to be considered for diagnosis. Speaking single words by age two as well as the ability to use phrases by age...