Asperger’s Syndrome

a Biological Model Disorder

What It Is

Asperger’s Syndrome is thought to be one of the Autistic Spectrum Disorders which are classified as neurodevelopmental disorders which are present from birth or very early childhood which places them in the Biological Model Theory of Psychological Disorders. Because language development is not usually affected in Asperger’s it may go undiagnosed until a child reaches school age when the social and non-verbal communication aspects become obvious. It is felt that a number of mild cases go undiagnosed through adulthood.

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Causes

While the exact cause of Asperger’s Syndrome remains a puzzle, it is thought to be a result of genetic and/or neurodevelopmental abnormalities. Brain scans of persons with AS indicate that” the connections between parts of the brain called the cerebral cortex, the amygdala and the limbic system may have become scrambled”(NHS-NINDS, 2014) possibly due to embryonic tissue migrating during development. It is thought that the combination of genes and or short circuits relate to abnormal development affect how severe the symptoms are for each person.

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Characteristics

Marina Benjamin, PhD in an article in PsychCentral and Michael Fitzgerald and Aiden Corvin in an article for Advances in Psychiatric Treatment describe some of the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome as:


1. Social Impairment & Motor Clumsiness

a. Difficulty with non-verbal behavior such as lack of facial

expression, not making eye contact and having clumsy movements

b. Not making friends usually because of inappropriatereactions or

behavior and not exhibiting interest in or enjoyment of others


2. Narrow Interests & Repetitive Routines

a. Having an obsession with one or two ideas or subjects for weeks

or months then changing to a new subject on which to obsess

b. Requiring a strict routine or wearing which may include wearing

only certain clothing


3. Repetitive motions


4. Speech and Language peculiarities

a. No significant language impairment or delayed speech or cognitive ability

b. Lack of expression when speaking

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Diagnosis

There is no standardized diagnostic test for Asperger’s Syndrome. Diagnosis is done in two stages. It begins with developmental screening and progresses to a “comprehensive team evaluation which includes neurologic and genetic assessment, with in-depth cognitive and language testing…evaluating non-verbal forms of communication”(NIH-NINDS, 2014), speech patterns, etc. The second stage involves a number of professionals including a psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist and speech therapist. (NIH-NINDS, 2014)

Treatment

Treatment has to be on a schedule to accommodate the person’s need for strict routine, attempt to involve the person in structured activity using their interests as a basis and provide behavior reinforcement and socialization training. Medication may also be used as well as occupational and speech/language therapy. (NIH-NINDS, 2014)

Famous People Diagnosed with Asperger’s

Among the famous people who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome either as a child or as an adult are the following:

  • Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal behaviorist and professor at Colorado State University

  • John Elder Robison of the rock band KISS and his son, Cubby

  • Susan Boyle a singer who appeared on Britain’s Who’s Got Talent

  • James Durbin a singer from Season 10 of American Idol

  • Dan Aykroyd actor and writer

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References:

Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). (2014, April 16). Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/asperger/detail_asperger.htm

Benjamin, M. (2014, September 12). Symptoms of Asperger’s Disorder | Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-of-aspergers-disorder/000877

Fitzgerald, M., & Corvin, A. (2001). Diagnosis and differential diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. Retrieved from http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/7/4/310.full

Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2014). Understanding psychology with DSM-5 update (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.