My Personal Experience of Getting to Know Asperger’s Syndrome
How it works
The beginning of this paper covers the history of Asperger’s Syndrome, followed by an explanation of what Asperger’s is. The history provides detailed insights into Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner, and their relationship to each other. Their work has significantly enriched our understanding of the research surrounding Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The paper also discusses the process leading to Asperger’s becoming a recognized diagnosis, including the contributions of Lorna Wing and Ulta Frita. Furthermore, it traces Asperger’s entry into the DSM-4, and what led to its current status in the DSM-5.
The second part of this paper clarifies what Asperger’s Syndrome is, its differences from typical autism, and its distinctions from High Functioning Autism. The section on contributions discusses AS’ impact on the field of psychology and acknowledges those who have advanced the knowledge of Asperger’s Syndrome. Additionally, the paper includes several case studies and recounts my personal experiences. The case studies present two contrasting scenarios; one pertains to a very young child while the other focuses on a teenager, detailing their symptoms, therapy plans, and outcomes.
The paper’s personal account matches my experiences with individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s. In conclusion, the paper provides a summary and adds a personal note.
Over the course of its history, Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) was thought to be the same as autism. Even the man himself who discovered it coined it as Autism. It was not until recently that we found out that Autism and Asperger’s are similar, but also very different. Autism and Asperger’s were coincidentally researched at the same time. Asperger’s was thought to have been written about by an Austrian pediatrician named Hans Asperger in 1940. Asperger was the director of the University of Children’s Clinic in Vienna, where he spent most of his life and career, publishing many of his works in Germany. Around this same time, a man by the name of Leo Kanner began his own research on autism. They were both of Austrian descent but unlike Asperger who stayed in Germany, Kanner had emigrated to the United States in 1924.
In their own research, Kanner and Asperger had noticed that the children they studied had issues with social interactions, interests, and behavior. Hans and Leo concluded that this was autism. The term autism comes from Eugen Bleuler’s book “Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias”, in which he describes autistic children as ones with extreme social issues and self-centeredness. Both unaware of each other’s writings, Asperger and Kanner continued their work. Kanner’s work was eventually recognized and was added to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a manual about current mental issues and disorders in the world. Asperger’s work, on the other hand, did not make it into the book due to Germany’s isolation from the rest of the world during this time period. Asperger’s research for many years would not be recognized until the 1980s, when Lorna Wing popularized the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” as a mental disorder different from Autism. Lorna also decided to place Asperger’s Syndrome on the Autism spectrum.
Lorna translated some of Asperger’s original work, namely what a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is like. However, even with this, Asperger’s Syndrome was not fully recognized as a mental disorder. It wasn’t until Uta Frith’s “Autism and Asperger Syndrome” was released, which featured an English translation of Asperger’s article “Die Autistischen Psychopathen im Kindesalter,” that the condition began to be understood. Asperger’s Syndrome was finally recognized as a diagnosis in 1992. The 10th edition of the World Health Organization’s diagnostic manual, International Classification of Diseases, added Asperger’s to its manual in 1944. It was then included in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4). Yet, this wasn’t the end of Asperger’s story. For many years, Asperger’s Syndrome was criticized for being too similar to HFA, high functioning autism, threatening its inclusion in the DSM-5. After many years of debate, a final decision was made to place Autism and Aspergers under the same diagnostic category, known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). This was done to make Autism, Aspergers, and similar conditions easier to diagnose. This change, however, did not eradicate Aspergers, which is still considered its own diagnosis within the PDD sub-category. Despite these alterations, the argument surrounding this topic continues.
What is Asperger’s?
What exactly is Asperger’s? Many people don’t know the exact difference between Asperger’s and Autism. Dr. Asperger describes Asperger’s Syndrome as displaying social issues, primarily in terms of social reciprocation and interactions, along with normal language skills, above-average linguistic abilities, and minor difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication. Its effects are mainly seen in children and tend to decrease with age. Children with Asperger’s, unlike those with Autism, yearn to blend in and interact with others, but encounter difficulties in doing so. For instance, many individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome struggle to understand various social cues, like sarcasm, which can often be misconstrued. Other observable issues include minimized eye contact and lack of empathy.
Even though people with AS might lack social skills, their linguistic and language abilities are typically intact. They can communicate like normal individuals without any speech delays or difficulties. The only possible downside with their speaking skills could be the monotonic, almost mechanical voice some children with AS might exhibit. The understanding of verbal and non-verbal cues, akin to social skills, is another area children with AS often find challenging. For instance, interpreting someone’s emotions based on their body language can be a difficult task for an AS individual, leading to possible disregard of the other’s emotions. Further, here are some facts about Asperger’s Syndrome and its comparison with High Functioning Autism (HFA). Asperger’s is known to be more common in boys, although female cases are increasingly being reported. The number of annual cases only constitutes about 200,000, less than those of autism diagnoses. Asperger’s is generally a chronic condition, persisting for life, though rare cases have been reported where symptoms have disappeared.
High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome are often conflated, with many erroneously believing them to be identical. However, there are certain differences between the two. For instance, AS is normally diagnosed much later in life, usually once the child has started school, as opposed to HFA, which is diagnosed very early on. Interestingly, HFA diagnosis is sometimes revised to Asperger’s when the child starts school. This is due to the fact that doctors can better assess a child’s social and cognitive abilities as they grow older. Though many believe that children with AS or HFA cannot have an IQ lower than 65, this isn’t necessarily true. Many children with AS struggle with various school subjects. Another unfortunate commonality between the two conditions is that teenagers with HFA and AS are both more predisposed to depression and anxiety.
Before we discuss the contributions, I need to clarify that Asperger’s Syndrome cannot conduct its own research – it’s a mental disorder, not a person. While there’s information about the influence of Asperger’s Syndrome on the psychology community, there’s also information on those who contributed to our understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome. With that clarified, let’s begin. Our comprehension of Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism has assisted in raising awareness for people with mental health issues or those who are simply a little different. The information we’ve gathered has allowed us to treat these individuals effectively, preventing their mental disorders from sabotaging their quality of life. Without our understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome, we might treat everyone as if they have autism, potentially giving them inappropriate treatment. Dr. Asperger and Dr. Kanner both contributed to our knowledge of Pervasive Development Disorders. Lorna Wing was the first person to recognize Asperger’s as a distinct disorder. She clarified what Asperger was communicating in his work, establishing a definition most can agree with. Lastly, Uta Frith’s work on her textbook, “Autism and AS” was notably important due to its English translation of Dr. Asperger’s original work. Without these individuals, neither Asperger’s Syndrome nor our understanding of Asperger’s and Autism, would be where they are today.
When it comes to our knowledge of Autism and Asperger’s, there is still much to learn. We research those diagnosed with Asperger’s because we must learn how they can adapt in the future, whether Asperger’s has any effect on them later in life, and what we can do to help those with AS live better lives. The first case study is about a six-year-old boy who was originally diagnosed with ADHD. A few of his conditions included intense emotions, excess thrashing, self-harm at times, little eye contact, and many behavior issues. The boy was labeled as an ADHD child. Growing up, the boy was not like other kids. He started running around after nine months.
His speech was delayed, and when he used to crawl, he did not do it in a way that worked out both sides of the body and hemispheres of the brain. The child also had underdeveloped motor skills; he could not properly dress or use utensils, and he would not alternate his legs while climbing stairs. The boy cannot sleep without someone next to him, he refuses to eat anything but milk and peanut butter, and he can’t eat in front of anyone. With this in mind, the practitioner concluded that the child has Asperger’s Syndrome instead of ADHD. The practitioner decided that it was best for the child to be placed in a program known as the HANDLE program, which strategized to put the child through a therapy session that could be implemented at home and outside of home. The child was highly underdeveloped and was not getting the nutrients he needs from other foods, so the practitioner recommended a variety of healthy foods that the child could try eating. When all was said and done, the child seemed like a whole new person; he was well-behaved, more social with his classmates, and he was trying more foods, expanding his horizons. His social awareness had drastically grown to another level.
The next case is about “E,” a seventeen-year-old child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. E is a high-functioning, verbal young man who can be social and pleasant to be around if he has the right tools. His behavior at home is one of the issues he has. He opposes his parents quite often and is extremely sensitive to his two siblings. E prefers his computer inside his room, where he does not have interaction with his family. He goes to a church youth group every week where he has some friends but never talks one-on-one with any of them. E was placed in homeschooling due to his very negative experiences in multiple schools. He is currently in a program called RDI (Relationship Development Intervention), which aims to address his social skills, E’s personal issues, and academic knowledge. With all of this in mind, his parents placed him in an ILS. This program would last about three months, addressing a variety of E’s issues in order to prepare him for the real world.
After the three-month period, E would take a test to measure the results of his program. The test’s main results were about externalization, internalization, the behavioral symptoms index, and adaptive skills. When it came to externalization, internalization, and behavioral measures, a higher number is worse than a lower number. A 75 or higher in externalization or 30 or lower in adaptive skills both show signs of maladaptation. Adaptive skills, on the other hand, are opposite, 1 being the worst and anything higher is better. E began with a 99 in externalization, 99 in internalization, 99 in the behavioral symptoms index, and 1 in adaptive skills. After the program, E was re-tested, scoring a 45 in externalization, 81 in internalization, a 41 in the behavioral symptoms index, and 63 in adaptive skills. These results show massive improvement in E’s problem areas. Significant change in adaptability, leadership, social skills, skill at daily living, etc. were all noticed. E has also been able to improve upon managing his frustration and secured two part-time jobs. E has been able to handle situations with responsibility and maturity, without the involvement of his parents.
Although I don’t have Asperger’s, nor does anyone in my nuclear family, I do have two cousins with Asperger’s. The research I’ve done has been eye-opening, delving into the world of Asperger’s Syndrome and learning so much about what it’s like to live with it. When I was very young, I went to visit my cousin. Their behavior seemed strange and I didn’t initially understand why. I tried to talk to them, but they struggled to sustain eye contact or continue a conversation. When I asked my mom about it, she explained they had Asperger’s. They were a little different, but still human and should be treated as such. I haven’t seen them since and I don’t believe I will in the near future. However, what I’ve learned gives me insight into their thoughts and feelings. At my school, there’s a student with Asperger’s. For the most part, her behavior is typical. She speaks clearly and is very intelligent, but she’s also hyperactive and struggles with understanding humor or sarcasm. She has difficulty recognizing when to talk and when to be silent. Many people tease her but respect her in the process, and never cross into offensiveness. Still, we do view her differently. I admit I’ve also teased her at times, but completing this research paper has changed my perspective. I have immense respect for her because despite occasional mockery, she persists in her education. Good for her.
Just to recap the main ideas: the history touches upon Dr. Asperger and Kanner, their work towards Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, and how they related to each other. It also talks about contributors to AS and AS’ entry into the DSM versions. The “What is Asperger’s?” section aims to explain and erase any misconceptions one may have about Asperger’s Syndrome. The contributions, as previously mentioned, discuss the contributions to psychology made by AS research. Case studies are very interesting, in my opinion, discussing ‘E’s and the six-year-old’s transition to becoming fully functioning individuals, without worrying about the symptoms of their diagnosis. Honestly, my experience with people around me who have Asperger’s is minimal. However, I believe it’s essential to recognize those around us who may have Autism, Asperger’s, Down Syndrome, etc. This is because, when we can detect these conditions, we can provide support and company. If we didn’t have our current knowledge of mental disorders, we wouldn’t be able to provide this assistance, potentially even reverting to our outdated ways of treating the disabled. To avoid ending on a sour note, I believe we can all do something to help. Whether that’s donating a significant amount of money or simply going out of your way to assist those who can’t help themselves, we can work together to make our world a better place.