Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Asperger's Syndrome: The "invisible" autism - misdiagnosis with ADHD

Rhonda Brunett and Wendy Williams
Parents of children with autism

Some kids may be misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A number of people have the idea that people with autism are so profoundly affected that they can't talk. If they are talkers, many assume that they converse like Dustin Hoffman's character in "Rain Man." But autism involves a wide spectrum. Asperger's Syndrome is an autistic disorder that is at the high-functioning end of the spectrum.

Many refer to those who have Asperger's Syndrome as having a "dash" of autism, or "mild" autism. However, there is nothing mild about this syndrome. Many children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at an early age have been misdiagnosed. Rather, they should have received the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.

A wiring issue

Asperger's Syndrome is a neurological condition. The brain is wired differently, making this disorder a lifelong condition. It affects communication, social interaction and sensory issues. Asperger's is often referred to as the "invisible syndrome" because of the internal struggles these children have without outwardly demonstrating any real noticeable symptoms. Thus, difficultly assessing someone with Asperger's Syndrome is even more impacted. In fact people with Asperger's have average to above-average intelligence, and are even referred to as "little professors."

Children with this disorder struggle with a problem and internalize their feelings until their emotions boil over, leading to a complete meltdown. These outbursts are not a typical temper tantrum; for children with Asperger's Syndrome (and for their parents), these episodes are much worse.

Many Asperger's children may appear under receptive or over receptive to sensory stimulation and therefore may be suspected of having vision or hearing problems. Therefore, it's not unusual for parents or teachers to recommend hearing and vision tests. Some children may avoid gentle physical contact such as hugs, yet they react positively to rough-and-tumble games. Some Asperger's children have a high pain tolerance, yet they may not like to walk barefoot in grass.

Early intervention is key

If any developmental delays are presenting themselves, early assessment is critical, which means being evaluated for a preschool screening. Before the age of three years old early intervention is KEY for vast improvement possibilities.

Every child deserves a chance to succeed in school and deserves a great experience when it comes to their education. It's unfortunate that many children with Asperger's are either diagnosed later in life or they are pushed through the school system. Along the way, they are often referred to as weird, odd or very different from the other children. Because of their often above-average intellect, some of these children could be future CEO's, scientists, or other prestigious professionals. This is a silver lining for weary parents.

Take away tips: Characteristics of children with Asperger's Syndrome

* Lack of social skills
* Difficulties understanding the subtleties in conversation or abstract concepts
* Poor eye contact
* Taking slang literally ("Toss the dishes in the sink" means the dishes will be thrown into the sink)
* Often plays alone; lack of interaction with peers
* Impaired fine motor skills (Writing or using scissors is difficult)
* Unabashed rule-followers
* Unusual attachments to stuffed animals (inordinate dismay when a stuffed animal is thrown)
* A diet limited to the same foods
* Ritualistic, rigid or compulsive behavior; tantrums occur when routines are broken
* Insists on watching the same movie again and again
* Lines up objects or toys
* Hand flapping or spinning

Autism resources
There are numerous online resources, books and support groups that can help those concerned or who want to become better educated on the subject of autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

Asperger's coaches
In Illinois, many parents are turning to Asperger's coaches for help and support. To learn more about autism/Asperger coaches visit the Asperger's Tips web site.

From Autism To All-Star
Rhonda Brunett is author of the book, From Autism To All-Star (see book review for more details) or go to the From Austism to All Star web site for the story of one families journey with autism.

Autism One radio
Rhonda Brunett and Wendy Williams also gave a radio interview to Terri Small on Autism One internet radio. The audio file can be listened to online or downloaded to an MP3 player or iPod.

Autism One radio is a worldwide, web-based radio station for the care, treatment, and recovery of children with Autism.

Auties.org is a new web site for (and run by) people on the Autistic Spectrum. Its aim is to provide an opportunity for people with autism to market their skills directly to the public and seek employment. Its free for people to list themselves so spread the word!


Michiel said...

Hmmm, asperger and adhd; both suddenly popular affections. I mean; who had heard of these before massmedia hyped them to death?

Suddenly every other child is labeled 'ADHD'. Most cases I see I feel are undisciplined kids on an eternal sugar rush from all the shit food they eat while acting as kids will. "I know: let's drug them!" *sigh*

And Asperger! Almost EVERY IT guy I know (and I've about 14 years international corporate IT under my belt, and I've been playing with the things since I was 9) qualifies for Asperger. From my POV its either just how engineers are wired or we are the next logical step in human evolution: This is the human you get when you marry an ape to a calculator. Welcome to the future ;)

Sorry if I went off on a bit of a rant there; I'm sure I qualify for Asperger. Come over to my blog sometime and see my life not sucking.

Marc said...

When my oldest was diagnosed with ADHD and we were told that he needed medication, I was so dead set against it. However, I saw that this was a battle that I would not win against my wife, I told her my opinion and let it go. He's been on it for years and has been an excellent student. I still wish he were off of it and wonder when, if ever, he will be. I also wonder, if he were to be re-evaluated, if he would be diagnosed with autism or Asperger's.

My youngest was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 3. He was unlike any child I had ever known (not that I knew that many), even as a baby. He's nearly 7 now and is doing great. He does not take any medication (woohoo! (yet :-( )). He's very intelligent and alot of fun but I see that he is not like other children.

Sometime in myself or my wife, I do see symptoms of Asperger's (I am in IT as well).

I'm happy for you that things are going well. I wonder what my two sons' future holds for them.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to have to bring up this question, but as you will see it is quite important. I understand that Asperbergers Syndrome is not generally associated with violence. However, I have an adult child with As. I am not certain where he lives, but I believe it is a 4 or 5 hour dirve form me. I have been trying to hide from him for the past 4 years. He believes intensely that I have attempted to kill his younger sister who suffers from a chronic, serious illness. He came to this belief 4 years ago when a physician overdosed her on a pain medication and he believes that because I am a nurse I should have prevented this. His rationale is that I wanted her to die. This idea has completely taken over him. It is his current special interest. He has traveled thousands of miles to even find people who I knew as a child to try and find further evidence against me. He also believes that he can "see into other people's brains" and knows if they are lying or telling the truth. He has recently found out where I live, and has indicated that when his siter turns 18 (in a few months), he will be coming to get her and will do whatever he has to do to remove her from me. She is developmentally delayed and unable to care for herself. My son is able to appear normal and can even hold a job for some periods of time. Many, many friends and experts have tried to show him that his perceptions about what happened 4 years ago are wrong, but he will not be swayed by anything that anyone says about this situation. I believe he is quite capable of using violence against me at this time. I also think that a restraining order will only inflame him further, and is even more likely to result in violence. I know he would not abide by a restraining order. So, I don't mean to offend any of the thousands of people who are completely non-violent with AS, but I would welcome any suggestions on how I might handle this situation given the complications that my son's AS bring to the situation. Thank you!


Anonymous said...