In 1944, the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger came across the case of four children whose behavior showed difficulties in social integration.
They were children with a level of intelligence which was within the statistical normality, but who had significant deficits in certain capacities of a more specific nature, such as the ease of putting oneself in the shoes of others, the ability to use non-verbal communication resources. , or the ability to coordinate various precise movements in a more or less orderly manner. This made them clumsy both in certain activities requiring movement and in interpersonal relationships..
At first, Dr. Hans coined the term “autistic psychopathy” to refer to this yet to be explored phenomenon, and described it as a disorder, highlighting its implications for the social lives of those who developed it. they tended to isolate themselves and deal little with othersPerhaps because of the frustrating situations that led to misunderstandings and general communication incompatibilities with other children.
It took a few years before this clinical entity was named Asperger’s syndrome; Dr Lorna Wing did this in 1981 after studying the case of another group of children who exhibited the symptoms described by the previous researcher as autistic psychopathy.
Then, in 1992, Asperger’s syndrome was added in the tenth edition of the Handbook of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) and two years later in the Diagnostic and Statistical Handbook of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) .). Since then, this term has been popularized and known at the popular level.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder that is part of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), A concept that brings together a set of psychological disorders of a chronic nature and the causes of which are unknown, although they share a similar symptomatology.
As has been observed through various neuroscience research, the brain of a person with Asperger’s syndrome functions differently from most people, especially in terms of communication and social interactions in general, as well as in performing typical daily tasks in which they live independently. and in the right adaptation to daily requirements. Thought patterns are rigid, based on clear rules, And they stop working well if something in the environment starts to change a lot or introduces an element of chaos.
However, these symptoms start to appear very early, around the second or third year of life. Usually, the first warning signs appear when parents notice abnormal clumsiness and poor mastery of psychomotor skills in their child. Unlike cases of autism which do not fall under the category of Asperger’s syndrome, the language is not affected, although the use is made taking into account the context, As we see it.
On the other hand, experts in the field estimate that around two in 10,000 children have developed Asperger’s syndrome, and it has also been found that this syndrome occurs much more in men than in women.
The specific symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome are as follows, but keep in mind that not all of them should occur, and this disorder can only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health specialist.
- repetitive rituals
- Particularities of the language (formal, monotonous speech …)
- Difficulty in non-verbal communication (limited expressions, rigidity, etc.)
- Poor and uncoordinated motor skills
- Inadequate socio-emotional behavior
Young people with Asperger’s syndrome tend to adopt a literal approach to language: Sentences mean that which shows the set of technical definitions of words used explicitly.
As a result, people with symptoms associated with Asperger’s syndrome have a harder time picking up clues, when it comes to detecting when a friend or family member needs emotional support. when it comes to recognizing what a joke is and what isn’t etc.
How is it diagnosed?
In most cases, the diagnosis is made around the age of 7, While as we have seen, the symptoms appear much earlier. In addition, there is the added difficulty that the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome have children as the primary reference, so that it is not so much known how this affects adults or the elderly.
In diagnostic manuals used by psychiatrists and psychologists, Asperger’s syndrome it ranks among developmental disorders in general and in the autism spectrum in particular. This syndrome was officially recognized in the fourth edition of the Statistical Manual of the Diagnosis of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and it is in the fifth edition of this manual (DSM-V) that the diagnostic category of Asperger’s syndrome disappears, now referring to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). It will be the level of involvement and the necessary aids that will determine the severity of the disorder (level 1, level 2 or level 3).
ICD-10 describes Asperger’s syndrome showing its impact on the reciprocal social interaction typical of ASD, and also links it to another phenomenon: people with Asperger’s syndrome. they tend to develop very specific and defined areas of interest, And it is not uncommon for them to have a level of intelligence well below the average, reaching an intellectual disability.
Psychotherapeutic contributions at Asperger
It is essential to know how to make a diagnosis which corresponds well to reality and which allows the person with Asperger’s syndrome to be psychologically assisted, taking into account their specific needs. In addition, psychological intervention should be performed as soon as possible, bearing in mind that the degree of psychological vulnerability of children is higher than that of adults.
On the other hand, a psychological intervention designed so that the person can better manage their problems must be designed and carried out by accredited specialists. Also, if possible, try to involve family members in this process, as collaborative work in therapy and at home is more effective (Both contexts work to achieve the same result: to have a positive impact on the patient).
In this way, many people can contribute to the improvement process, learning about the thinking, expectations, stressful or uncomfortable situations and needs of that particular person who has developed Asperger’s syndrome. Here are the friends, teachers, doctors, monitors, etc.
As Asperger’s syndrome affects many areas of life, it does not consist of just one method and strategy., But in several adapted to each specific objective. Basically, the following forms of psychological intervention are used.
1. Basic social skills training
These sessions help the person become familiar with language codes that do not respond to the way they speak formally, and help them know what to do in times when they are not interpreting what others are saying.
In psychotherapy, it is created a context in which the patient questions his dysfunctional beliefs and uncomfortable habitsEspecially if that discomfort is related to the disorder with which the person has been diagnosed.
In the case of Asperger’s syndrome, it is especially important to learn how to manage anxiety, as it is something that greatly affects these types of patients.
3. Occupational physiotherapy or
This intervention makes a lot of sense if the person has difficulty living in a autonomous by making coordinated movements that are part of everyday life: getting dressed, using a computer, etc.
What progress can we make in therapy?
According to Isabel Sánchez Montero, psychologist expert in contextual therapies and part of the team of psychologists Málaga PsicoAbreu, one of the most important steps to know the diagnosis and during the duration of the treatment is the “acceptance” by family. A child with Asperger’s syndrome needs, like everyone else, advice and help in order to be able to develop in the world.And our job is to change the perspective and our interpretation of what has been experienced, rather than forcing their time and evolution to become our own.
Pay attention to small steps, no matter how small, and ignore the things that don’t really matter; to use language and rules with flexibility and moderation, to teach them to listen thanks to our patience and to repetition, to use the appropriate information in a clear and concise way, all this will be very useful because the daily life of these families is not full helplessness, complaints and frustration. Sometimes the biggest challenge is changing the eyes with which to see the world.
While people with Asperger’s may need support and care throughout their lifecycle, the truth is that these people they can learn to successfully deal with social situations and personal relationships. Proof of this are the adults who effectively carry out their professional and family work.