Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), as opposed to specific developmental disorders (SDD), refers to a group of disorders characterized by delays in the development of multiple basic functions including socialization and communication. Parents may note symptoms as early as infancy and typically onset is prior to 3 years of age.
There are five (5) known PDDs, one of which is Aspergers Syndrome which is commonly referred to as a form of high functioning autism. In very broad terms, individuals with Asbergers are considered to have at least normal intellectual capacity and an atypical social capacity.
Given that like for autism, there is no known cure for Asperger Syndrome, individuals with AS usually endure it through out their lives. While some can learn to adjust better than most, it is best to detect the syndrome early on in childhood to be able to get better results in therapy.
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome generally interpret auditory information literally and concretely. They can also have delays in processing auditory information and even though they may be able to comprehend the auditory information given, it may take them additional time to process this information prior to responding. They may also have difficulty following multi-step auditory directions.
Concrete vs. Figurative Language
Given this, the adults in the child’s environment should be aware of the child’s tendency to interpretation of figurative language, and should provide concrete explanations if necessary. Focus should also be given to increasing the child’s comprehension of figurative language skills, such as idioms, multi-meaning words, jokes, teasing, etc., through the use of visual supports
A child with Asperger’s Syndrome may also exhibit some sensory processing difficulties that result in atypical responses to sensory input. This difficulty in organizing his sensory input, experiencing both hypersensitive and hyposensitive responses to various sensory stimuli, can cause him to experience stress and anxiety in trying to interpret his environment accurately.
Sensory processing difficulties can also markedly decrease the child’s ability to sustain focused attention. It is important to note that the processing of this sensory information can be extremely inconsistent so that at one time the child may either experience hyper or hypo reactions to the exact same stimuli.
Children with AS can blurt out their thoughts as statements of factual information, resulting in an appearance of insensitivity and lack of tact. However these children typically do not understand that some thoughts and ideas can and should be represented internally and thus should not be spoken aloud. Therefore, whatever they think, they tend to say aloud.
Typically developing children can internalize thoughts by the time they are five to six years old. This aspect of language should show improvement as the child learns how to take the perspective of others. A therapist can help the child with AS adjust socially.
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit significant social communicative difficulties, as well as other defining characteristics, which may severely impact their ability to function successfully in all facets of life. However, when given appropriate support strategies, through direct teaching and various accommodations and/or modifications, the child with Asperger’s Syndrome can learn to be successful in our unpredictable, sensory overloading, socially interactive world.
It is critical that a team approach be utilized in addressing the unique and challenging needs of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, with parents being vital members of this team.