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Asperger’s Signs and Symptoms

What Are the Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome?

In this article, we take a look at Asperger’s syndrome, and describe its most common characteristics, how it differs from other autism disorders and how to treat it.

Asperger’s syndrome can be a difficult disorder for many parents to pick up since many children display Asperger’s characteristics as a normal part of their development. So it’s understandable why childhood Asperger’s is sometimes diagnosed a little later than other brain disorders on the autism spectrum.

We’re going to take a closer look at what Asperger’s syndrome is, along with some of its signs and characteristics, how it can be treated, and more.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that falls into the autism spectrum. It’s a more mild type of brain disorder that affects behavior and makes it difficult for a person to communicate, interact, and form relationships with others.

 

Are Autism & Asperger’s Different?

As mentioned, Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, it is not the same as an autistic disorder. The disorders that fall into the ASD group include: 

  • Autistic disorder
  • Rett syndrome
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD; also known as Heller’s syndrome)
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

 In general, these disorders are characterized in varying degrees by:

  • Difficulties in social interaction
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Repetitive behaviors.

What are the signs of Asperger’s?

It’s important to be aware of the Asperger’s signs and characteristics and how these set it apart from other diagnoses on the spectrum. Keep in mind that it is perfectly normal for toddlers to exhibit some of these symptoms, such as repetitiveness or one-sided conversations.

These are some of the most common signs of Asperger’s to keep an eye out for:

  • Displaying unusual nonverbal communication: Asperger’s and eye contact rarely go together, so avoiding eye contact is one of the first symptoms; also a limited number of facial expressions or awkward body positions and gestures. 
  • Engaging in one-sided and long-winded conversations without noticing if the listener is paying attention or if the listener is trying to change the subject.
  • Appearing to not understand, be sensitive to, or empathize with the feelings of others.
  • Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific and narrow subjects such as the weather, snakes, basketball stats, or train schedules.
  • Difficulty “reading” other people or getting the gist of humor or sarcasm.
  • Speaking in a rigid, monotonous voice or speaking unusually fast.
  • Clumsy movement and poor coordination.

It’s worth noting that there are some characteristics of Asperger’s that should be considered strengths. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Strong ability to focus 
  • Persistence 
  • Ability to recognize patterns
  • Attention to detail.

What Causes Asperger’s?

Although the cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not yet fully understood, there is a strong belief that it has a genetic basis and runs in families.

There are also some environmental risk factors associated with an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorders, including:

  • Older parental age
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to the drug valproate in utero. 

Treatment for Asperger’s

A holistic treatment program for children with Asperger’s is the best possible plan. The combination of speech therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, along with the right support and medication, will benefit your child the most.

Get the Best Treatment for Your Child

Lighthouse Autism Center provides compassionate, center-based ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy and services for children with autism disorders. Our one-of-a-kind approach combines compassionate care with clinical excellence to give every child the best possible treatment.

Contact us for more information on how we can help your child.

Learn About CPI Training

What Is CPI Training?

We take a look at what CPI is and why it is so beneficial for de-escalating crises for children with autism.

At Lighthouse Autism Center, safety is our priority, and we take great pride in the safety of our centers. Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) training is one of many safety precautions implemented at all Lighthouse Autism Centers. All of our employees receive weeks of training before beginning therapy with a child and are certified in First Aid, CPR, and CPI.

We’re going to take a closer look at what CPI is, the benefits of CPI techniques, and why we use it at the Lighthouse Autism Center.

What is CPI?

CPI is a strategy used for crisis prevention for a wide variety of people, including those with autism spectrum disorders. CPI can best be described as non-violent crisis intervention training designed to teach best practices for managing difficult situations and disruptive behaviors in children with autism. Behavior therapists or Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) learn how to identify at-risk individuals and use nonverbal and verbal techniques to defuse hostile behavior. This type of training not only ensures the utmost safety of the children at our centers but also the safety of our staff.

CPI Training

The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) is an international training organization that specializes in the safe management of disruptive and assaultive behavior. Since 1980, more than six million professionals have participated in CPI’s training, and thousands of organizations worldwide have successfully implemented CPI’s safe, non-harmful techniques and developed comprehensive crisis prevention and intervention plans. Only highly trained and certified CPI instructors are equipped to teach others CPI methods.

What is a CPI instructor?

A CPI instructor is someone who has gone through rigorous training at the CPI international training organization and has been certified as an instructor. They are taught the tools and techniques to instruct and teach others to implement CPI strategies where needed.

The Benefits of CPI at the Lighthouse Autism Center

There are a huge number of benefits when it comes to using CPI strategies. These are the most notable. 

  • Teaches staff to recognize and respond to a crisis appropriately: CPI teaches our staff imperative decision-making skills to effectively match their response to the level of risk in the crisis. They learn to focus on the least restrictive response to ensure crises are de-escalated with as little fuss as possible. They are taught how to recognize the different stages of an escalating crisis and how to use evidence-based techniques to de-escalate.
  • Safe physical intervention as a last resort: Staff are trained to respond appropriately to the level of risk. Sometimes de-escalation strategies don’t work, and the risk requires physical intervention. CPI teaches staff the best physical intervention strategies to ensure as little trauma as possible.
  • It’s fully accredited: CPI is an evidence-based training program that is also fully accredited. The training is reviewed bi-annually to ensure all interventions are up to international standards.

Why We Use CPI at Lighthouse Autism Center

While CPI is an excellent non-violent crisis intervention strategy for a wide range of people, it’s particularly effective for children with autism. People with autism have unique characteristics, and the nature of autism means that there are some special circumstances to consider when employing CPI techniques with them. 

Here are just a few of the CPI strategies we use for children with autism. 

Learn How Autism Shows Up in Individual Children

Autism shows up in every person differently, and there is no such thing as one size fits all. Our staff works closely with a child’s parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives to learn about their specific anxiety signs and triggers. For example, some children with autism can clench their fists when they are happy or excited. Others do this when they are starting to feel anxious or frustrated. How does a particular child show anxiety?

It’s important to understand what triggers every child has. Do they like to be touched? Or should touching be avoided? Do they like schedules, and if so, what kind of schedules? What are their very favorite things? What has helped calm this child down in the past? You can see the other important questions that are asked in our Tips for Parents blog post.

These types of questions allow our staff to intervene using the right type of support to avoid escalation.

Teach Communication Skills

Children with autism struggle to verbalize their needs and wants, which often leads to frustration. Our staff finds out how the child tends to communicate when they ask for things. They will also teach the child how to ask for specific things that might not be tangible.

We will figure out the best system for the child, whether that’s verbal, sign language, or something in between. Teaching children with autism these skills is an excellent way to avoid crises and escalating frustration.

Avoiding Reinforcement of Problematic Behaviors

It can be quite easy to accidentally reinforce a problematic behavior. For example, if a child throws everything off the table because they don’t want to do a particular task and you then immediately give them a break, this could be something they will use in the future to get what they want.

CPI strategies will instead call for a few more simple tasks that won’t stress the child out and then prompt the child to indicate they want a break using a productive communication skill that they have been taught.

Safely Using Holds as a Last Resort

CPI strategies only use physical interventions as the very last resort and only when the child’s behavior is posing more risk to their own safety than any physical hold does. We are taught to safely and effectively use physical interventions with children in a way that causes no harm and that also doesn’t reinforce problematic behaviors. Some children find the pressure of holds comforting and will resort to aggression if they know that they will be held as a result.

The Best Autism Treatment With Lighthouse Autism Center

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we believe that we can help every child reach their true potential with our innovative treatment approach to autism. CPI strategies are just a facet of the incredible work that our staff do throughout our centers.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to talk to someone about our treatments and how we can help your child.

Impact of Dropping Asperger’s from the DSM-V

Asperger’s syndrome no longer listed in DSM-V

A big change is about to take place in the soon to be released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the DSM-V. Asperger’s syndrome has dropped from the manual and instead it will fall under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The name for Asperger’s Syndrome has officially changed, but many still use the term Asperger’s Syndrome when talking about their condition.

The American Psychiatric Association released a statement stating that, “The new criteria

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Siblings of Children with Autism

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Children with autism experience social delays, trouble communicating and various other developmental delays that can cause a family to experience extra stress and hardship. This can be particularly hard for siblings who may not understand that their brother and sister has autism and that may cause them to act, communicate or express themselves differently.

Below is a list of items a child who has a sibling with autism may experience. While some of them may be unavoidable, it is important parents are aware of these challenges and work to make sure extra care is not only taken for a child with autism but their siblings as well.

Challenges Siblings May Experience

1.) Sibling Rivalry – it is natural to see rivalry’s develop between children in one household. Siblings may fight over toys, attention, or anything to feel like they are “first” or have “won.” This experience can particularly be heightened for a sibling for a child with autism who may be competing for their parents attention.

2.) Feeling Left Out – children with autism require extra care, time and attention from parents. This can leave other siblings feeling left out or not important. Parents should take extra care to make sure other siblings feel loved and cared for. This could take the form of picking an activity to do together each week or going on a special outing with each sibling every month.

3.) Extra Responsibility – siblings may feel like they have to pick up extra work around the house that their parents do not have time for due to the extra work of caring for a child with autism. While there is nothing wrong with siblings pitching in to help the entire family unit, be sure children aren’t taking on too much extra responsibility (or responsibilities that are inappropriate for their age).

4.) Feeling of Rejection – children may want to have a close relationship with their brother or sister with autism that may not be possible. Children with autism often struggle with touch (like hugging) or with social skills (like being able to express joy, sadness, etc…) which can make it challenging to develop a sibling bond or relationship. Be sure to educate fellow siblings that children with autism do not express needs, wants or emotions in the same way as them and that these things may take different forms depending on the child.

Communication and Autism: Using Visual Language

What is Visual Language?

Research tells us that children with autism are able to better communicate their wants and needs through images rather than words. With this knowledge, many autism therapy providers have started creating learning programs and software that focus on allowing children with autism to communicate with familiar and consistent images. This helps increase their understanding of basic communication and more easily communicate their wants, needs and emotions.  This “visual language” method of learning has proven incredibly successful in helping children with autism develop communication skills.

Using Visual Language to Communicate with Children Who Have Autism

Communication can be a major problem for families. It accounts for an estimated 60% of all family-related stress experienced on a daily basis. It is also the main reason that some children are slower to develop their social skills. By using visual communication tactics, families and autism therapy providers can give the child the tools they need to communicate their needs effectively. Once the child has these skills, it often alleviates many problems for families.

So, what are some of the visual communication techniques your child with autism can use?

1.) Dry Erase Board – The child can use a piece of paper or dry erase board to draw objects that symbolize their wants and needs.

2.) Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) – this is when a child has several pre-made (and often laminated) cards with images that communicate everything from needing to go to the bathroom to requesting a snack and telling someone how they are feeling. The parent can than react or provide the item to fulfill the need they are expressing.

3.) Tablet – children can use communication software downloaded to a tablet such as an ipad and use the system similar to a PECS system. This allows children to select images that express their wants and needs in a way that a parent or adult can understand.

To learn more about visual communication and your child with autism, contact Lighthouse Autism Center at 574-387-4313.