By Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
You love your grandchildren. Each of them is different from the other and as you begin to master the art of grandparenting, you learn to establish relationships with your grandchildren that cater to their individual rhythms. One may love outings with you; another may enjoy quiet time at home. But perhaps one of them is notably different, not just different from his siblings or cousins, but different from other children his or her age?
Could your grandchild have Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome symptoms typically surface in children by age three. Someone who spends time with your grandchild such as their parents, their preschool teacher, or you, may notice that your grandchild interacts with peers and adults differently than other kids do. He may have difficulty establishing friendships with peers at school or in the neighborhood either because he lacks any interest, or just doesn’t know how to approach potential friends. The pediatrician needs to be informed of these symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis.
Labeled by Hans Asperger, the syndrome was first identified in 1944. The disorder is more prevalent than one might suspect. Though statistics vary, approximately three to four in one thousand children will be diagnosed with AS annually. Asperger’s is considered to be a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. It’s considered to be a type of high functioning autism, with unknown causes that affects more boys than girls. There is some speculation that Asperger’s might have hereditary factors.
Understand Asperger Syndrome and love your grandchild his or her way.
Asperger’s is a distinctly different syndrome than autism. It is also not mental retardation; children with Asperger’s are often quite intelligent. And since it is not a physical disability or a disfiguring disease, it is not visually obvious. But a child with Asperger’s often has other developmental issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, a learning disability, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or some sensorimotor impairment.
Your grandchild with Asperger’s will have his own way of communicating. Typically he will miss social cues that other children will have learned. For example, he may not make eye contact when conversing, or may continue talking even when the other person may use body language that shows lack of interest in the conversation. He may be a very serious child who lacks a sense of humor or doesn’t understand jokes. He may be inflexible about routines. He may be overly focused or obsessed with schedules, lists, or dates.
As Asperger Syndrome become better understood, more services and treatments with increasing success are becoming available. Physicians and parents and teachers will work together to determine the need for medications if disorders like ADHD are evident in your grandchild. Talk therapy may help your grandchild if anxiety or depression are issues. At school, speech therapy and occupational therapy professionals may work with your grandchild using play therapy techniques and role playing to improve sensorimotor functioning and language, social and interaction skills in your grandchild with Asperger Syndrome.
Your grandchild’s parents need your help and support.
You certainly know how rewarding, but also challenging, parenting can be. Raising a child with a developmental disorder such as Asperger Syndrome adds an additional level of concern for parents. Parents of a child with Asperger’s need your love, support, compassion, and understanding, and sometimes a bit of respite.
Asperger Syndrome is managed rather than cured, not unlike your high blood pressure or diabetes. Some symptoms may disappear over time, others may not. Perhaps you know some adults who demonstrate some of the same behaviors as those of your grandchild.
Author biography: Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of two. She lives in a Midwestern college town. She has been published in Grand Magazine in the past. Learn more about her athttp://debrakarplus.blogspot.com.