“Isn’t it okay for young children to be socially awkward?” a friend asked me the other day while discussing our grandchildren. “Yes, of course it is. Just as each grandchild is unique, their social development may be as well,” was my response. She asked the question because she felt something isn’t quite right with one of her grandchildren. My friend wanted to know more about Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).
The possibility of a grandchild having Asperger’s, a neurobiological disorder on the Autism Spectrum, can be extremely upsetting. Delayed social development alone does not determine if a child has AS. When other behaviors not normal for children of the same age are also presented, it is recommended that concerns are discussed with the grandchild’s parents and together meet with their pediatrician.
Some Asperger’s Syndrome behaviors that a child may exhibit difficulty with are:
- delayed crawling and walking; poor coordination
- minimal or no eye contact
- interpreting facial expressions, voice tone, or body language
- interacting with other children in an unstructured play setting
- changing routines or transitioning from one activity to another
- responding in a conversation – or goes on and on about the same thing
- staying focused on anything outside his interest
- sensitivity to sound and touch
- sitting in circle time, following directions
- lack of inflection in speech
- crying excessively; handling disappointment.
Other characteristics associated with Asperger’s may also include:
- maintains focus on one thing or activity<
- strong interests; area of high knowledge
- repetitive routines
- tries for perfection
An outstanding characteristic a child with AS may consistently show is the obsession with a topic that he wants to learn everything about. The first student I met with Asperger’s introduced himself as “a six-year-old meteorologist.” Whenever we were together, he would proceed to tell me an abundance of weather information. It was very difficult to redirect his interests to other topics so his lessons were designed around a weather theme. When it came time for him to go to lunch or gym class, he would have a tantrum until we put into effect a plan for his transitioning from one to another.
Seek Help From Professionals
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, parents usually sense there is something unusual about a child with AS by the time of his or her third birthday, and some children may exhibit symptoms as early as infancy. Not every child with Asperger’s exhibits the same behaviors; but if some of those above describe your grandchild, please seek a professional evaluation through a local early intervention program, or through the school, as soon as possible. It is very important to follow through with this becasue the earlier children are diagnosed with AS, the sooner interventions can be in place to help them develop into self-sufficient members of the community.