- Intellectual or Artistic Interest.
- Speech Differences.
- Delayed Motor Development.
- Poor Social Skills.
- The Development of Harmful Psychological Problems.
- Not Socially-driven
- Bill Gross – successful investment manager (C): his video about his diagnosis is here.
- Dan Aykroyd – Comedic Actor (C)
- Hans Christian Andersen – Children’s Author.
Asperger’s syndrome (also known as Asperger’s Disorder) was first described in the 1940s by Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger, who observed autism-like behaviors and difficulties with social and communication skills in boys who had normal intelligence and language development. Many professionals felt Asperger’s syndrome was simply a milder form of autism and used the term “high-functioning autism” to describe these individuals. Uta Frith, a professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience of University College London and editor of Autism and Asperger Syndrome, describes individuals with Asperger’s as “having a dash of autism.”
Asperger’s Disorder was added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) in 1994 as a separate disorder from autism. However, there are still many professionals who consider Asperger’s Disorder a less severe form of autism. In 2013, the DSM-5 replaced Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and other pervasive developmental disorders with the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from classic autism are its less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected, and they frequently have good language and cognitive skills. To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a neurotypical child behaving differently.
Children with autism are frequently viewed as aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with Asperger’s Disorder. Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others, but often they don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understand conventional social rules or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem unengaged in a conversation and not understand the use of gestures or sarcasm.
Their interests in a particular subject may border on the obsessive. Children with Asperger’s Disorder often like to collect categories of things, such as rocks or bottle caps. They may be proficient in knowledge categories of information, such as baseball statistics or Latin names of flowers. They may have good rote memory skills but struggle with abstract concepts.
One of the major differences between Asperger’s Disorder and autism is that, by definition, there is no speech delay in Asperger’s. In fact, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have good language skills; they simply use language in different ways. Speech patterns may be unusual, lack inflection or have a rhythmic nature, or maybe formal, but too loud or high-pitched. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may not understand the subtleties of language, such as irony and humor, or they may not understand the give-and-take nature of a conversation.
Another distinction between Asperger’s Disorder and autism concerns cognitive ability. While some individuals with autism have intellectual disabilities, by definition, a person with Asperger’s Disorder cannot have a “clinically significant” cognitive delay, and most possess average to above-average intelligence.
While motor difficulties are not a specific criterion for Asperger’s, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have motor skill delays and may appear clumsy or awkward.
Diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder has increased in recent years, although it is unclear whether it is more prevalent or more professionals are detecting it. When Asperger’s and autism were considered separate disorders under the DSM-IV, the symptoms for Asperger’s Disorder were the same as those listed for autism; however, children with Asperger’s do not have delays in the area of communication and language. In fact, to be diagnosed with Asperger’s, a child must have normal language development as well as normal intelligence. The DSM-IV criteria for Asperger’s specified that the individual must have “severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities that must cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
The first step to diagnosis is an assessment, including a developmental history and observation. This should be done by medical professionals experienced with autism and other PDDs. Early diagnosis is also important as children with Asperger’s Disorder who are diagnosed and treated early in life have an increased chance of being successful in school and eventually living independently.
The condition is what doctors call a “high-functioning” type of ASD. This means the symptoms are less severe than other kinds of autism spectrum disorders.
The DSM-5 also includes a new diagnosis, called social pragmatic communication disorder, which has some symptoms that overlap with Asperger’s. Doctors use it to describe people who have trouble talking and writing but have normal intelligence.
They start early in life. If you’re a mom or dad of a kid who has it, you may notice that they can’t make eye contact. You may also find that your child seems awkward in social situations and doesn’t know what to say or how to respond when someone talks to them.
They may miss social cues that are obvious to other folks, like body language or the expressions on people’s faces. For instance, they may not realize that when somebody crosses their arms and scowls, they’re angry.
Another sign is that your child may show few emotions. They may not smile when they’re happy or laugh at a joke. Or they may speak in a flat, robotic kind of way.
If your child has the condition, they may talk about themselves most of the time and zero in with a lot of intensity on a single subject, like rocks or football stats. And they might repeat themselves a lot, especially on a topic that they’re interested in. They might also do the same movements over and over.
They also may dislike change. For instance, they may eat the same food for breakfast every day or have trouble moving from one class to another during the school day.
Massage for Asperger’s Syndrome
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 68 U.S. children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which includes several conditions that were diagnosed separately until recently, but which are now under one umbrella.
Today, those whose symptoms were previously diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, or autistic disorder are now included as part of ASD.
There is no definitive cure for ASD, so many parents are looking for help managing symptoms and behaviors that are common with ASD. However, the wide range of characteristics associated with ASD precludes even a “best treatment.”
But anecdotal reports and small studies continue to spotlight how massage therapy may benefit people with ASD. Nurturing touch and regular sensory integration appears to reduce the social, communication, behavioral, learning, thinking, and problem solving-challenges associated with ASD. In particular, craniosacral therapy and deep pressure massage are receiving attention as possible means to help manage ASD behavioral patterns.
A Quick Look at ASD
Traditional ASD treatments generally involve input from physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, and other experts.
Pharmaceuticals are also often used to control symptoms associated with ASD, such as an aversion to touch, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, anxiety, hyperactivity, sleep disturbance, repetitive behavior, as well as the inability to verbally communicate, make eye contact, or interact with others, and additional behaviors that may lead to injury.
At this point, experts believe that ASD is a developmental disability triggered by complex neurodevelopment disorders—or abnormalities in brain structure and function. Supporting this theory is the fact that scans show distinct differences in the shape and structure of an autistic child’s brain vs. a neurotypical child’s brain.6 These differences appear to block, distort or disorganize sensory information, a condition called sensory processing disorder (SPD).
Like ASD, there is no known cause for SPD and no cure. Nor can the medical community categorically explain how the two distinct disorders affect one another. What is known, however, is that an estimated 96 percent of ASD patients report some degree of altered sensitivity to sensory stimuli, and a majority of those cases include tactile sensitivities.
SPD and ASD
SPD exists when the brain cannot detect multiple sensory signals or organize them into one appropriate response. This misfire likely causes developmental disabilities that affect how an individual on the autistic spectrum learns, thinks, and problem-solves.
“There are eight sensory systems in your body that are supposed to take in stimulation around you, integrate that information so your body can respond appropriately and help you feel safe in the world around you,” explains Tami Goldstein, certified craniosacral therapist and autism advocate and educator.
Goldstein also authored Coming Through the Fog, a biographical story about her now-adult daughter’s lifelong journey through autism. “Maladaptive behaviors you see in children with autism are because their sensory system is either over-registering or under-registering stimulation. So they don’t— they can’t—feel comfortable moving around their world,” Goldstein emphasizes.
Making Sense of It All
Whether beginning the first or 50th massage therapy session with an individual on the autism spectrum, massage therapists need to understand that the combination of SPD and ASD can create reactions that seemingly come out of nowhere and change on a dime, emphasizes Rachel Benbow, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based licensed massage therapist, and owner of The Roots of Health, where she practices craniosacral therapy and therapeutic massage.
“You have to be extremely adaptable,” Benbow says. “SPD can cause those with ASD to quickly become overloaded and then their needs change without warning. Sheet texture, music, a room’s smell or lighting, your touch—all these things may be acceptable one moment but not the next.”
Following are some sensory precautions that are particularly relevant for a massage therapist working with individuals with ASD and SPD:
In some cases, the eyes aren’t working together or there’s a blind spot. “Never approach someone on the autism spectrum full on. It might be too much information too quickly,” Goldstein says. Instead, approach the table from the side.
Some individuals are unable to filter where a sound is coming from. The primal response is first to experience fear, and then to run. Noise-canceling headphones, a soft voice, or gentle classical music may help.
When the sense of smell misfires, any aroma, including a massage cream or oil, may elicit high-level anxiety and alarming fear. Letting the individual sniff a cotton ball with a hint of essential oil may help—although Goldstein emphasizes that it can take some experimentation to find a scent that won’t cause overreaction.
The sense of taste does not directly affect massage therapy, but since SPD is systemic, one sense misfiring can affect the others, so being aware is essential.
Individuals with ASD and SPD are often over-or under-sensitive to touch. If over-registering, everything seems to be coming at them too fast and their muscles send a message to flee danger. If under-registered, there’s little to no awareness of tactile stimulation. In either case, massage therapists should move slowly toward the table, giving the individual time to see, hear and feel your approach. When the table sheets are an issue, try a chair massage. And if your very touch is threatening, take a break or quit for the day.
This refers to the sense of head movement in space, which plays a role in the body’s sense of balance, awareness of space, gravity, and movement. When the vestibular system malfunctions, an individual feels “lost in space.” A weighted lap pad or blanket may help, or use a massage chair rather than a table.
Linked to the vestibular and tactile systems, the proprioceptive system allows for body awareness, which tells the mind where the body begins and ends, and with how much force and through what line of motion to move. “Children whose proprioceptive system is not working may find touch extremely alarming since they can’t sense where they’re being touched,” Benbow explains. To help individuals feel more at ease and less “lost,” Benbow places an unbreakable mirror in front of the table so individuals can see which area of the body is being massaged. Weighted lap pads or blankets may also help.
This system is responsible for detecting internal regulation responses, such as breathing, hunger, heart rate, and the need to go to the bathroom. A misfiring interoceptive system makes it difficult to understand emotional reactions. If an individual feels uneasy about a massage, their heart may race, muscles may tense up, breathing may become shallow and their stomach may feel fluttery. When these emotional responses can’t be verbalized, it can be terrifying for the individual on the table, and a total meltdown may follow.
Go with the Flow
Regardless of the massage technique used to help an ASD patient, the key to success rests on following the patient’s lead. Without this ability, massage may never happen.
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*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.