Aspergers in teenagers might affect their quality of life, including social and interpersonal skills, if not treated correctly. Asperger’s syndrome or Asperger’s disorder belongs to the group of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Although not considered a case of severe mental illness, if left untreated, children might find it hard to communicate or act and show repetitive behavior but have good language and cognitive skills (1).
Read on to know about the symptoms, causes, management, and long-term outlook of Asperger’s syndrome in teenagers.
What Does Asperger’s Look Like In Teenagers?
To an untrained individual, a teen with Asperger’s may come across as a neurotypical child behaving differently. Teens with this disorder usually like to follow a monotonous lifestyle and hate any changes in their routines. Also, they may consider themselves a misfit among their peers and show disinterest in interacting with others.
They seem to make little or no eye contact, have few facial expressions, and come across as socially awkward as they may fail to understand conversations, gestures, or sarcasm. A teen with Asperger’s syndrome usually has less severe symptoms than a teen with autism, and they also don’t usually have speech delays (2).
What Are The Symptoms Of Asperger’s Syndrome?
The signs and symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome generally appear in early childhood and develop progressively in adolescence. The symptoms may vary among teenagers; however, some common symptoms include (1) (3):
- Avoiding social interactions and friendships.
- Sensitivity to light and sounds.
- Using nonverbal communication – not being able to converse despite having good language skills.
- Repeating behaviors and having a fixed routine and interests.
- Inability to empathize with others or comprehend typical social norms and instructions.
- Frequent aggressive or eccentric behavior – being frustrated if things don’t happen their way.
- Being emotional about things said to them and being overly sensitive to criticism.
- Difficulty making friends.
What Causes Asperger’s Syndrome In Teenagers?
The exact cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not known. However, experts believe that genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors play a role.
In addition, Pregnancy-related aspects such as older parents during conception, chromosomal abnormalities such as fragile X syndrome, and medications taken by the mother for anxiety or mood disorders might also increase a child’s risk for Asperger’s syndrome (4).
Several genes are associated with Asperger’s syndrome, with the major one being the GABRB3 gene, which is also associated with other Autism spectrum conditions (5). Research is ongoing for understanding the different genetic variations and environmental factors that are potential triggering factors of this syndrome.
Note: Asperger’s syndrome is not caused due to bad parenting, immunization, or other social circumstances.
When To See The Doctor?
- Making friends of their age or speaking or playing with them.
- Communicating; they seem to be awkward and lost.
- Understanding others’ perspectives and feelings.
- Understanding the nuances and depth of a language.
How Is Asperger’s Syndrome Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome is made by a medical professional experienced in studying autism spectrum disorders. It is based on thorough observation and assessment of the teen’s developmental history. In addition, the teen may be questioned to learn about their learning and social abilities, movement skills, and special interests.
The evaluation can take a few years and is usually done at home, school, or in a playroom setup (3). In addition, a doctor may conduct standardized screenings such as autism-specific screening tests and blood or genetic tests to look for any underlying inherited disorders such as fragile X syndrome or hereditary metabolic disorders (7).
What Are The Treatment Options For Asperger’s Syndrome?
A combination of medications and therapies to improve social, behavioral, and communication skills is proven to help teens with this condition.
- Medications: Risperidone and aripiprazole are FDA-approved drugs given to reduce the symptoms and control self-injurious behaviors. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine and paroxetine are effective in reducing repetitive behaviors. Mood stabilizers and stimulants help control hyperactivity and eccentric behavior in teens (7) (8).
These drugs must be taken under the supervision of your child’s psychologist or doctor, as they pose a risk of side effects.
- Alternative therapies: Cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and applied behavior analysis-based therapies may be recommended to help the teen build social skills and independent living skills such as punctuality and grooming.
- Other therapies include intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, individualized educational programs, auditory integration training, and specialized diet therapy (8). These therapies are not widely used as they are still being researched. Hence, you may consult the child’s physician before proceeding with any of these therapies to provide a personalized treatment regimen according to the child’s requirements.
Is There A Cure For Asperger’s Syndrome?
There is no cure for Asperger’s Syndrome (3). However, timely diagnosis can help you take the necessary steps to avert any potential risks. Moreover, with a vast range of treatment options available, it is now possible to treat and manage the condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can Asperger’s get worse in the teenage years?
There is a lack of sufficient information to prove this hypothesis. Nevertheless, if the teen has Aspergers along with other mental health problems or psychiatric conditions, their symptoms may increase (10).
2. Can you discipline a teenager with Asperger’s?
To discipline your teenager with Aspergers, you may try these tips (11):
- Maintain good communication and a healthy relationship with your teen
- Set realistic and clear rules and tell them the consequences of following or not following them
- Have a fixed routine for all their habits and interests
- Educate them about the essential skills to deal with difficult situations
- Do not forget to reward them for following appropriate behaviors
3. Does Asperger’s affect the physical appearance of teenagers?
Although it is not well known whether Asperger’s syndrome could impact the physical appearance of teens, one study discovered that boys with the Autism spectrum disorders showed distinctive facial characteristics compared to their typically developing peers (12).
Asperger’s syndrome is a mild form of autism and isn’t considered a severe psychiatric condition. However, if your child finds it difficult to cope with essential skills and academics, screening for Asperger’s becomes essential. Early diagnosis will aid in identifying and implementing tailored treatments and interventions that help the teen maximize their potential to learn, become socially active, and achieve a better quality of life (9). Its is worthwhile to remember that the earlier interventions are started, the better the outcome.
- A teen with Aspergers may avoid social interactions, be sensitive to criticism, and use more non-verbal communication.
- Although Asperger’s falls under autism spectrum disorders (ASD), it is not a severe illness.
- It is diagnosed by a medical professional by observing the teen and after conducting screening tests.
- The treatment includes medication and other alternative therapies to holistically improve the teen’s life.
- Asperger’s Syndrome.
- Asperger’s Syndrome.
- Asperger’s Syndrome.
- Asperger’s Syndrome.
- Varun Warrier et al.; (2013); Genetic variation in GABRB3 is associated with Asperger syndrome and multiple endophenotypes relevant to autism.
- Autism and adults.
- Stephen Brian Sulkes, MD Autism Spectrum Disorders.
- Melissa DeFilippis and Karen Dineen Wagner; (2016); Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents.
- Susan L. Hyman, et al.; (2020); Myers, Identification, Evaluation, and Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- B Mirkovic and P Gerardin; (2019); Asperger’s syndrome: What to consider?
- Discipline strategies for autistic children and teenagers.
- Kristina Aldridge et al., (2011); Facial phenotypes in subgroups of prepubertal boys with autism spectrum disorders are correlated with clinical phenotypes.