The ABCs of Asperger's Syndrome: An A-to-Z Guide to Understanding the Symptoms of Asperger's

One woman and her grandson use the alphabet to explain personal perspectives on this mild form of autism.
Josephine Mele with grandson Nick

Asperger's (ASP) is a type of mild autism; kids with Asperger's might have unusual behaviors, even though they don't have language or intellect problems. To help parents better understand the symptoms and behaviors of Asperger's syndrome, I wrote this alphabet with help from my 10-year-old grandson, Nick, who was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 6. He is clever, warm, honest, helpful, bright, and thinks outside of the box. Nick refers to Asperger's as his "problem" and often wishes he didn't have it. Nick would love it if everyone had information about Asperger's. "If they just gave me a chance, they would see that I am really very interesting and I know a lot of interesting stuff."

According to findings from Centers for Disease Control, published in 2012, Asperger's and other autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect an average of 1 in 88 children in the U.S. Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop an ASD and that poor parenting does not cause ASD behavior. Many historical figures have shown symptoms of Asperger's, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Thomas Jefferson.

Kids with ASP are often socially and physically awkward; they may have attention problems, difficulty making friends, and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics. A child with one or two of these symptoms, though, may not have Asperger's. To be diagnosed, a child must have a combination of symptoms and significant trouble with social situations that affect family, friends, self-esteem, or schoolwork. Ask your child's pediatrician and school psychologist for help in testing your child. Many kids with ASP need medication to help with concentration, aggression, or depression some time in their life. But over time, with the right help, kids often improve and can begin to learn how to read social cues.

Here, we offer different points of view about Asperger's -- mine from an academic perspective, Nick's from a personal one. Our hope is that this alphabet will help other families be more aware and educated about Asperger's so they can help children learn to interact more successfully despite any differences.

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