Asperger Syndrome (AS) is an old name for autism spectrum disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Children with AS develop spoken language before three and a half years of age, while children with classic autism have later language acquisition, or may never speak.
Many people with autism are highly attuned to certain sounds, textures, tastes, and smells. Additionally, senses of balance and pressure can be dysregulated. Things the rest of us do not notice can be very painful or disruptive to a person with autism.
Many sensory issues, combined with communication deficits, can lead to challenging behaviors as the person attempts to get away from or block confusing or unpleasant sensory experiences.
Be aware that your person with autism may not be aware of, or not able tell you about:
- Medical problems such as ear infections or appendicitis.
- Dental problems.
- Sprains or even broken bones.
- Burning themselves with hot water, while cooking, or by touching other hot items.
Children with autism often have feeding issues. Whether due to food intolerances, or because of sensory differences (including issues with texture, taste, temperature, pressure, or chewing noises), getting proper nutrition can be a challenge. Additionally, since people with autism often have poor oral motor skills, they may be susceptible to choking on certain foods.
Mental Health Issues
People with autism often suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar illness, and other mental health issues. Sometime there is a biological predisposition to these; others may develop these conditions out of their constant struggle to cope with the world around them. Stressors include:
- Feeling Lonely.
- Suffering from bullying or abuse.
- Becoming concerned that they are different from other people.
- Developing a growing awareness of their disability.
- Finding it difficult to form relationships or take part in social activities.
- Grieving the loss of a loved one.
- Experiencing feelings of sexual frustration.
- Having a string of perceived failures.
If you perceive that the person with autism is a danger to themselves or others, call 911 for immediate assistance.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
People on the autism spectrum often suffer from ADHD. For more information, visit Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).
Motor and Vocal Tics
Tics are repetitive movements or noises the person can control for a short time but not forever. Researchers have found that there is a significant overlap between autism and tics (which are often temporary) or longer-lasting Tourette syndrome. Drawing attention (“stop clearing your throat!”) only recycles the brain activity and produces more tics. For more information, contact National Tourette Syndrome Association.
Intellectual Disability Disorder (IDD)
Many children with autism have some degree of intellectual impairment. Perceptual and processing speed may be delayed, making the person appear less intelligent than they actually are. Contact us if you need help finding professionals who specialize in IQ testing for people with ASD.
Seizures or Epilepsy
Seizures, caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, can produce a temporary loss of consciousness (a “blackout”), body convulsions, unusual movements, or laughing or staring spells. 25% of people with autism have seizures, often starting either in early childhood or adolescence.
Some triggers for epilepsy can be: lack of sleep, a painful injury, strobe lights, or fever. An EEG test (electrodes applied to the scalp) can help confirm a diagnosis. Sometimes video monitoring combined with the EEG (done in an overnight hospital stay) helps with diagnosis. In most cases, seizures can be controlled with medication. For more information, contact the Epilepsy Foundation of Western/Central Pennsylvania.
Fragile X Syndrome can, but does not always, cause a child to have autism or autistic-like characteristics. Between 2% and 6% of autism is caused by a Fragile X gene mutation. You may want to request that your doctor test for Fragile X Syndrome. To learn more about Fragile X and autism, call 1-800-688-8765, or visit National Fragile X Foundation.
Tuberous Sclerosis (TS) is a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow in the brain as well as in other organs. Most cases are due to new mutations, so there usually is no known family history of the disease.
The person with TS may have white patches on the skin with a confetti appearance, red patches on the face consisting of many blood vessels, or raised “orange peel” patches of skin, most often found on the back. TS can cause intellectual disability, autism, and seizure disorders. Tubers can also grow in the kidneys and heart. For more information, call 1-800-225-6872, or visit Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.