Asperger's Syndrome was first identified in 1944, but was only officially recognized as a diagnostic category in the DSM IV in 1994. As a result, many children were misdiagnosed over the years as ADD/HD, Autistic, OCD or even schizophrenic.
Many different terms are currently applied, leading to great confusion on the part of parents and educators. Asperger's Syndrome may also be referred to as High Functioning Autism (HFA), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD - NOS), Atypical PDD or even Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD).
There is still debate as to exactly how Asperger's Syndrome should be classified. In addition, it is not always an easy, clear cut diagnosis to make. As a result, diagnostic errors continue to be made and this often affects treatment, as well as access to appropriate help and information.
Parents may find themselves going from one doctor to another, becoming more and more confused and frustrated in their attempts to help their child. (See bottom of the page for information about natural modalities for Asperger's Syndrome)
What’s it look like?
"You’re a geek!"
There you have it. In the cruel words of children, lies the literal “translation” or “look” of a disorder even professionals have had difficulty accurately diagnosing and labelling.
A Definition: A Mystery
It is estimated that 1 child in every 300 may have the neurobiological disorder, which was first described by Viennese physician, Hans Asperger's, 60 years ago, and has only recently been recognized by professionals and parents.
Asperger's Syndrome (or Disorder) is a pattern of behaviour in which the child has average, even extraordinary intelligence, but is significantly lacking in what we now call "social intelligence."
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder which is classified as one of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). It is characterized by significant impairment in social interaction, as well as the development of repetitive and restricted fields of interest, activities and interests.
While there are some similarities with Autism, people with Asperger's usually have average to above average IQ, and do not demonstrate clinically significant delays in language or self help skills.
While they may have an extremely good command of language and have a very rich vocabulary, they are unable to use language appropriately in a social context and often speak in a monotone, with little nuance and inflection in their voice.
Children with Asperger's may or may not seek out social interaction, but always have difficulty in interpreting and learning the skills of social and emotional interaction with others, leading to significant impairment in relationships and peer interaction.
Although parents often notice problems at an early age, diagnosis is usually made during preschool age or later. While both boys and girls can have Asperger's, the syndrome is more common in boys.
"Does My Child Have Asperger’s?"
What we do know about the Syndrome is, these kids appear to "march to a different drummer" and are often victims of teasing, even bullying from peers, and negative misjudgements from annoyed adults who see this as a “disciplinary” issue. As we’ve said above, each child keeps his own “beat,” therefore; the Asperger’s diagnosis should never be based upon hurried assumptions by parents or professionals. The finding must involve expert consultation, testing, observation, and a process of elimination, along with exploration into accompanying problems (e.g.: learning or other psychiatric disorders), if any.
But ... the process starts with you, the parent, and your observations, along with those of the school, and yes, the reaction the child gets from peers. Once again, we caution that only an expert can diagnose. The following are meant to be general guidelines. Should your child exhibit the following to the degree that they send up a gut red flag reaction, consult a health expert?
"But I just want to be your friend!" is a common cry. Yet she doesn’t seem to know how to go about it effectively. Social cues don’t translate, so in a flurry, she may barge into games, interrupt, talk incessantly without listening, have one-sided conversations, hover, get upset over rules, such as sharing or taking turns.
The world looks, sounds and feels different. Light and sound may bombard his senses -- even those other people may not even perceive. Similarly, things may “feel” or taste funny.
She’s Stuck. Whether preoccupied and/or obsessive, she resists tearing herself away from a passion, and/or changing the drill -- even for a better one! We had a 13-year-old child in one group, for example, who was obsessed with dinosaurs. Another knew every statistic about the Titanic, and still another all about the White Socks. While their knowledge is gargantuan and often impressive to adults, their pre-occupations and problems changing activities don’t “make” it in the peer group, where they’re perceived as “acting superior,” weird or geeks.
The Little Professor. Even with often an advanced vocabulary, he’s clueless how to use it to engage others socially. Words may be rigid, “perfect,” but not responsive or inviting. In fact, he may come across as having a bad “attitude.” He often takes language literally, missing the nuances, including humour, and may return a joke with sarcasm -- only to get a sock in the mouth!
The wardens. She is the “keeper of the rules.” While most children understand the range of give and take regarding rules, she is often unbending and imposes inflexibility on her peers.
Show and Tell. The classic “Pick me!” hand-waving seems to pass her by. “John,” in one of our groups, had just returned from an amazing exotic trip, but we had to pull the exciting details, as he lacks the spontaneous ability to share his excitement and accomplishments. Or----he is so full of details, he bombards his audience with minutia, not realizing the audience has fled the room.
MEMEME. He often has a problem getting the concept of “You give --I give back.” He lacks the notion of social and emotional reciprocity.
The Moves. She hasn’t got them (or has too many). Whether she appears clumsy, has odd mannerisms (hand twisting, finger flapping), or typically, her eyes dart or lower, rather than meet the gaze of another, she sends the message -- “avoid.” We believe lack of eye contact may be due to the hyper-stimulation of the immediate surrounding, social anxiety, or hyper-focus on something that has caught her interest or attention.
What are the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) lists the following symptoms for diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome (p77)
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behaviour (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood
F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia
What are the causes of Asperger's Syndrome?
While there is as yet no clear evidence as to the causes of Asperger's Syndrome, there may be certain 'triggers' which may precipitate the condition.
These include environmental factors like pollution, food intolerances (particularly to foods containing wheat, gluten, sugar and dairy products), digestive problems and even childhoodvaccinations (particularly the MMRI).
There are also suggestions that Asperger's Syndrome may sometimes be linked to high levels of Candida in the gut.
One thing is sure - Asperger's is NOT caused by bad parenting or problems in the family! It is unfortunate that many parents have been made to feel guilty for a neurological disorder which is not their fault.
“Some of these sound like my Billy ...”
If this “feels” like your child, or he shows elements of the behaviour(s) above, Better Living Resources recommends you find a competent health practitioner, skilled in neurobiological disorders, to assess your child, work with you on management, and “next steps” -- at home, in school, and therapeutically.
Professional Assessment for Asperger’s ...
Is there a cure for Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome can currently not be cured and the condition is lifelong. However, with correct treatment and therapy, many people with Asperger's can go on to lead normal lives and may even excel in certain areas of occupational functioning.
Asperger’s Disorder: FAQs & Myth-Busting!
Q: Most teachers, counsellors, and practitioners are familiar with Asperger’s kids.
A: Unfortunately, the answer is no. Many are unfamiliar with the Syndrome and have difficulty managing Asperger’s children. Some teachers are often confused when “smart” kids cannot seem to perform to their intellectual capacity. Frequently, we find a full day of school sends them into stress or overdrive -- and homework suffers.
Q. Asperger’s kids are loners who prefer it that way.
A. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many deeply desire friendships, but simply fail to know how to engage other children. From saying hello, to getting along, they have difficulty interpreting social cues and responding appropriately. Often, if they have friends, they may be older, protective buddies (the future social workers), younger children -- or a nurturing adult.
Q. If these kids are “autistic” are they retarded?
A. Not only are they “normal” intellectually, many are highly intelligent, even gifted in specific areas. Their special interests may make them especially intriguing and stimulating to adults who are impressed with their focus and command of the literal language and degree of knowledge.
Q. “I’ve heard that many of these kids become depressed or develop other problems later in life. Is that true?”
A. Sadly, when not well-managed, the stigma and social isolation can have a serious effect on children who have been bullied and teased, which is why early treatment is imperative to give these children every advantage.
Q. “My aunt calls my son ‘rude’ and blames me as the parent. Is she right?”
A. Absolutely not! This is a neurobiological disorder and has nothing to do with “bad parenting.” There are, however, things a parent can do, to help the situation.
Can Asperger's Syndrome be treated?
While there is no specific treatment or 'cure' for Asperger's Syndrome, there are many interventions which can significantly improve the functioning and quality of life of people and children with Asperger's.
Social Skills Training
This should be one of the most important components of a treatment program. Children with Asperger's Syndrome can be helped to learn social skills by an experienced psychologist. Body language and nonverbal communication can be taught in much the same way as one would teach a foreign language.
Children with Asperger's can learn to interpret nonverbal expressions of emotion and social interaction. This can assist them with social interaction and peer relationships and prevent the isolation and depression that often occurs as they enter adolescence.
Teenagers can sometimes benefit from group therapy and can be taught how to use the teenage 'slang' and language forms of their peer groups.
Because children with Asperger's Syndrome may differ widely in terms of IQ and ability levels, schools should learn to individualize educational programs for these children.
Some of them may cope well in a mainstream class with additional support, while others may need to receive specialized education. In all cases, teachers should be aware of the special needs of Asperger's children, who often need a great deal more support than first appears necessary.
Children can benefit from play therapy and 'story' therapy aimed at raising awareness of nonverbal communication, development and teaching of empathy and learning of social skills.
There are strong suggestions that changes in diet may significantly reduce the symptoms of some children with Asperger's Disorder.
Many parents report that their children become much more manageable when certain classes of food are eliminated from the diet. These include dairy products, sugar, gluten, wheat and most artificial colorants and preservatives like MSG and tartrazine.
It is worthwhile consulting a trained nutritionist to assist with dietary intervention and parents should not simply eliminate important foods from their children's diets without expert advice.
Psychopharmacological Interventions or Drug Therapy
Most children and adults with Asperger's Disorder do not need any form of medication. While there are no specific 'Asperger's' drugs, psychiatric drugs have been used to treat some of the problems which may manifest or be associated with Asperger's, such as ADD/HD, depression, mood swings, temper tantrums, irritability, aggression, obsessions and compulsive behaviours and anxiety.
Like many psychiatric drugs, these often come with unwanted side effects and the risk of addiction and their benefits should always be weighed against the potential harm they could cause, particularly in the case of children.
It is also important to realize that there are effective herbal and homeopathic alternatives to many of the prescription drugs. [See below for Better Living Resources’ suggestions.]
Here are some of the strategies Better Living Resources uses and recommends for the Asperger’s child.
The “Special” in Your Special Needs Child
We now know that some of our most eccentric, brilliant, “clumsy,” socially backward, forgetful -- yet extraordinary people -- may have been Asperger’s children. That is not to say that all will be absent-minded rocket scientists, but we believe that every child has a special destiny, and it’s our job as parents, counsellors and educators, to teach each how to work through difficulty and access his unique gifts with confidence and character!
Caring for any child is exhausting, but caring for a special needs child can take a huge toll on the entire family. If you have an Asperger’s child, we strongly recommend you find a support group where you can share and vent your own feelings. As parents, we have a strong responsibility to remain strong and alert and always ‘ready’ for our special children – therefore Better Living Resources strongly recommends that all parents embark on the same “Natural Alternatives” program that we have set out for the Asperger’s Child at the bottom of this article. It will help to keep you well, positive and relaxed!
Watch The Diet
Asperger’s can be aided by a gluten-free, casein-free diet.
Better Living Resources recommends this new diet, as up to 8 in 10 autistic and Asperger’s children will benefit greatly.
Just a year ago, the evidence was largely anecdotal, but now the "Defeat Autism Now!" Protocol recommends that every autistic child be placed on a gluten-free, casein-free diet for at least 3 months. Here is what one mum says about the impact the diet has had on her son:
"Hello! I really love your website -- what a lifesaver it is to us since our autistic 3 year old began the GFCF [gluten-free casein-free] diet! We are seeing AMAZING results -- after only 6 months, our little one who never had met an IEP goal at school, has now met all his speech and occupational goals and we have to do another meeting with his therapists! Wow! - D. Thanks so much!"
Connection between gluten-free, casein-free diets (gfcf) and autism/Asperger’s.
Briefly, gluten is a protein, and so is casein. Gluten is a protein fraction found in all wheat, rye, barley, and most oat products. Casein is a protein fraction found in all dairy products. To most Autistic children, gluten and casein are the equivalent of poison. They leak into the gut, undigested, and attach to the opiate receptors of the autistic's brain. Essentially, many autistic children are "drugged" on wheat and milk products, as if they were on a morphine drip.
Although parents have been reporting a connection between autism and diet for decades, there is now a growing body of research that shows that certain foods seem to be affecting the developing brains of some children and causing autistic behaviours. This is not because of allergies, but because many of these children are unable to properly break down certain proteins.
Researchers in England, Norway, and at the University of Florida had previously found peptides (breakdown products of proteins) with opiate activity in the urine of a high percentage of autistic children. Opiates are drugs, like morphine, which affect brain function. These findings have recently been confirmed by researchers at the Ortho Clinical Diagnostics. The two main offenders seem to be gluten (the protein in wheat, oats, rye and barley) and casein (milk protein.)
Is your autistic/Asperger’s child addicted to gluten and wheat?
"But milk and wheat are the only two foods my child will eat. His diet is completely comprised of milk, cheese, cereal, pasta, and bread. If I take these away, I'm afraid he'll starve," …
… There may be a good reason your child "self-limits" to these foods. Opiates, like opium, are highly addictive. If this "opiate excess" explanation applies to your child, then he is actually addicted to those foods containing the offending proteins. Although it seems as if your child will starve if you take those foods away, many parents report that after an initial "withdrawal" reaction, their children become more willing to eat other foods. After a few weeks, many children surprise their parents by further broadening their diets.
But what will my child do without milk?
Australians have been raised to believe that this milk is essential to good health, largely due to the efforts of the Australian Dairy Board, and many parents seem to believe that it is their duty to feed their children as much cow's milk as possible. However, lots of perfectly healthy children do very well without it. Cow's milk has been called "the world's most overrated nutrient" and "fit only for baby cows." There is even evidence that the cow hormone present in dairy actually blocks the absorption of calcium in humans. Be careful. Removing dairy means ALL milk, butter, cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, etc. It also includes product ingredients such as "casein" and "whey," or even words containing the word "casein." Read labels - items like bread and tuna fish often contain milk products. Even soy cheese usually contains caseinate.
How can I possibly eliminate the thousands of products that contain gluten?
Many might be willing to try removing dairy products from their child's diet, but don't think they could handle removing gluten. It seems like a lot of work, and they're so busy already. Many people wonder if this is really necessary. However, what you need to understand is that for certain children, these foods are toxic to their brains. For some, removing gluten may be far more important than removing dairy products. You would never knowingly feed your child poison, but if he fits into this category that is exactly what you could be doing. It is possible that for this subgroup of people with autism and Asperger’s, eating these foods is actually damaging the developing brain.
The Latest Recommendations
Better Living Resources highly recommends that parents try the gluten-free, casein-free diet for at least 3 months. It may take that long to see results, and you MAY NOT cheat. Gluten is virtually everywhere, hidden in thousands of foods you would never think of: soups, sauces, candy, cereals, breads, pastas, cookies, etc. Likewise, casein is present in ALL forms of dairy, including but not limited to, cheese, creams, many sauces, butter, yogurt, ice cream, anything with whey, caseinate, etc.
The gluten-free, casein-free diet is challenging, but it can make a tremendous difference. We often receive phone calls where parents break down in tears as they recount the improvements seen in their child. It is not at all uncommon to hear reports that an autistic or Asperger’s child made eye contact with their parent for the first time, or that he/she was able to attend a "normal" school for the first time. One parent struggled to tell us that her 4 year old used to stand in a corner and beat his head against a wall, but within 4 weeks of the diet, he was able to play outside with other children.
Let it be said that this diet will not affect every child, and may not have dramatic effects if it does. There is no harm in trying it, and so long as you don't let your child ingest ANY gluten or casein for 6 weeks, you will know whether improvement occurs. If it is too traumatizing to eliminate gluten and casein at the same time, first eliminate casein (all dairy products) and then gradually eliminate gluten (all wheat, rye, barley, and oat products). What is of utmost importance is to realize that the diet is all or nothing, however. Minute traces of either protein in your child's diet may set you back a week or more.
Some children, after being on the diet for several months, will actually know if they accidentally ingest gluten or casein. One parent reported that her son, accidentally eating a wheat-containing cookie, told her, "The bad person is inside of me, Mommy." You can see how profound the implications of accidental gluten or casein ingestion can be.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies are viable alternatives to the synthetic drugs and may be just as effective, with far fewer risks and side effects.
Depending on the symptoms that need treatment, Better Living Resources recommends the following remedies to assist in an overall treatment plan.
general tonic for health and vitality
The systematic depletion of agricultural soils has brought about an era whereby the fruits and vegetables that are being presented for our consumption are typically devoid of the minerals that our body needs to build from. This problem is in no small way, a strong contributing factor in ALL the illnesses we are witnessing in these modern times.
Without the minerals, our body cannot function optimally. That is why Better Living Resources strongly recommend that everyone who lives in industrialised countries should be regularly supplementing with all of the minerals (over 60 of them)! A ‘tonic’ consisting of a wide range of minerals that are ionically charged, colloidal and plant derived, will make a huge difference in everyone’s life.
The following herbal remedies will be far more effective if taken with a mineral supplement!
antioxidants for protection
Better Living Resources recommends a powerful combination of a wide range of effective antioxidants. Select a formulation that consists of three levels of antioxidants:
1st Generation: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene.
2nd Generation: Bioflavonoids extracted from grape seeds (oil soluble) and pine bark (water soluble).
3rd Generation: Curcuminoids from the turmeric plant.
multi-vitamin for general health
There are many multi-vitamins on the market and it is essential that anyone with Asperger’s (or anyone at all, for that matter) take a constant supply of vitamins that will be assimilated into the body!
When selecting your pills – of any kind – be sure that they are bio-available! [Place one into a glass of warm water with a small amount of vinegar. If they dissolve quickly … they are okay!]
Ensure that there are good quantities of folate, Vitamins B1, B5 and B6 and Vitamin C. These are all helpful with Asperger’s sufferers. Magnesium and Manganese should also be present in the formulation.
bovine colostrums for immunity and digestive system function
Make sure that the source of Bovine Colostrum is ethical and that the company supplying the product has integrity. The bovine colostrum should come in capsules (not pills – the manufacturing of pills includes heat which will destroy the enzymes) and are slow release.
for depression, mood swings, repetitive behaviours, irritability, and aggression
These may all be symptoms of serotonin imbalance and may show improvement with the use of an effective brand of Noni. (Make sure it is combined with antioxidants to assist the efficacy).
Tests have been performed on Noni that has been extracted from Hawaiian fruit. It has been clinically proven to assist in balancing serotonin levels and act as SSRI's (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) in much the same way as the synthetic SSRI's do.
Tranquilizing drugs may be very effective in calming autistic children and adults, who can easily become highly distressed and volatile over seemingly small changes in their environment. However, many tranquilizing drugs are also addictive and individuals may build up tolerance, resulting in the need for increasingly higher doses.
St John’s Wort is a far better alternative with NO side effects and ZERO tolerance build-up. (Make sure the St John’s Wort is produced by a reputable company and that there has been bona fide testing performed using their product).
for ADHD, hyperactivity and concentration
Like the benzodiazepines and tranquilizing drugs, the psycho-stimulants come with documented side effects and potential for dependency. Yet many parents find it very difficult to deal with Asperger's children who also have symptoms of ADHD, hyperactivity and concentration problems.
For the treatment of hyperactivity, restlessness and lack of concentration, Better Living Resources recommends the use of a potent combination of Essential Fatty Acids (omega-3 and omega-6) from a mix of linseed oil, fish oil (make sure the fish is not mercury contaminated), safflower oil and evening primrose oil.
Many Asperger's children have violent tantrums, sometimes seemingly without cause. Tantrums may often be a result of the child's frustration at being unable to communicate or understand, and may also be a response to changes in routine or environment.
Better Living Resources has seen some dramatic changes in children who are prone to tantrums, when Chinese Geranium, a powerful mind smoothing essential oil, is administered on a regular basis.
You may find more information on this subject in the Booklets entitled "Autism", "Hyperactivity", "Truth Series No7 - Vaccinations", "Vaccinations No1", "Vaccinations No2", and the Booklet"Vaccinations No3; and in the DVDs entitled "To Autism And Back", "Are Vaccines Safe?", "Vaccine Nation", "Shots In The Dark" and "Vaccines... The Risks, The Benefits and The Choices".