Asperger’s syndrome is currently a subgroup on the autism spectrum. Some of its characteristics include difficulty with social interactions, restricted interests, desire for sameness, remarkable focus and persistence, and attention to detail, among others. That’s where Asperger’s test for kids comes in handy. Let’s take a deeper look into what an Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis entails, and how this diagnosis is done.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to emit a diagnosis on a mental disorder. To have a veridical and correct diagnosis of a mental disorder, the patient must meet the criteria established by this manual.
The DSM-V (the fifth and most recent edition of the manual released in 2013, with updates from the last edition), classifies Asperger’s syndrome as part of one umbrella diagnosis, the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It’s predecessor, DSM-IV-TR (2000), separated Asperger’s syndrome and autism disorder as part of the five pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs).
For this reason, we will use Asperger’s syndrome and ASD as interchangeable terms in this article.
According to the DSM-V, to diagnose ASD, the patient must have two broad characteristics: difficulty in social communication, and restricted, repetitive behavior or interests. It’s important that the patient must meet both criteria to have the diagnosis.
They also require the symptoms to be present since the early developmental period (childhood), even if they are not noticed until later on, and they have to cause significant impairment in important areas of current functioning.
Difficulty in social communication includes
- Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, like not being able to hold a back-and-forth conversation, or not sharing interests or emotion with others.
- Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors, for example, not being able to hold eye contact or not understanding gestures.
- Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, such as difficulty in making friends.
Restricted, repetitive behavior or interests are defined as
- Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech, like lining up toys or repeating words.
- Insistence in sameness, with extreme distress at small changes and rigid thinking patterns.
- Highly restricted and fixated interests with abnormal intensity and focus.
- Very high or low reactivity to sensory stimuli, or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment, for example, apparent indifference to pain or temperature, adverse response to specific sounds, or visual fascination with lights or movement.
This is the criteria used by mental health care providers to make the diagnosis, but how do they know if a patient meets all the characteristics? They use standardized tests to help themselves gather information.
There are a number of Asperger’s test for kids. For example, The Childhood Autism Spectrum Test or CAST (formerly the “Childhood Asperger’s Syndrome Test”) is an autism questionnaire for parents, that was developed by the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Other test includes the Autism Spectrum Quotient for children or the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers.
These and other tests are available online and can be used in a non-clinical environment for parents to determine if they need to see a specialist and to help physicians make a diagnosis.
Also Read: Signs of Autism in Toddlers Age 2
Asperger’s in adults test
Asperger’s in adults may be expressed clinically different than it does in children. As we mentioned earlier, the diagnosis is mostly done during childhood, and one of the requirements to meet the criteria is that the symptoms are present since the early stages of development.
But, if the diagnosis is not made during childhood, professionals have to know the ways to get to the diagnosis in adulthood. This is where Asperger’s test in adults comes in.
Like in childhood, the only people that can diagnose this mental disorder are mental health care professionals. They do this, similarly, by gathering enough information to conclude that the patient meets the criteria established on the DSM-V.
The test used in adults must be different than the ones used in children. By being in a completely different developmental stage, the parameters used for the difficulty in social communication and restricted, repetitive behavior or interests are different.
The way adults interact, communicate and relate to other people is inherently different than the way kids do. For example, relationships in childhood are limited to making friends, while adults build romantic and sexual relationships in addition to friendships.
Also, adults have to work and keep jobs, while children play with toys and their friends. The interests, rigid thinking patterns, and repetitive motor movements will be represented differently in adults, as well.
Some symptoms shown by adults are: turning conversations to your specific topic of interest, unable to recognize if the listener is bored or uninterested or including too much detail or specifics in everything.
As well as childhood Asperger’s, there are a number of tests used for adults. The most used is the Adult Asperger Assessment (AAA) used by professionals to make a diagnosis. Other tests include Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the Empathy Quotient (EQ), used mostly for screening.
What is a mild form of Asperger’s?
It’s logical that severe cases of autism are diagnosed more easily and at the early stages of childhood. The symptoms are more apparent and draw more attention to them. But, what about mild cases?
3 Levels of ASD
The DSM-V classifies ASD according to its severity in three levels:
- Level one “requiring support”,
- Level two “requiring substantial support”,
- Level three “requiring very substantial support”.
Level one is what is often referred to as “mild Asperger” or, the more updated version, “high-functioning autism”. These are not a diagnosis, but they are used to talk about patients with the mildest form of ASD (level one).
People at this level of ASD are diagnosed because they have some difficulty in social communication and some repetitive and restrictive habits. But, what qualifies them as high-functioning, is their ability to have a good performance in school and hold a job.
They still show symptoms like being unable to create relationships or communicate effectively, but these symptoms don’t prevent them from achieving goals, complete tasks, and become independent.
Sometimes these manifestations are so mild that they can go unnoticed, and the apparent social awkwardness is labeled as just that. Peers and colleagues might just deem them “weird and awkward”, but in reality they fall into the diagnosis of ASD with a level one severity.
In recent years, the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome has increased. People might think that more kids are being born with ASD when in reality professionals are just making more diagnoses. This could be due to the fact that advances in research and studies, we are being able to detect more mild cases.
The detection and support of level one ASD patients are crucial to their optimal quality of life. Even when considered “high-functioning”, they still need support from their families and peers, and that can only happen by making a correct and prompt diagnosis.
Differences between Asperger’s and autism
As we explained at the beginning of the article, currently Asperger’s syndrome and autism disorder fall into the same condition known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as established by the DSM-V. In fact, throughout this article we’ve used the terms “Asperger’s syndrome” and “ASD/autism” as synonyms.
But, there was a time where these were different entities. Why was that? What were the key differences between the two before the 2013 DSM update?
Asperger’s syndrome was first described in the 1940s by Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician. He observed and described patients with autism-like symptoms, and after that many professionals considered this syndrome as a synonym for “high-functioning autism”.
This was due to the fact that Asperger’s syndrome was just a mild form of autism, where the difference was the lower severity of the symptoms and the absence of language delays.
Children with Asperger’s syndrome, for example, showed interest in fitting in and interacting with other kids but didn’t know the way to do so accordingly. In contrast, kids diagnosed with autism were characteristically uninterested in others.
The major difference is the absence of language delay in kids with Asperger. They actually have good language skills, but had unusual patterns, like a rhythmic nature or being too formal.
Another distinction between the two is that, by definition, a patient diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome couldn’t have a clinically significant cognitive delay, while this could be comorbidity found in kids with autism.
A lot of years have passed since the first description of this syndrome, and a lot of changes have been made to its definition and diagnosis criteria. But, the most important one occurred in 2013 when it was practically erased to be a part of a broader disorder, ASD.
Is Asperger’s genetic?
The cause of ASD is not fully understood yet. Like most conditions and diseases, it may have a multifactorial Etiology. However, there’s a sufficient scientific basis to state that it does run in the family.
Even though it has a strong genetics basis, the way it’s inherited is complex. This is believed to be caused by the way environmental factors influence the expression or not of the specific gene linked to the syndrome.
This means that, even if a person inherits the genetic information that increases the risk of developing Asperger’s syndrome, the environmental factors also play a role in whether or not the condition will be developed.
Genetic scientists have found many different genes associated with an increased risk of Asperger’s syndrome, and are working every day to have a better understanding of the way genetics influence the development or not of this condition.
For this reason, professionals can’t say that a child will develop ASD because of a diagnosis in the family, but they can see it as a risk factor, and take a closer look at the behavior of that kid. Therefore, the family history of mental conditions is important when professionals are trying to make a diagnosis.
Famous people with Asperger’s
As we stated before, Asperger’s syndrome is believed to be more common than decades ago, due to the recognition and diagnosis of more cases, and paying attention to mild forms of the syndrome.
Needless to say, ASD is more common than what a lot of people think. According to the World Health Organization, in 2019, one in 160 children have ASD. This shows how normal and frequent people with this condition are, and how much they can achieve.
Plenty of famous people who have accomplished wonderful things have an Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis. One good example is Susan Boyle, the British singer who impressed the public by singing a rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from the Broadway show Les Misérables in her audition for Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.
Academy award-winning actor, Sir Anthony Hopkins is another great example of how a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome is no impediment. Winning multiple awards and being knighted by the Queen, being one of the most acclaimed actors of our time, and playing such an iconic role as Hannibal Lecter in ‘Silence of the Lambs’, Sir Hopkins shows how much you can achieve with ASD.
Other famous people with this diagnosis include legendary artist Andy Warhol, singer Courtney Love, and actor Dan Aykroyd.
In conclusion, we have revised the current definition of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the difference between autism and Asperger’s syndrome, which are currently considered the same. We also stand out how useful and important Asperger’s test for kids are.
These are crucial for professionals to gather information, and for parents to assess the need for professional attention. Also, we conclude the importance of family history with mental conditions for professionals to approach a patient. A prompt and correct diagnosis during childhood is needed for the person to get the necessary support from their family, which will guarantee a high quality of life.
Even if the diagnosis is not made during childhood, the correct use of adult Asperger’s test by health care providers is beneficial and, even if made later in life, can help provide the person and their family the tools necessary to lead a fulfilling life.