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November 2005

Asperger's syndrome: The "invisible" autism

Rhonda Brunett and Wendy Williams
Parents of children with austism

Some kids may be misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A number of people have the idea that people with autism are so profoundly affected that they can't talk. If they are talkers, many assume that they converse like Dustin Hoffman's character in "Rain Man." But autism involves a wide spectrum. Asperger's Syndrome is an autistic disorder that is at the high-functioning end of the spectrum.

Many refer to those who have Asperger's Syndrome as having a "dash" of autism, or "mild" autism. However, there is nothing mild about this syndrome. Many children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at an early age have been misdiagnosed. Rather, they should have received the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.

A wiring issue

Asperger's Syndrome is a neurological condition. The brain is wired differently, making this disorder a lifelong condition. It affects communication, social interaction and sensory issues. Asperger's is often referred to as the "invisible syndrome" because of the internal struggles these children have without outwardly demonstrating any real noticeable symptoms. Thus, difficultly assessing someone with Asperger's Syndrome is even more impacted. In fact people with Asperger's have average to above-average intelligence, and are even referred to as "little professors."

Children with this disorder struggle with a problem and internalize their feelings until their emotions boil over, leading to a complete meltdown. These outbursts are not a typical temper tantrum; for children with Asperger's Syndrome (and for their parents), these episodes are much worse.

Many Asperger's children may appear under receptive or over receptive to sensory stimulation and therefore may be suspected of having vision or hearing problems. Therefore, it's not unusual for parents or teachers to recommend hearing and vision tests. Some children may avoid gentle physical contact such as hugs, yet they react positively to rough-and-tumble games. Some Asperger's children have a high pain tolerance, yet they may not like to walk barefoot in grass.

Early intervention is key

If any developmental delays are presenting themselves, early assessment is critical, which means being evaluated for a preschool screening. Before the age of three years old early intervention is KEY for vast improvement possibilities.

Every child deserves a chance to succeed in school and deserves a great experience when it comes to their education. It's unfortunate that many children with Asperger's are either diagnosed later in life or they are pushed through the school system. Along the way, they are often referred to as weird, odd or very different from the other children. Because of their often above-average intellect, some of these children could be future CEO's, scientists, or other prestigious professionals. This is a silver lining for weary parents.

Take away tips: Characteristics of children with Asperger's Syndrome
Autism resources

There are numerous online resources, books and support groups that can help those concerned or who want to become better educated on the subject of autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

Asperger's coaches

In Illinois, many parents are turning to Asperger's coaches for help and support. To learn more about autism/Asperger coaches visit the Asperger's Tips web site.

From Autism To All-Star

Rhonda Brunett is author of the book, From Autism To All-Star (see book review for more details) or go to the From Austism to All Star web site for the story of one families journey with autism.

Autism One radio

Rhonda Brunett and Wendy Williams also gave a radio interview to Terri Small on Autism One internet radio. The audio file can be listened to online or downloaded to an MP3 player or iPod.

Autism One radio is a worldwide, web-based radio station for the care, treatment, and recovery of children with Autism. is a new web site for (and run by) people on the Autistic Spectrum. Its aim is to provide an opportunity for people with autism to market their skills directly to the public and seek employment. Its free for people to list themselves so spread the word!

Google links

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