(By Sajjad Amin Bangash)
(Special thanks to Anna Cliffe, Glasgow, and Avril Douglas, Perth and Kinross, Scotland for their cooperation in helping me compiling this article.)
Writing for purpose to promote and spread the awareness what makes me happy within myself to help and serve the humanity. All of our problems, issues and concerns are resolved only if our intentions are pure and honest.
After writing couple of articles associated with mental illnesses, I not only enhanced my own knowledge but also my respected readers have benefited from the knowledge and appreciated me a lot which infused more confidence and encouragement.
On the way walking ahead, I met so many precious people. We come to know about our issues, problems and concerns only when we discuss and cooperate with each other in listening to and sharing those issues. We can’t live in an isolated and barren land. Together, we make up a society which is collectively known ‘Human Centric Environment‘.
I am writer and often talk to myself with drenched feelings that ‘I can decorate this world with my words. I love loneliness at times as silence talks aloud. So many ideas start to sit around me, entice me to write on. Ocean full of imagination, issues, problems and concerns compel me to write on with a literal hope that my words will solve them.
Let’s see if my pen can do this. In this article, I am going to write on another mental illness which effects few of our children i.e, ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger Syndrome).
Experts estimate that as many as 1 in 88 children age 8 will have an ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’. Like previous article, I have also talked to a mother whose son had been effected by this Asperger Syndrome and she narrated me about her son’s physical, physiological and social impacts. But before, we get into further discussion that took place between I and Anna Cliffe, let’s first look at as what Asperger Syndrome is, its effects on child’s lifestyle, behavior, physical growth and socio-economic implications etc.
What Is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Motor development may be delayed, leading to clumsiness or uncoordinated motor movements. Compared with those affected by other forms of ASD, however, those with Asperger syndrome do not have significant delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development. Some even demonstrate precocious vocabulary – often in a highly specialized field of interest.
The following behaviors are often associated with Asperger syndrome. However, they are seldom all present in any one individual and vary widely in degree:
• limited or inappropriate social interactions
• “robotic” or repetitive speech
• challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
• tendency to discuss self rather than others
• inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
• lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
• obsession with specific, often unusual, topics
• one-sided conversations
• awkward movements and/or mannerisms
How is Asperger Syndrome diagnosed?
Asperger syndrome often remains undiagnosed until a child or adult begins to have serious difficulties in school, the workplace or their personal lives. Indeed, many adults with Asperger syndrome receive their diagnosis when seeking help for related issues such as anxiety or depression. Diagnosis tends to center primarily on difficulties with social interactions.
Children with Asperger syndrome tend to show typical or even exceptional language development. However, many tend to use their language skills inappropriately or awkwardly in conversations or social situations such as interacting with their peers. Often, the symptoms of Asperger syndrome are confused with those of other behavioral issues such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Indeed, many persons affected by Asperger syndrome are initially diagnosed with ADHD until it becomes clear that their difficulties stem more from an inability to socialize than an inability to focus their attention.
For instance, someone with Asperger syndrome might initiate conversations with others by extensively relating facts related to a particular topic of interest. He or she may resist discussing anything else and have difficulty allowing others to speak. Often, they don’t notice that others are no longer listening or are uncomfortable with the topic. They may lack the ability to “see things” from the other person’s perspective.
Another common symptom is an inability to understand the intent behind another person’s actions, words and behaviors. So children and adults affected by Asperger syndrome may miss humor and other implications. Similarly, they may not instinctively respond to such “universal” nonverbal cues such as a smile, frown or “come here” motion.
For these reasons, social interactions can seem confusing and overwhelming to individuals with Asperger syndrome. Difficulties in seeing things from another person’s perspective can make it extremely difficult to predict or understand the actions of others. They may not pick up on what is or isn’t appropriate in a particular situation. For instance, someone with Asperger syndrome might speak too loudly when entering a church service or a room with a sleeping baby – and not understand when “shushed.”
Some individuals with Asperger syndrome have a peculiar manner of speaking. This can involve speaking overly loud, in a monotone or with an unusual intonation. It is also common, but not universal, for people with Asperger syndrome to have difficulty controlling their emotions. They may cry or laugh easily or at inappropriate times.
Another common, but not universal, sign is an awkwardness or delay in motor skills. As children, in particular, they may have difficulties on the playground because they can’t catch a ball or understand how to swing on the monkey bars despite their peers’ repeated attempts to teach them.
Not all individuals with Asperger syndrome display all of these behaviors. In addition, each of these symptoms tends to vary widely among affected individuals.
It is very important to note that the challenges presented by Asperger Syndrome are very often accompanied by unique gifts. Indeed, a remarkable ability for intense focus is a common trait.
Now, we will examine Asperger Syndrome by a real life experience. I have talked to Anna Cliffe, Glasgow, Scotland and this is what our discussion goes.
“Thank you Anna for your appreciation and encouragement. I have written an article on Dyslexia and ADHD patients in my blog and I want to cover few more of similar topics. We will discuss this peculiar topic, and explore it in a detailed way. I will ask you several questions and you will reply to what you experience with your son. ”
Anna Cliffe politely replied ” That would be great. I’m still learning new things about it all the time. Everyday is a school day!”
My first question was “What are the associated problems that your son faces during his daily routine?”
Anna said ” My son doesn’t have dementia. He has asperger which is a form of Autism.”
I immediately said that ” They’re all interlinked brain associated illnesses. ”
It’s mostly his social skills which trouble him.
He did not cope at all well with school. He has managed, with quite a degree of difficulty, to partake in some short courses run by princes trust etc. but the trouble is he gets bored very easily and he doesn’t seem have the ability to stick at anything for very long.”
I also added few lines as ” inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases”
Anna said ‘Yes”
Moving along discussion, I asked Anna as
“What do think, what are the prime causes of it, is it genetically?
Does he miss humor with his friends and peers and would often consider that my friends are less interested in what I’m saying. So they often get repressed. ”
Anna solidified my question with an answer as
“I’m pretty sure there’s a link with the MMR booster jag. It was around age 3/4 he started displaying difficult behaviour. There is also a possible genetic link. He wasn’t formally diagnosed til he was 15. He is now 21, but with a mental age of 12/13 at times.”
On my question that ” How his sports activities are effected because often he won’t be able to equip himself with the sports skills isn’t it?
She said that ” He sometimes has difficulty understanding if something is meant as humour and reading other peoples body language and interpreting moods, although this has improved with age and experience. He can still display inappropriate responses and behaviour at times. He does like a sports, particularly basketball. However, he is very overweight as he comfort eats a lot.”
I further added my real experience and explained to her that ” I’ve a student Muhammad and they’ve returned from Geneva, Switzerland. He has similar issues and when I first met him, he would laugh even on a serious matter. I worked very hard with him and he managed to pass his English paper in Edexcel. Now, I am teaching him economics and other subjects.”
She appreciated me with a saying ”
That’s amazing! Well done you!”
I further kept on exchanging my own real life experiences as I said ” I’ve seen some boys love to recite Quran and they repeatedly recite. ”
On my question that
“How do you manage to align his aptitude and prepare him for his normal life like you said that he has grown up but still displays some inappropriate behaviors? ”
Anna replied that ” Unfortunately my son has no desire to learn. He seems quite keen to work now though and is undertaking a course to be a security guard. His only other interests are girls, TV and food.
It can be difficult at times. I have 2 other sons aged 17 and 10 who are very understanding most of the time thankfully. He is definitely maturing though. We have not had many problems for the last few years.”
I further added that there are some social and educational programs to teach social and adaptive skills to reinforce adaptive behaviors to people with such illness. ” Have you ever tried that Anna?’
She said that ” Yes! I keep saying to him that if he applied as much effort into studying as he does to chasing girls he would do really well. We were taught to say in response to any inappropriate behaviour in a calm manner that this was not appropriate/acceptable behaviour and give a reason why. This usually works.”
I said that “So when did you come to know that your son has asperger syndrome? ”
“I suspected from the age of 7/8 although he wasn’t diagnosed til 15. The education and medical staff seem to be much better now at assessing than they were back when my son was young.”
On my another question that ” How were his manners during his early age?”
Her reply was ” Bright lights, noise, being told No. He displayed behaviour of a tantrum throwing toddler to extremes at times. He was also very possessive of his belongings, and other peoples. But also very destructive.”
I instantiated my own experience with her is that ” see, my nephew has a friend, he often gets irritated with lights and noise. He often feels shy among his friends. Doesn’t participate in gossip and during shopping, he thinks too much whether to buy something or not and even if he buys, then he would keep asking himself and friends, ‘is this thing good repetitively to justify his decision.”
Anna further elaborated that ” We were not aware of the lights and noise til years later, upon research. He was very shy and he didn’t mix well with other children. He really struggled to join in with social activities. He really disliked his younger brothers when they were young and could be very rough with them. But they get on pretty well now. He would happily buy whatever he pleased and did not like to be stopped from going so!”
I put another question ” One common problem with Asperger patients is their speaking manner i.e speaking overly loud, in a monotone or with an unusual intonation? So how were your son’s speaking manners? ”
She explained in her words ” He was very monotone. You couldn’t detect how he was feeling. However he was always very affectionate. Especially after he had been naughty. He always had a blank expression too.”
I put another question ” Did he face difficulty in controlling his emotions. Did he cry or laugh easily at inappropriate times?”
She said ” Yes. He would get very upset at times. We now realise it was because he didn’t know how to express how he was feeling. He would often mumble and he could sulk in silence for hours.”
I said ” I see! so you discovered it later?”
She said “Yes”
I kept on asking her for more information
” Was he able to control at emotions? ”
She immediately replied “No”
“Can you share some of his experiences that he couldn’t control his emotions. Any particular moment. I asked her and she narrated it as ” When he was younger he would get very upset when he was given into trouble. He didn’t seem to understand what he had done wrong.”
I said that
“I am reading an article that asperger patient has a remarkable ability for intense focus is a common trait. Does he posses any particular talent in which he is highly talented and skillful at?”
She told me in admiring words that ” He has an amazing memory. Also he is very good at reading maps and train timetables etc and finding his way about. If you take him somewhere once he remembers the route, almost like a photographic memory.”
I immediately replied with admiring words as ” Wow! That’s his stronger ability. ”
I then extended my gratitude and appreciation for her kind cooperation and time ” Thank you for your time and support, I am obliged. I will be editing and posting it and will tag you in your timeline. Hope that this article will be read by all of my readers. ”
And thus concluded our discussion on this peculiar matter of extreme importance.
Avril Douglas, Perth and Kinross, Scotland.
” Hello , I have read this with much interest ..I dated a man with Aspergers and at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong .Once he told me I started to read a lot of books and see what it meant. He was only diagnosed a few years ago and is now 48. He was a technical teacher but was given the sack from his job for various reasons. I found that he had only one vision the one he thought was right and he couldn’t see another’s point of view , he could isolate himself from others and when we did socialise he very rarely responded to others conversations as it was always all about him and he didn’t know when to stop .He could stay up all night long talking and not think I needed to sleep as he said he didn’t need much so why did anyone else.
I met his parents on one occasion and his father also had this but he seemed much worse and was never diagnose. It was just a normal family life as he thought it to be and his mother just went along with it all .I stopped seeing him and he could be fine one minute and then walk past you the next. I do see him if I am out socially but we have no communication which is now fine with me .
He doesn’t have eye contact with others and walks around a lot as he won’t sit down as people will then talk with him. When we were going to ballroom dancing we would have to go over and over the steps all the time until he got it into his head then it wasn’t so bad for him ,as he would have to have them wrote down to make it easier for him to grasp.
When he was paid off from work , he took the council to court for unfair dismissal and won , as he read up about all his rights intently so he could go into court and win his case ..He wasn’t a teacher for very long and I am sure that if it wasn’t done his way the kids would have been very frustrated with him …He thought he didn’t have Asperger bad , until I read more about it .
I think he was in denial with his illness and blamed everyone for his wrongs .He was married with two children and I think his son was the same ,so I am sure that it Is a family illness perhaps carried more from the male line.
Thank you Sajjad for your article”
Are there treatments available?
There is no cure for Asperger syndrome and the autism spectrum disorders. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children. There is no single best treatment package for all children with AS, but most health care professionals agree that early intervention is best.
An effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular reinforcement of behavior. This kind of program generally includes:
Social skills training, a form of group therapy that teaches children with AS the skills they need to interact more successfully with other children
cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of “talk” therapy that can help the more explosive or anxious children to manage their emotions better and cut back on obsessive interests and repetitive routines
medication, if necessary, for co-existing conditions such as depression and anxiety
occupational or physical therapy, for children with sensory integration problems or poor motor coordination
specialized speech/language therapy, to help children who have trouble with the pragmatics of speech –the give and take of normal conversation, and
parent training and support, to teach parents behavioral techniques to use at home.
Do children with AS get better?
With effective treatment, children with AS can learn to overcome their disabilities, but they may still find social situations and personal relationships challenging. Many adults with Asperger syndrome work successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to maintain an independent life.