Usually diagnosed during childhood, this condition is changing in its clinical impression and diagnostic criteria as I write this.
Asperger’s is currently seen as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, meaning that a person with Asperger’s will likely have mild to potentially more significant autistic characteristics.
Most notably common in this disorder is the lack of social skills the young person may be able to successfully use. They may miss social cues, such as “Don’t pick your toenails at the dinner table.” (Sorry for the visual image, but you get the point. They will play differently than kids their own age and will frequently choose one thing and do this or learn about the topic almost obsessively. They are usually very bright young people with excellent grades, loving to read, but having few, if any, friends. They can be shy and suffer from a low self-concept, only because they see themselves as differently from others and their attempt to be more socially involved may have been met with bullying or some other form of rejection. They are not usually a “team” player, choosing often to avoid team sports for more individual activities.
Any approach to the treatment of Asperger’s has always included individual sessions to build a supportive and encouraging therapeutic relationship, which then moves to group sessions as the primary tool for building social skills and awareness; understanding how to have relationships with others in a safe, well-structured environment. My groups with the Asperger’s population include experiential challenges the group member are required to resolve together, putting them in a position to take on new skills for listening, communicating with others, and being a leader or an effective follower.
Group therapy is very effective for the young person with Asperger’s and has the added benefit of always meeting after school hours, so parents are not always picking them up from school and taking them back, gambling on the excused absence being counted and the child missing a subject in which they needed to participate.
Counseling helps the Asperger’s young person regain confidence, understand themselves and others, and build social skill and insight that is necessary to function successfully.
This disorder is, at times, misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There are occasions where a young person may accurately be diagnosed with both. Knowing clearly which disorder is prevalent and treatment experience with both is necessary for coordinating prescriptions with other professionals and for knowing the correct treatment approach.