Whether you believe Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) are separate and distinct disorders or just variants along the same spectrum, the treatment for either diagnosis is virtually the same. I work with a number of children and adolescents with Asperger’s or HFA in my practice, and recently gave Grand Rounds at The Center for Attention & Learning Disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital / NorthShore LIJ and NYU Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY on the Clinical Practice of Asperger’s Syndrome in Children & Adolescents.
Asperger’s syndrome is most commonly characterized by having socialization deficits and narrow interests without any significant language or cognitive impairment. Kids with Asperger’s want to make friends but often have difficulty understanding the nuances of how to have a mutually enjoyable conversation. They tend to use language that is overly formal or monotone, and can appear intrusive or rude at times without realizing it.
They might be hyper-focused on a certain topic (e.g., astronomy, biology, automobiles) which makes them feel different than their peers. Kids with Asperger’s can also have difficulty with impulsiveness, anxiety, depression, time management, and organization.
I treat children, adolescents, and young adults with Asperger’s or HFA via the following modalities:
- Psychoeducation – help the child, family, and siblings better understand the nature of AS and change their assumptions, expectations, and interpretations of the child’s behavior.
- Individual CBT – teach specific social and coping skills for improving social competence and reducing any symptoms of anxiety, depression, or hyperactivity.
- Parent training – teach parents how to reduce problem behaviors and improve compliance and independence at home.
- Social skills groups – teach and practice basic and advance social skills in-vivo with peers to promote generalization of skills.
- Family therapy – teach positive communication styles, problem solving, and ways to reduce conflict at home.
Written by Joshua Rosenthal, PsyD