At present, Asperger’s Syndrome cannot be cured. However, with help, many people with Aspergers go on to lead normal lives and even excel in numerous ways.
Many people believe that asking whether Aspergers can be cured implies it is a disease, and they argue it is not. It is an alternative way of thinking and perhaps does not need to be cured.
Aspergers can be likened to color blindness. For example, rather than seeing green, those with color blindness might see yellow. Their eyes are different, not defective. What people see is not necessarily wrong; it is unique.
Similarly, Aspergers is a condition that causes some people to think differently from others. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with their minds, just that they have an alternative way of thinking.
Can Aspergers Be Treated?
Yes, most definitely! Several treatments have proven to be effective in significantly improving the functioning and quality of life for children and adults with Aspergers.
- Social skills training: this is the cornerstone of treatment for Aspergers and it involves teaching people with Aspergers how to interpret nonverbal expressions. This can help them with social interactions and peer relationships and prevent the isolation and depression that often occurs with Aspergers. Social skills training requires someone, such as an Aspergers psychologist, who understands which skills are necessary and relevant.
- Psychotherapy: the goal of psychotherapy with Aspergers is similar to social skills training in helping people with Aspergers develop greater insight into the thoughts, feelings and intentions of others, and to help develop the vocabulary to describe emotions to one’s self and to others. This helps them become more aware of how words and actions affect the thoughts of others. Psychotherapy can also address other conditions, such as depression or anxiety, which often plague those with Aspergers.
- Medication: There are no medications that specifically treat Aspergers, but some medications may improve associated conditions, such as ADHD, mood swings, temper tantrums, irritability, aggression, obsessive and compulsive behaviors and anxiety. While Aspergers psychologists do not prescribe medications, they do work with physicians who are experienced with the condition and who can issue prescriptions.
- Educational Interventions: Some children with Aspergers cope well in a mainstream classroom with occasional support, while others need specialized education. An Aspergers psychologist, or other professionals familiar with Aspergers, can help teachers develop specific ways of helping children with Aspergers learn and socialize more effectively.
What Are The Long-Term Outcomes?
Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder, and over time many people learn to improve their ability to socialize, converse and understand the thoughts and feelings of others, and to recognize the subtle expressions of their own feelings. With these improvements in the basic aspects of Aspergers, the conspicuous signs of the syndrome can decrease over time.
There are several important factors that lead to the successful outcome of Aspergers:
- An accurate diagnosis is made and treatment is provided for the conditions, such as depression and anxiety, which often accompany Aspergers.
- Individuals with Aspergers and their families accept the diagnosis.
- Knowledge about Aspergers, through reading, support groups or other avenues, provides information on coping strategies.
- Success at work or school counterbalances the challenges of Aspergers. Social success becomes less important and a sense of identity and self-worth is measured more by achievements than by social popularity.
- Strengths and weaknesses are accepted and there is no longer a desire to be someone the person cannot be. There is recognition of qualities that others admire.
- For some adults, the conspicuous signs of Aspergers can decrease over time. Just as there are late talkers or walkers, there are late socializers, although late can be by several decades.
Aspergers was discovered fairly recently, and many treatments are still being developed. One thing has definitely been established – the sooner one gets help, the better! Early intervention is the number one key to success for people with Aspergers.
Dr. Kenneth Roberson is an Asperger’s psychologist in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience. To ask a question, or schedule an appointment,
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