Diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder is on the increase although it is unclear whether it is more prevalent or whether more professionals are detecting it. The symptoms for Asperger’s Disorder are the same as those listed for autism in the DSM-IV. However, children with AS do not have delays in the area of communication and language. In fact, to be diagnosed with Asperger, a child must have had normal language development as well as normal intelligence. The DSM-IV criteria for AS specifies that the individual must have “severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities,” that must “cause clinically significant impairment in social occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
The first step to diagnosis is an assessment, including a developmental history and observation. This should be done by medical professionals experienced with Autism and other PDDs. If Asperger’s Disorder or high functioning autism is suspected, the diagnosis of autism will generally be ruled out first. Early diagnosis is also important; children with Asperger’s Disorder who are diagnosed and treated early in life have an increased chance of being successful in school and eventually living independently
Adults with Asperger Disorder
The transition for individuals with Asperger’s Disorder from federally-mandated services through the school system to adult services can be a challenge. While entitlement to public education ends at age 18, the IDEA requires that transition planning begins at age 14 and becomes a formal part of the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This transition planning should include the student with AS, parents and members of the IEP team who work together to help the individual make decisions about his/her next steps. An Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) is developed that outlines transition services that may include education or vocational training, employment, living arrangements and community participation, to name a few.
The first step in transition planning should be to take a look at the individual’s interests, abilities, and needs. For example, what type of educational needs must be met? College, vocational training, adult education? Where can the young adult find employment and training services? What types of living arrangements are best?