Asperger’s syndrome is a development disorder related to the autistic spectrum, but at a much higher level of functioning. Unlike those with autism, those who have Asperger’s syndrome generally learn the same way average people do, learning to speak at a young age and eventually attending school in the same classes and at the same age of their peers. Like autism however, those with Asperger’s syndrome may have trouble understanding social or communication skills. This often results in being viewed as ‘weird’ by those around them who aren’t familiar with the disorder.
Asperger’s syndrome is typically diagnosed at an early age, but because those who have it are on the higher functioning end of the autism scale, it can go undiagnosed well into adulthood. This has been especially common in the past when the disorder wasn’t as well known and understood as it has become in recent years. Similar to autism, there is no cure and the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, however, it is possible to manage the symptoms, including clumsiness, obsessive routines, and sensitivity to environment changes. This is done with behavioral therapy, resulting in many adults with Asperger’s syndrome appearing mostly ‘normal’ with the exception of lack of social skills.
The lack of social skills doesn’t mean that all adults with Asperger’s appear rude, but rather they have trouble understanding social cues. For example, it’s not uncommon for those with Asperger’s syndrome to share a deep passion for something, whether it be horses or molecules. They may want to talk about this passion constantly, despite the listener growing visibly annoyed. This is because they don’t understand that sighing or looking at a watch means the listener is uninterested.
Due to this extreme passion, many adults with Asperger’s syndrome end up excelling in careers involving their interest. It’s not uncommon for adults with Asperger’s to become CEO’s or other high ranking positions, because unlike other employees, they don’t spend their time socializing with others, but rather learning as much as humanly possible about their passion.
What is the Asperger syndrome diagnostic scale?
The Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale, also known as ASDS, is a tool used to screen for children who might meet criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome. This quickly administered standardized test only takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. It is appropriate for children ages five through 18 years old. Autism experts Brenda Smith Myles, Stacy Jones-Bock, and Richard L. Simpson first published the ASDS in 2000.
The screening tool is standardized and uses percentiles to give an AS Quotient. This score predicts the likelihood that a child or adolescent has Asperger’s Syndrome. The test covers behaviors across several domains, including cognitive, maladaptive, social, sensory, motor, and language. The behaviors addressed are those behaviors typically seen in children with Asperger’s, as well as behaviors that are seen in children without an Autistic Disorder. The test contains 50 questions, all which are answered with a yes or no to indicate whether the behavior occurs.
The Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale has an administrative qualification level of B. This means that individuals who administer the ASDS must have a degree from an accredited four-year college. This degree must be completed in psychology, counseling, or speech and language pathology. The individual must also have completed coursework in test interpretation, psychometrics, educational statistics, or measurement theory or a license indicating appropriate training in the ethics and competency required for using psychological tests.
The respondent for the ASDS can be one of several individuals who are very familiar with the child or adolescent being tested. Parents and siblings are often the primary respondents. The child’s service providers, such as speech and language pathologists, therapists, and teachers can also act as respondents.
The Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale cannot be used in isolation to provide a diagnosis of Asperger’s. The ASDS is a screening tool to indicate the likelihood of the individual having Asperger’s. The AS Quotient can be used to indicate whether a professional should further evaluate the child in order to receive an official formal diagnosis.
One concern with the ASDS is that it has not been shown to reliably differentiate between Asperger Syndrome and the other subtypes of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since the symptoms of Asperger are also similar to the symptoms of PDD-NOS and Autistic Disorder, a qualified team of autism professionals must do further evaluation. This can help determine what subset of Autism Spectrum Disorder the individual has.
A benefit of the ASDS is that it not only provides an overall AS Quotient, but it also gives scores for each of the individual domains on the test. The individual results in the cognitive, language, social, maladaptive, and sensorimotor subscales can assist the professional in determining specific areas of deficit and difficulty in the child. These scores can be especially helpful in treatment planning and determining areas for further testing.
The results of the ADSD also have other non-clinical purposes. They can also be used to help draft goals for the child’s IEP or school intervention plan. The test can also be given annually as a way to measure growth and progress across the different domains in an individual already diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
What types of Asperger’s Syndrome tests are available for adults?
Like previously stated, Asperger syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by significant impairments in social interaction and stereotyped patterns of behavior. What distinguishes Asperger Syndrome from other Autism Spectrum Disorders is the lack of any significant delay in language or cognitive ability. Asperger Syndrome is not as easy to diagnose as other disorders of the Autism Spectrum, so it is quite common for a person with Asperger to receive the diagnosis as an adult, even though the problems began in childhood. There are several tests and assessments that are designed to determine whether an adult has Asperger Syndrome or one of the other Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The ADI (Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised) is an interview-based assessment that is used to ask questions of a parent, or if the parent is not available, some other person who knew the individual as a child. The questions are designed to determine whether the adult had problems with social interactions as a child, and to rule out other forms of autism. The ADI is effective, but it is limited since the parent may no longer be available, and it takes about three hours to administer.
The AQ (Autism Spectrum Quotient) is a much shorter screening device used to identify adults who may have Asperger Syndrome or Autism. This instrument contains 50 questions that relate to the areas of social skill, attention switching, attention to detail, communication and imagination. The subject responds to each question with “definitely agree,” “slightly agree,” “slightly disagree” and “definitely disagree.” The responses to these questions show the degree to which the subject has features typical of people with Autism or Asperger Syndrome.
Another Asperger’s Syndrome screening instrument is the EQ (Empathy Quotient), a 15 item questionnaire used to determine the degree to which an individual cannot understand the feelings and thoughts of others. Though this is a really short assessment that focuses on only one area of development, it has a very strong correlation with the presence of Asperger Syndrome.