Whether due to better diagnostic tools and physician awareness or an actual increase in the disorder itself, more and more children are being diagnosed with autistic-spectrum disorder (abbreviated as ASD and also known as pervasive development disorder, or PDD). In fact, the CDC estimates that 3- 6 in 1000 children in the US fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Autism represents the severe end of this spectrum with Asperger’s syndrome representing a less severe form of ASD. Many adults with Asperger’s syndrome are able to sustain highly successful professional, social and family lives. Some find success after completing an Asperger treatment program. Those afflicted with more severe forms of ASD may require intensive lifelong care.
In addition to autism and Asperger’s syndrome, ASD may take other forms, including Rett syndrome (which mostly affects females), child disintegrative disorder (which mostly affects boys), and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PSD NOS).
Why Choose Asperger Treatment with a Mixed Population
While more severe forms of ASD require specialized care, many children and teens looking for Asperger treatment find themselves in mainstream settings and/or more broad-based treatment programs. This approach increases the young person’s access to normalized social situations in which they can learn better social skills experientially through contact with a more diverse peer population.
But mixing an Asperger’s population with other populations, particularly an emotionally or behaviorally disordered population, requires a thoughtful and educated approach from treatment staff. That’s because while these populations may exhibit similar behaviors and may respond well to high levels of structure and consistency, the source of their problem behaviors is often different.
Asperger’s Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder
As one example, some apparently defiant behaviors exhibited by children or teens with Asperger’s disorder are more the result of a failure to understand and interpret external data (such as facial expressions or tone of voice) than of willful defiance. Because they fail to detect or misinterpret social cues, they may respond to adult instruction in a manner that seems (but may not be) willfully defiant.
A child with an oppositional disorder, on the other hand, may accurately interpret social cues and instructions but consciously choose not to comply. Because the source and motive for many apparently similar behaviors is different in these populations, the teaching of new behaviors should also be different.
In the case of a young person with ASD, this is more likely to take the form of concrete skill building than behavioral consequences. Some children and teens with ASD also have a co-occurring behavioral disorder, further complicating Asperger treatment and requiring a combination of ASD, psychotherapeutic and behaviorally oriented approaches.
What to Look For When Selecting Asperger Treatment
When selecting a treatment option for child or teen with ASD, then, it is critical to ensure that the treatment team has experience, training and success working with this disorder. Parents and professionals considering an Asperger treatment program–especially one serving a mixed population–do well to ask the program specific questions about their comfort and ability to address the needs of young people with Asperger’s syndrome and related ASDs.
At Sunrise Residential Treatment Center, our master’s level therapist have extensive experience working with girls with Asperger’s Syndrome. Please call us at 866-754-4807 if your daughter or someone you know can benefit from an Asperger treatment program.