EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 1, 2012

What can we do to help our son with Asperger's Disorder?

Family Matters
Dr. Larry Larsen

---- — Our 10-year-old son was just diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. The diagnosis was from a neurologist we were referred to by our family doctor. They have told us he is high functioning. He is very bright and loves science and reading. His main problem is getting along with other children. We are still upset as to what this diagnosis means and would like to know what we can do. Do medications help?

Let me begin by saying how much I loathe the term “disorder.” Asperger is more of a phenomenon, and it need not be a “disorder.”

Every diagnostician has a pet “sign” or indicator for diagnosing Asperger. One doc will say the kid made eye contact and is, therefore, not Asperger.

Another will say the voice is not loud or the behavior is not labile or whatever.

The fact is that all Asperger’s cases are not alike. Your son, for example, is bright, probably idiosyncratic (a fancy word for unique), but has definite problems with “getting it” socially.

It is rigidity and lack of social perspicacity that is the hallmark. By the way Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton had similar uniqueness. In fact, MIT probably has more Asperger’s people per square inch than any other college in the country.

Your son will probably have a better time of it socially as he grows older. Think about it, we expect rather defined behavior from kids, and they do of each other. Unique social behavior is not tolerated well by 10-year-olds. When high school arrives, things tend to improve. There is a much greater tendency to accept unusual interests and behavior.

Meanwhile, find a therapist or counselor who specializes in Asperger’s cases. While therapy alone does not “cure,” it helps to reinforce and coordinate interventions. Asperger’s kids also usually do very well with adults. This is also a plus for counseling. Sometimes a group or special camp will help.

As to medications, I have known many Asperger’s youngsters with very serious symptoms who did well with no medication. Others were definitely helped. One size treatment does not fit all.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. Email him at lrryllrsn@CS.com.