Emotional & Behavioral Disorders: Autism & Asperger's Syndrome
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- 0:05 Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
- 0:57 Autism
- 2:49 Asperger Syndrome
- 5:11 Lesson Summary
In this lesson, we will explore the similarities and differences of two emotional and behavioral disorders: autism and Asperger syndrome. Discover the characteristics of these disorders and how they affect the people who have them.
Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Professor Eli M. Bower's life's work was dedicated to the education and understanding of children. One of his lingering contributions is his use of the five characteristics to define emotional and behavioral disorders. Although, according to some, while Bower's definition is highly subjective, it remains the standard. According to Bower, if a child's educational performance is affected by one or more of the five characteristics over an extended period of time, the child is said to have a disorder. The five characteristics are: inability to learn, inability to maintain interpersonal relationships, showing inappropriate behavior, having the pervasive mood of depression, and showing fear in association with problems. In this lesson, we will discuss autism and Asperger's, which are two of the syndromes that fit into Bower's definition.
Dr. Leo Kanner (1894-1981) was one of the first people to study autism.
He was both a physician and a psychiatrist who defined autismas a developmental disability that appears during the first few years of life. Although there is an ongoing debate as to what causes autism, the result of the disorder is a neurological defect that affects the functioning of the brain.
Autism varies significantly between individuals and is considered to be an elusive disorder. However, the American Psychiatric Association considers individuals with autism to be mentally handicapped and places autism into three general categories.
Impairment in Social Interaction
The first category is impairment in social interaction. Children with autism have difficulty relating to others and thus are said to have impairment in social interaction. This impairment is due to not recognizing the social cues that are given to them. For example, during the course of conversation, people without autism use eye contact, correctly interpret facial expressions, and wait for their turn to speak. A child with autism isn't able to do this and thus is said to show inappropriate behavior by their lack of social skills.
Impairment in Communication
Impairments in communication is the second category and includes speech and language delays. By the time other preschool students are speaking, the majority of autistic preschool children are not.
Autism affects the speech center in the brain, so the child with autism needs to be taught alternative methods of communication, such as sign language.
Repetitive Patterns of Behavior
The third category is displaying a repetitive pattern of behavior. A child with autism is often overwhelmed by all of the sensory stimuli they receive. In order to organize all of the input or to block out the excess stimuli, they use routines and rituals as a way to organize their world.
Asperger syndrome is defined as a form of autism that affects how a person processes information. It was named after a pediatrician by the name of Dr. Hans Asperger who observed autistic-like behaviors in boys who had normal intelligence and normal language development. These boys were classified as having high-functioning autism and, in today's terms, they would be classified as having Asperger syndrome.
In other words, a person who has Asperger syndrome has autism. However, they are in the classification of autism known as high-functioning because they have normal intelligence and are not developmentally delayed in learning language.
Like children with autism, children with Asperger syndrome have impairments in social interactions and show repetitive patterns of behavior. Although the characteristics of Asperger syndrome vary greatly from person to person, the three social areas they all have difficulty with are communication, interaction, and imagination.
Difficulty with Social Communication
Like an individual with autism, an individual with Asperger syndrome is said to have difficulty with social communication because they simply do not understand the idiosyncrasies of conversation. For example, if you said, 'That's cool!' a person with Asperger syndrome would not comprehend that 'cool' means good and would become confused as to why you were referencing temperature in the course of the conversation.
In addition, they have difficulty in understanding facial expressions, sarcasm, and body language.
Difficulty with Social Interaction
An individual with Asperger syndrome is said to have difficulty with social interactions because they do not understand the unwritten social rules. Therefore, their behavior is often socially awkward. For example, they violate the personal space of others and speak on inappropriate topics of conservation.
Difficulty with Social Imagination
A child with Asperger syndrome will have difficulty with make-believe games, such as 'pretend we are cowboys on Mars'. This is because they are said to have difficulty with social imagination. This difficulty arises from them literally interpreting their world. Children with Asperger syndrome would much prefer logical and concrete activities that do not require their imagination, such as following directions to build a remote control car.
In summary, children with autism and Asperger syndrome are classified as having emotional and behavioral disorders because they have at least one of Bower's five characteristics. In this case, they both show an inability to maintain interpersonal relationships, and they show inappropriate behavior.
Like children with autism, children with Asperger syndrome have impairments in social interactions and show repetitive patterns of behavior. However, people with Asperger syndrome do not have impairments in language development and are not considered mentally handicapped.
However, like the autistic individual, the individuals with Asperger syndrome are socially awkward because they do not comprehend the social rules and thus, do not know how to get along with other people. For example, they avoid making eye contact, seem disinterested in conservation, and violate personal space.
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