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Your guide to Asperger's syndrome

Children in a classroom - aspergers syndrome

There can often be difficulties in recognising and correctly diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome from a number of related conditions generally classified under autism.

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome can often be misdiagnosed and, as a life-long impairment, it is extremely important that the condition can be distinguished as early as possible from any number of other behaviours, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder or even obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

A misdiagnosis in early childhood could mean not receiving vital educational and emotional support needed for developing social and interpersonal skills, and going on to live a normal adult life. It could also mean that a failure to prescribe the correct medication or treatments could lead to a further deterioration in behaviour.

When  the condition is diagnosed later in childhood or as an adult, the degree to which victims have to compensate for impaired social interaction and communication may be more or less noticeable.

Has your child suffered as a direct consequence of an Asperger’s misdiagnosis?

Your first step... is to discuss the specific circumstances of your child and the subsequent impact upon their quality of life, to see if you have a genuine case of negligence. Seeking answers when bringing a claim for clinical negligence requires specialist knowledge of both legal and medical issues together with a sympathetic and sensitive understanding of how everyone involved is affected.

Our dedicated clinical negligence team at Your Legal Friend has 30 years experience in successfully resolving many different types, and sometimes, complex negligence cases.

We can help you make your case heard, and obtain compensation for the injury or harm you and a loved one have suffered because of an Asperger’s Syndrome misdiagnosis.

Did you know...

  • More than 1 in 100 of  the UK population – around half a million people - may have Asperger’s Syndrome.                         ( Based on 2011 UK census figures, National Autistic Society)                                                
  • Condition is more common in males than females.
  • 1 in 5 children with autism have been excluded from school.
  • Only 15 per cent of adults in the UK with autism are in full-time paid employment.                       (Counselling Directory)

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability restricting communication, both verbal and nonverbal, and thought to result from a combination of  both genetic and environmental factors.

Asperger’s can very often be referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which also includes Asperger’s syndrome and childhood autism.

This means people are affected in many different ways and to varying degrees along a ‘spectrum’ of disorder conditions. Sufferers who share similar tendencies are affected differently , some more mildly while others may remain undiagnosed.

Asperger’s affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relate to other people.

Typical ‘signals’ that sufferers find difficulty in reading include:

People who suffer with Asperger’s find it hard to read ‘signals’ from others that many people instinctively understand or would have learnt during childhood development.

The key difficulties are :

  • Understanding non-verbal communication

- Facial expressions

- Tone of voice

  • Following etiquette or social conventions

Other examples of Asperger's syndrome include:

  • Interpreting the feelings, thoughts, actions or motives of others.
  • Understanding non-literal uses of language, such as irony, humour or expressions of speech.
  • Feeling anxious if familiar routines are not strictly followed.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by sights, sounds or physical touch.
  • Limited body awareness, such as walking round obstacles or carrying out more complicated movements.

Further difficulties -  the ‘social’ imagination:

While Asperger’s sufferers can often be highly creative and imaginative, their imagination may be restricted in other ways, including:

  • A difficulty in seeing alternative outcomes to situations.
  • A limited range of imaginative activities – often lining up toys in a certain order, collecting things or difficulty playing ‘let’s pretend’ games.
  • Very narrow or specific interests, such as remembering technical details but not relating to the object, subject, person or event.

Diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome

Although considered part of the ‘autistic spectrum’, similarities with autism may lead to difficulties in diagnosing Asperger’s syndrome itself.

Key differences between Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are:

Autism –

  • Tendency to start talking later in life
  • Below average IQ
  • General learning difficulties

Asperger's –

  • Start speaking within the expected age range.
  • More likely to have an average or above average IQ.
  • Specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia (reading disorder) and dyspraxia (coordination difficulties).
  • Specific conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epilepsy.

A doctor’s approach to diagnosis should involve a detailed developmental history of the patient, to determine where a condition is along the autistic spectrum. There are a number of conditions that can occur together with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).

Early signs in Children

The main features of an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), typically start to develop in childhood, and can be recognised before children reach the age of two or three years old.  In many cases, however, the signs will often only become more noticeable as they get older or until there is a significant change in their life, such as a change of school.

Some of the main signs that a child may have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) include:

  • Not drawing attention to objects such as a toy or a book, or at something that is happening nearby.
  • Activities carried out in a repetitive way, such as always playing the same game in the same way, or repeatedly lining toys up in a particular order.
  • Resistance to change or doing things differently.
  • Behaviour such as:

-  hand tapping and twisting or similar repetitive physical movements 

-  biting, pinching, kicking

-  putting inedible items in the mouth

-  self-harming behaviour

Children, young people and adults with ASD are often also affected by other mental health conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety or depression. Children with more severe symptoms and learning difficulties are likely to need additional care and assistance to live independently as adults

Adults

Adults living with ASD may have displayed features of the condition as a child but were never diagnosed. As a result, they may have experienced difficulty in finding employment because of the social demands and changes in routine that the world of work often involves.

How Your Legal Friend can help you..

Determining if Asperger’s Syndrome was missed or misdiagnosed by your GP and the subsequent impact upon your child’s development and quality of life can be a significant challenge because of the complexity of ASD.

There can often be an enormous emotional hurdle to overcome before even taking the decision to seek legal advice. You need to know that your clinical negligence specialists possess the in-depth knowledge and experience of both the often complex legal and medical issues.

From the first time we discuss your particular circumstances and throughout an often long and demanding process, Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring we protect the interests of you and your child, while diligently guiding you every step of the way.