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Social Communication Deficits in Asperger's Syndrome: A Case Study

Social Communication Deficits in Asperger's Syndrome: A Case Study
Celeste Domsch, PhD
February 16, 2004
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Introduction:

 

Roger was an 8 year-old boy, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). He had a very high IQ, and enjoyed reading college-level chemistry textbooks. His social communication deficits were recorded, treated and reviewed. A "self-management" strategy to treat (reduce or eliminate) rocking and hand flapping was initiated.

 

Following 13 treatment sessions, rocking was reduced, but hand flapping remained unchanged. Observers judged the child's behavior to be more appropriate following treatment than prior to treatment. Self-management appeared effective in reducing the occurrence of at least one atypical communication behavior and improving overall appropriateness for this child.

 

This study examined how Roger's impaired social and communication behaviors were treated and what outcomes were observed.


 

Historic Perspective:

 

Though AS first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersFourth Edition in 1994 (APA), it takes its name from a paper by Dr. Hans Asperger, published in Germany sixty years ago (1944). Dr. Asperger described a syndrome whose clinical presentation included; impaired social interaction, repetitive activities and interests, and the use of pedantic language.

 

The impaired social interaction of children with AS is not due to a desire to withdraw from social contact. Rather, according to Wing, "the problem arises from a lack of ability to understand and use the rules governing social behavior" (1981, p.116). These rules are, as Wing notes, unwritten, complex and can affect speech, gesture, posture, movement and eye contact.

 

AS is thought by some to be a mild variant of autism. In European countries, AS is considered a subgroup of Autistic Spectrum Disorders; whereas in the USA, AS is referred to as a subgroup of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Children with AS demonstrate eccentric behavior, often resulting in social isolation. Their speech production is peculiar due to abnormal inflection and repetitive patterns. Clumsiness in articulation and gross motor behavior is common. Often, AS patients have areas of intense interest, such as automobiles, French Literature, door knobs, cappucino, astronomy or history (Ozbayrak, 1996), or, as in Roger's case, chemistry.


Celeste Domsch, PhD



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