Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Asperger Syndrome and Definition a Mother's story

By RONALD WORLEYThe Herald-Dispatch
When Kim Isaac's only child, Daniel, began showing behavioral problems, she first blamed her parenting skills. Typical childhood activities like birthday parties, fireworks shows and carnivals produced stress and verbally abusive behavior in Daniel rather than delight.
"He couldn't tolerate any of it," Isaacs said of her son, age 13. "I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong."
After numerous visits to physicians, Daniel's list of diagnoses included Attention Deficit Disorder, bipolar syndrome, anxiety and depression. Medications didn't help.
At her wit's end, Isaacs looked to the Internet for answers and discovered that her son's symptoms matched those of a little-understood disorder known as Asperger's Syndrome.
"No one did psychological testing on Daniel until two years ago," Isaacs stated. It was then that the Autism Services of Huntington sent Daniel for the tests that confirmed Isaacs' suspicion of Asperger's Syndrome.
Asperger's Syndrome, often confused with autism, is actually an "autism spectrum disorder," according to Marc Ellison, a counselor at the New Leaf Counseling Center in Huntington. "Asperger's is a neurological disorder that affects the personality. Typically, stimuli such as noise, light and certain tactile stimuli cause anxiety, stress and fear in the sufferer. They have a need for deep physical pressure to relax them when they are exhibiting these symptoms."
When faced with such sensory overloads, Daniel first complains of feeling weak, then tired. Isaacs says that if Daniel remains in the stressful environment, these symptoms may escalate into verbal and even physical aggression.
Even the normally imperceptible flickering of fluorescent lighting can trigger a reaction. This limits her choice of activities with Daniel. "Forget Wal-Mart," Isaacs said. "All that light and sound and activity is just too much for Daniel."
These autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) occur in two to six out of every 1,000 individuals. The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Service's Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the 4 million children born each year in the United States, about 24,000 of these children will eventually be diagnosed with ASD. The agency estimates a half million individuals in the United States under age 21 have an ASD.
In addition to sensory sensitivity, Ellison said another prominent feature of Asperger's Syndrome is "mind blindness." In mind blindness, the sufferer "has significant difficulty understanding life from another person's perspective."
This lack of perceptive empathy often manifests itself in antisocial behavior -- the Asperger's child may say or do things that are blatantly offensive to others because he or she is virtually incapable of seeing life through someone else's eyes.
Although otherwise intelligent, animated and witty, Daniel's sensory sensitivities make it impossible for him to attend conventional schools.
"I can't get the funding I need to help Daniel because he is considered too 'high functioning' by most criteria for assistance," Isaacs said. He receives in-home teaching six hours a week from a special instructor hired by Cabell County Board of Education and is making progress. Isaacs is unable to work or attend college because she is Daniel's primary caregiver, and there are no resources available for his care.
Isaacs' difficulties have prompted her into advocacy not only for Daniel's care, but the plight of other parents in her situation. She has contacted West Virginia state and federal officials to raise awareness of Asperger's prevalence as well as request legislation for increased funding.
"There are too many children with Asperger's, not enough awareness, and therefore not enough resources, either for care or for support," Isaac said. She hopes to reach parents who may be raising an Asperger's child and not know it. She urges them to seek psychological testing for children exhibiting Asperger's or ASD symptoms.


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