On the autism spectrum

Children suffering from Asperger's Syndrome are often misunderstood and seen as "difficult" children. Early diagnosis is important to obtain the right type of help and support. Fortunately there is now a growing awareness in South Africa about this syndrome which affects one in every 300 children.

What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Children with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) struggle to "read" social signals such as gestures or facial expressions, and therefore find it difficult to communicate with others. They lack the ability to place themselves in someone else’s shoes, and therefore cannot easily make sense of the thoughts of other people.

Unlike "classic autism" their language abilities are well developed. Young children with AS sometimes impress one with their knowledge of a narrow field (e.g. asteroids), but then fail to maintain friendships with peers.

They often feel lonely and are at risk of developing psychiatric complications such as depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Sometimes Attention Deficit Hyperacitify Disorder (ADHD) or epilepsy accompanies Asperger's Syndrome.

For these children the social world is an anxiety-provoking and puzzling place. They sometimes unintentionally offend others and may become extremely upset by a minor change in their routine. AS is often only recognised at high school, when the increasingly complex rules of social interaction leave them feeling isolated and frustrated.

What can be done?
Early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference to children with AS and their parents. A child psychiatrist or paediatrician can make the diagnosis.

Once parents and teachers have a better understanding of the child’s behaviour, they offer appropriate help and support. In most cases the child can be supported to be educated within a mainstream school.

There is a growing number of support groups for inclusive education and social skills classes. A monthly parent support group is held at Paarl-Vallei High School, Somerset West (021 8519669).

Further information can be obtained from the Mental Health Information Centre of Stellenbosch University: Tel 021 938 9229 or bsteyn@sun.ac.za.

Dr Bennie Steyn, Child Psychiatrist.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 829 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 9539 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 1115 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.