Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is a kind of mild autism. Child with AS may exhibit strange behaviors but without the language and development problems. Most kids are diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome around age 7 to 9, though some research is showing that doctors may be able to catch symptoms even before a child turns a year old. Below, we will discuss the different symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome in toddlers so parents can help understand the behaviors of their kids.
Signs and Symptoms of Asperger's in Toddlers
Children with severe autism have a lot of difficulty with speech and even with language development in general. Toddlers with Asperger’s don’t have this issue; rather their vocabulary is often well advanced for their age, though they may have trouble finding the right uses for those words. A sign is rambling on about one specific topic for a long time, without recognizing the person listening.
Delayed Use of Gestures
We are used to small kids waving or handing their toys to another person as they develop. A toddler with Asperger’s may not acquire these gestures on the typical development schedule. This is because kids with Asperger’s avoid social interactions or find difficulty with them. Kids typically mirror actions they see from others, and if toddlers with Asperger’s aren’t interacting much with other people, it will be harder for them to learn certain gestures or movements.
Toddlers with AS have trouble making eye contact or making animated facial expressions when talking. They could also have strange tics or gestures. This could make their interactions with other toddlers difficult, and make it harder for them to make friends.
Coupled with the advanced vocabulary skills, kids with Asperger’s often learn how to read much earlier than most kids do. But though they can read, often these children cannot understand the words they’re reading. They may also choose to only read books tailored to their particular interests, hobbies or other fixations.
This is one of the most obvious signs of Asperger’s in toddlers. They become extremely fixated on one particular topic, like insects or airplanes. These kids will spend an inordinate amount of time learning as much as they can about these topics, and become experts on them. They will likely talk to anyone and everyone about this particular topic, whether or not the listener asked about it or is interested.
Along with preoccupation, repeating behaviors is one of the most common symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. Though repetitive gestures are actually normal in most toddlers, there are certain things that can distinguish from a normal toddler who likes playing with toy airplanes to one who is obsessed with airplanes. Toddlers with Asperger's may be extremely fixated on certain aspects of an airplane, or certain ways it works. They will also likely be unable to tear their focus away from the object or interest of focus, or if they are speaking about it, they cannot easily change the subject.
Social situations will typically be more difficult for kids with Asperger’s than they would be for regular toddlers. They may not want to or be easily able to play with other kids. Their fixation on certain objects, activities or hobbies can also limit their interactions with other children.
Monotone or other odd speaking tones
One sign of Asperger’s in toddlers is monotonous speaking, or in a flat tone of voice. Another sign may be a strange or high tone of voice, where the child puts stress on certain words or syllables. They may also use a singsong type of voice.
Trouble adapting to change
A child with Asperger’s syndrome will likely not be able to accept change in routine very well. They like to have their days very structured and with a strict routine. They like having rules and get upset when people don’t follow them, even if they are random or don’t make much sense.
Sensitive to stimuli
Certain toddlers with Asperger’s syndrome may have a strange sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights. They could also be sensitive to how certain things feel, like fabrics of their clothing. Particular smells may also be bothersome. Exposure to these stimuli will likely prompt an overwhelming reaction that seems over the top for the situation.
Problems with motor skills
Another typical symptom of Asperger’s in toddlers is motor skill issues. This means it could take longer for these children to learn milestones such as potty training, learning how to ride a bike, skipping and more. These toddlers may seem to be uncoordinated or unwieldy. Sometimes parents can notice these abnormalities when their child is a baby, but it will become more noticeable as they get older. Language difficulties may also be coupled with these motor function problems.
Unable to read other people
Kids with Asperger’s syndrome will likely not be able to easily detect emotions in other people, especially if they are subtle and not very obvious. This can also pose a problem when a child is trying to make friends, as they may not be able to easily figure out what certain interactions mean. And sometimes even if they can recognize emotion in another person, they may ignore it. This can come across as the child being insensitive, but really they don’t know how to properly respond to the emotion. They also may not respect other people’s boundaries or right to privacy.
If you have children with Asperger's, here are five things you should never say to them, as it may upset them and hinder communication with them.