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Asperger’s syndrome is sometimes described as high-functioning autism. It’s now diagnosed under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ASD is a group of neurodevelopmental conditions that affect the way a person communicates and behaves.

Continue reading to learn about treatment for Asperger’s syndrome and ASD.

Receiving an early diagnosis for ASD is important so that treatment can begin as early as possible. The type of symptoms and their severity can vary from child to child.

Symptoms are grouped into two categories: issues with social interaction and behavioral patterns. People with Asperger’s generally have strong verbal and intellectual skills compared to other types of autism.

Some examples of issues with interaction or communication can include things like:

  • not maintaining or making eye contact
  • having trouble beginning or continuing a conversation
  • having difficulty expressing feelings or emotions or not recognizing the feelings of others

Behavioral patterns that may be observed in people with ASD can include:

  • having specific routines and becoming agitated if they’re disrupted
  • having very high or very low reactivity to sensory stimulation
  • fixating on an activity or thing with an abnormal amount of intensity

Treatment often focuses on teaching children how to better interact with others. This can promote positive behaviors while discouraging negative behaviors.

Treatment for ASD isn’t just focused on behavior therapies, though. There are a variety of other possible treatments, including medications and dietary changes.

Initial screening for ASD is performed at your child’s regular check-ups. Should the doctor notice any possible developmental problems, a more comprehensive screening is recommended.

Your child’s primary care doctor can also perform a more comprehensive screen. However, they may also refer you to a specialist, such as a child psychologist, child neurologist, or developmental pediatrician.

Once a child has been diagnosed with ASD, a variety of specialists may be included in their treatment team. Examples of professionals who may be involved in treatment of ASD include:

The overall goal of treatment is to increase a person with ASD’s ability to function.

Even though Asperger’s is a milder form of autism, children can greatly benefit from early treatment intervention. Treatment can provide them with important social and behavioral tools that they can use for the rest of their lives.

A variety of different treatments are available for ASD, which includes Asperger’s. They can include:

  • psychological therapy
  • medications
  • speech and language therapy
  • art and music therapy
  • dietary changes
  • alternative treatment options

We’ll talk about all of these types of treatment in more detail below.

A variety of psychological therapies can be used to treat Asperger’s. Some examples include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help to address conditions like anxiety, depression, and other psychological challenges facing someone with Asperger’s.
  • Social skills training, which can help someone with Asperger’s understand social and conversation cues and help them to interact with others more effectively.
  • Physical or occupational therapy, which can help to improve motor skills in people with Asperger’s that have problems with coordination.
  • Family therapy, which can help parents or family members of someone with Asperger’s learn how to interact with them in a positive way that promotes things like good social and living skills.

A type of therapy called applied behavior analysis (ABA) may also be used. ABA can help to improve a variety of skills by encouraging positive behaviors while discouraging negative behaviors.

There are a variety of different types of ABA therapy available, depending on age and skills targeted for improvement. ABA may be helpful for children with Asperger’s, particularly for improvement of social and communication skills.

There are no approved medications for the treatment of Asperger’s or ASD. However, various medications may be prescribed. This is because several conditions may occur together with Asperger’s. Some examples include:

People with Asperger’s often have well-developed language skills. However, they may still benefit from speech and language therapy.

This type of therapy may help improve their conversational tone, which may be unusual or monotone. Additionally, it can also help people with Asperger’s to understand and respond to things like figures of speech or implied meaning.

Art and music therapy helps address various cognitive, social, or emotional needs. The creative process of art or music may help to improve communication or develop social skills. For example, making music with another person fosters behaviors like eye contact, taking turns, and engagement with another person.

There are limited studies into how these therapies can benefit people with Asperger’s specifically. One case study from 2008 found that seven months of art therapy helped an adolescent girl with Asperger’s communicate better and become more comfortable with social interactions.

A 2014 review of 10 studies found that music therapy conducted by a trained professional may help to improve communication, social skills, and recognition of feelings or emotions in children with ASD. The review didn’t address Asperger’s specifically, although some of the studies reviewed included children with Asperger’s.

More research is needed to determine if the potential benefits are significant or long-lasting.

Some people use dietary treatments for ASD. For example, some people with ASD may be on a gluten-free or casein-free diet. Other common supplements used by people with ASD include omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.

There’s little scientific support for dietary treatments for ASD, and they may carry risks of nutritional deficiencies. Supplements, particularly when given to children, have their own set of risks.

One 2017 review found little evidence to support the use of specialized diets or nutritional supplements in treating ASD. Another 2018 review found little evidence to support the use of gluten-free or casein-free diets as beneficial for ASD.

It should be noted that studies haven’t been performed to assess a dietary approach on Asperger’s specifically.

Also, it’s important to remember that a dislike of certain foods or eating a limited range of foods may be a symptom of ASD. This can make diet modification difficult. Additionally, a dietary approach that appears to work for one person may not work as well in another person.

You can work with your child’s doctor and a nutrition specialist to ensure that your child is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.

There are additional alternative treatments that have been used to treat ASD. According to one recent study, 46.8 percent of surveyed adult people with Asperger’s had tried some sort of alternative therapy during their lifetime.

However, it’s important to remember that so far there’s little research into the effectiveness of many alternative treatments. Most haven’t examined Asperger’s directly. The existing studies often involve a small number of participants as well as varied study parameters.

Every individual with ASD is different. Some alternative treatments may seem to be effective for one person, but not for another.

Here are some possible alternative treatments as well as some you should avoid.

Herbal remedies

Various herbal or traditional remedies have been used to treat ASD. These can include things like Ginkgo biloba supplements or capsules containing a variety of herbal components.

A recent review of 10 studies of herbal medicine and ASD concluded that the evidence was promising but was inconclusive overall.

Herbal supplements are less regulated by the FDA than drug products. There is a risk that supplements may contain ingredients not listed on the package, or different amounts of certain ingredients that may not be safe.

It’s especially important to consider these risks when giving supplements to children. Speak with your doctor before giving any herbal remedies to your child.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy may help to reduce anxiety levels or sensory-related symptoms. One review found that massage generally improved symptoms in the short-term when compared to no massage.

However, based on the quality of the studies reviewed, the investigators rate the strength of the evidence as low.

It’s also important to remember that some people with ASD may not be comfortable with being touched. Massage therapy would not be recommended for these people.

Acupuncture

Some people believe that acupuncture may help to relieve symptoms of ASD, although the mechanism through which it does so is still unknown.

A recent review of 17 studies found that acupuncture may help to improve symptoms of ASD. The authors encourage additional, more rigorous studies to confirm this.

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback therapy uses electrical sensors to give people information about brain activity. The idea is that upon learning this information, a person may gain more control over this function.

An older study looked at the use of neurofeedback in people with Asperger’s and found that an improvement was observed for symptoms as well as intellectual function.

Neurofeedback has shown more promise in treating ADHD, which can coexist along with ASD. There is not enough research to support its use in treating ASD itself.

Animal therapy

This treatment involves the use of animals to provide interaction and companionship. Some examples include horseback riding or interacting with more common pet animals such as dogs or guinea pigs.

A limited amount of research has been done into the effectiveness of animal therapy. However, some small studies have reported an improvement in social function after animal therapy.

Potentially harmful treatments

Some alternative treatments may do more harm than good. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the following treatments may be harmful:

  • Hyperbaric oxygen, a treatment that involves providing oxygen within a pressurized container. There’s currently no evidence that this treatment improves symptoms, and adverse effects like ear trauma can occur.
  • Chelation, where medications are used to remove metals such as mercury from the body. There’s currently no evidence of a link between mercury and ASD. This treatment can also have serious side effects such as potentially fatal organ damage.
  • Secretin, a gastrointestinal hormone that’s given intravenously. There’s currently no evidence that single or multiple doses of this treatment are effective.
  • Antifungal agents, which are given to deter Candida overgrowth that’s believed by some to make ASD symptoms worse. Although Candida species and anti-Candida antibodies have been identified from people with ASD, there’s no evidence of the efficacy of antifungal treatments.

Asperger’s is a milder form of autism. It’s now included in the umbrella diagnosis of ASD. There are a large number of treatments people try for Asperger’s.

Many of the treatments that are recommended for Asperger’s involve fostering improved behavioral, social, and communication skills. However, medications, speech therapy, and occupational therapy may also be used.

It’s important to remember that not all treatments for Asperger’s are supported by scientific evidence. Additionally, what may seem to be effective for one individual may not be effective for another. You should work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan for Asperger’s.