Identification of Asperger’s Syndrome in Preschool

Asperger’s Syndrome is characterized as a condition in which a child exhibits qualitative impairment in social interaction with lonely childaccompanying restrictive repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interest and activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2005). These children demonstrate significant concerns with their ability to interact with peers and engage in age-appropriate play. These children are often high-functioning and are often described as being ‘precocious’ when they are younger. Many parents and teachers are first able to identify Asperger’s Syndrome when the child is in preschool.

Preschool is the time when many children have to attend a structured and lengthy environment in which they are forced to interact with other peers on a regular basis.

Below are steps that we often see parents go through when there may be concerns in relation to a child’s social functioning:

  1. It is recommended that there be constant and open communication between parents and preschool teachers. It is imperative that teachers notify parents on an immediate basis when they suspect that a child may be struggling with their social interactions. Teachers should be wary of children who are playing by themselves and/or do not seem to be interested in interacting with peers. Teachers should not sugarcoat their concerns or wait for behaviors to get better. Document the information and learn the facts.
  2. Parents must not be offended when a teacher brings up a concern. The teacher has a concern for the child and only wants to ensure that the child is able to perform to his or her potential within the school and in a social setting.
  3. After a parent receives the information, it is strongly recommended that they discuss the information with the pediatrician. The pediatrician will likely be able to work through the concerns and help to identify what avenues may be needed. Many times, the pediatrician will want further information and may refer to the parents and the child to a neuropsychologist for complete a comprehensive evaluation.
  4. The purpose of the evaluation is to help identify if the child meets clinical criteria for a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome as well as help to determine what interventions would be warranted.
  5. There may be some form of intervention created in which focuses on improving the child’s social regulation. This may consist of some combination of behavioral therapy, social work, speech/language therapy and occupational therapy. It is strongly recommended that the various therapists be in contact with the child’s preschool teacher in order to ensure that the child can receive accommodations within the school setting in order to help address his or her social needs.

Preschool serves as a time when many children attend structured environments in which they are required to engage in social interactions with other children on a regular basis. This time frame is often the first time when a child may exhibit significant social concerns. As such, it is imperative that parents take any concerns that are brought up by the preschool teacher and help to identify what is needed to ensure that the child is able to find social success.