Is Asperger syndrome the same thing as autism?
The difference between these two things can seem very confusing. They are similar to each other because both people that are autistic and people that have Asperger syndrome have problems in three main areas (social communication, social understanding and imagination). Another similarity is that both people with autism and people with Asperger syndrome dislike change and have routines they like to follow (doing the same things in the same way, everyday). However, a person with Asperger syndrome is more able than an autistic person - this means you can do things for yourself that an autistic child might need help with. Another difference is that people with Aspergers have a normal (or perhaps even higher than normal) level of intelligence, whereas an autistic child may have problems learning things.
At what age do you get Asperger syndrome?
In most cases, Asperger syndrome is thought to be present from birth. Some babies appear to be developing in a completely expected way, but by the time they are 1 or 2 years old, parents notice differences between their child and other children. They may lose skills they had already learnt, (e.g. perhaps they had started to babble - which is the way babies learn to talk, but then they suddenly stop babbling) which can upset parents a lot. Sometimes parents of new born babies with Asperger syndrome are aware their child is different, but most parents notice towards the end of the first year. This may be because the baby does not look very much at their parents (normally babies are very interested in looking at people's faces, especially their mother's) or because they do not start babbling. Although you may be able to tell from a very early age that a child is different, the parents, or the child themselves may not hear the words 'Asperger syndrome' for several years. This could be for many reasons - perhaps the behaviour is believed to be the result of something else, or perhaps the doctor does not know enough about Asperger syndrome to recognise it.
Are there any medicines that can cure Asperger syndrome?
There are many ways to help, but there is no 'magic cure' for Asperger syndrome.
Sometimes medications are given, but this is not to treat the Asperger syndrome itself, but other problems the child may have from having the condition. A good way to see this is say a person had a broken leg, and they take an aspirin to relieve the pain. Now by doing this they may feel a lot happier and more comfortable, but the aspirin has not had any effect on their broken leg - it is still broken. In a similar sense, a child with Asperger syndrome may spend a large part of everyday involved in his or her routines. This may make life very hard, but some drugs have been found to make the person feel more relaxed, so they don't need to spend as long doing their routines. Unfortunately, not all drugs work in the same way for everybody, and some people may have bad side-effects from the drug (e.g. they may get headaches, or lose their appetite). Some parents have found that by changing their child's diet (either by not letting the child eat things that they may be allergic to, or giving them vitamins to swallow) they can help their child to feel better. Once again this doesn't work for everybody, but may be worth trying.
Other ways of helping are more practical. Children with Asperger syndrome may find it hard to concentrate, or get easily distracted at school. Therefore a small school may be better than a big school. If the teacher is aware that the child with Asperger syndrome may not understand everything they say, they may be able to teach the child in the best way for them (this may include using simple clear language which will not confuse the pupil, or giving them extra thinking time to answer questions). Another way of helping may be to see what subjects and tasks the child has problems in, and spend longer on those areas so the child can become better at them.
Can you die from having Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome cannot kill you, in the way that cancer or being run over by a truck, can. No one will die just from having Asperger syndrome, but you must be careful because the condition can sometimes make you not realise that some things may be dangerous (e.g. some children with Asperger syndrome may step out into the road without checking first that there is no traffic - this is why it is always important to listen to your parents in these kinds of situations).
Can people from anywhere in the world have Asperger syndrome?
Yes, where ever you live, what ever nationality you are, who ever your parents may be - anyone can have Asperger syndrome. The only exceptions to this is that boys are far more likely to have Asperger syndrome (for every one girl with Asperger syndrome, there will be nine boys with Asperger syndrome). Also if your mum and dad have already had one child with Asperger syndrome, it is slightly more likely that any other children they have may also have Asperger syndrome.
Will I always have Asperger syndrome?
Yes. Basically, the child with Asperger syndrome grows up to be an adult with Asperger syndrome. It doesn't disappear when you grow up. However, many people, by the time they are adults have changed a lot, and they may not have as many problems as when they were younger.
It is important to remember that you are not alone - there are many people with Asperger syndrome. People with Asperger's can go on to achieve a lot of things - including going to university, getting a good job, living in your own house etc. You will always have Asperger syndrome, although as time goes on you may get better at things you used to find really hard. Just as everyone without Asperger's is different, no two people with the disorder are the same. You are unique, nobody else has quite the same talents, ambitions or personality as you. It may be tempting to try to change the way you are, because you feel you are different, but many people will like you because you are different from anyone else they have ever met before.
Most importantly, remember that you are exactly the same person you always were, before you ever heard the words Asperger syndrome. Only now, you have a way of understanding why you find some things tricky, and also can find ways of making life easier for yourself.