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What are the treatments for Asperger syndrome?

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While there is no cure for Asperger syndrome, treatment can improve the symptoms. Experts agree that the earlier treatment starts, the better the result. Many children with Asperger syndrome grow up to lead happy, normal lives.

There is no single treatment for children with Asperger syndrome, but experts recommend the child receive a treatment program to address the symptoms. The program should have the following features1:

  • A predictable schedule
  • Tasks taught as a series of simple steps
  • Active engagement of the child's attention
  • Highly structured activities
  • Regular reinforcement of behavior

The most common treatment programs fall into three main categories:

  • Communication and social skills training2
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy3
  • Medication4

Communication and Social Skills Training

This training focuses on improving communication and social skills. It may take place in a group therapy setting where children are taught skills for successfully interacting with other children. The training can teach children how to:

  • Speak with a more natural rhythm
  • Interpret gestures, body language, tone of voice, humor, and sarcasm
  • Use eye contact

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a kind of "talk" therapy, may include many different techniques. However, its central purposes are to help children recognize day-to-day situations that cause them difficulty and to teach them to select and use coping plans to deal with these situations. Cognitive behavioral therapy also helps children:

  • Learn the give-and-take of social interactions, such as how to avoid interrupting other people
  • Decrease obsessions or repetitive routines
  • Curb emotional outbursts
  • Recognize their own and others' feelings
  • Cope with anxiety and other emotions

Medication

No medication specifically treats Asperger syndrome. However, some people with the syndrome benefit from medications such as antidepressants, especially if they experience anxiety and depression. Other medications have been used to treat some children experiencing the following aspects of Asperger syndrome:

  • Irritability and agitation
  • Hyperactivity and inattention
  • Repetitive behaviors

Talk to your doctor about treatment options and to help determine whether your child could benefit from medication.

Other Therapies

Depending on the child's specific needs, other types of therapies may help. These include:

  • Occupational or physical therapy to address poor motor coordination
  • Speech or language therapy
  • Training or support provided to parents to teach them behavior skills to use at home

With effective treatment, children with Asperger syndrome can learn to cope with situations and events that cause them difficulty. However, they may still find social situations and personal relationships challenging. Many adults with Asperger syndrome are able to work successfully and maintain careers, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to maintain independent lives.5


  1. Kasari, C., & Lawton, K. (2010). New directions in behavioral treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Current Opinion in Neurology, 23, 137-143. [top]
  2. Rao, P. A., Beidel, D. C., & Murray, M. J. (2008). Social skills interventions for children with Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism: A review and recommendations. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 353-361. [top]
  3. Moree, B. N., & Davis, T. E. III (2010). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders: Modification trends. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4, 346-354. [top]
  4. Matson, J. L., & Dempsey, T. (2008). Autism spectrum disorders: Pharmacotherapy for challenging behaviors. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 20, 175-191. [top]
  5. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders - 4th ed. Washington, DC: Author.[top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 11/30/2012
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