Diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome

By Janet Turansky

The criteria for diagnosing Asperger’s syndrome (AS) in an individual vary depending on where the person lives and what symptoms he or she displays. For example, in the United States, an AS diagnosis requires that the individual has significant difficulty in daily living and routines. Proper diagnosis requires an array of tests conducted by licensed professionals. Most AS diagnoses occur between the ages of 3 and 11. Diagnosis of adolescents and adults presents special challenges, as the presentation of AS changes as individuals age. Some symptoms may improve, but many communication and social difficulties can and will persist.

Although not everyone affected with AS presents the same symptoms, certain broad categories exist. Children with AS often display an intense concentration on certain activities and prefer unchanging routines. They may lack certain social skills that would help them relate to and interact with others, such as recognizing emotional cues. They may also adopt odd facial expressions, or tonally flat speech patterns.

If parents observe these or similar traits in a child, they should make an appointment with the child’s physician. Typically, the doctor will ask the parents how the child gets along with others, what they have noticed about the child’s behavior patterns, and whether teachers or other adults have mentioned any unusual behaviors or interactions. From there, the doctor may recommend visiting specialists who can evaluate the child’s motor, social, speech, and language skills.

The next phase involves formulating and implementing an AS treatment plan. This will require adults in the child’s life–such as parents, other family members, teachers, doctors, specialists, and mental health counselors–to take an active role. Together, these individuals can help the child develop stronger social skills and facilitate easier learning through in- and out-of-school programs and counseling, as well as at-home methods such as holding to daily routines.

About the Author

A licensed Speech and Language Pathologist specializing in early childhood education, Janet Turansky works with clients throughout Fairfield County, Connecticut, and Westchester County, New York. Janet Turansky leverages her knowledge of conditions and disorders such as autism, Asperger’s, apraxia, and others to help her clients overcome obstacles and more easily integrate with their peers.

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Recognizing Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome

By Janet Turansky

An autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s syndrome affects many individuals throughout the world. Those affected by Asperger’s display difficulty interacting with others in social settings, and maintain rigid and recurring behavior patterns. Awareness of the specific characteristics stemming from these two broad traits can help to increase public awareness, understanding, and acceptance of individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

First, let us concentrate on social interaction. Asperger’s syndrome affects individuals in virtually all social settings: classrooms, playgrounds, therapy sessions, public places, and the home. Characteristics of Asperger’s include difficulty expressing one’s emotions and a lack of empathy when communicating with others. For example, many people with Asperger’s fail to make eye contact, an action most Americans consider a normal part of conversation.

This does not imply that all of those affected by Asperger’s syndrome are withdrawn. Some individuals will initiate contact with strangers or people they know well. However, they may interrupt an ongoing conversation with an uninvited monologue on a seemingly arbitrary topic. Other patients with Asperger’s may not talk at all. Many fail to recognize signs that another person wishes for privacy, or is experiencing feelings such as sadness, anger, and happiness.

Overall, the social interactions of those with Asperger’s syndrome are often characterized as awkward or unpredictable. Many individuals affected by Asperger’s also display unusual, persistent behavioral patterns. They may fixate on their interests or hobbies to a degree that some people would consider abnormal. For example, a child with Asperger’s syndrome might become obsessed with football statistics, yet exhibit no interest in the sport itself. Individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s sometimes engage in physical behaviors such as hand wringing or humming with no conscious awareness of what they are doing.

About the Author

Janet Turansky graduated from Hunter College with an MA in Speech Pathology & Audiology and Early Childhood Education. Janet Turansky works with patients to help them overcome the effects of Asperger’s syndrome, stuttering, and other speech and language difficulties.

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Membership Benefits Offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

by Janet Turansky

A professional organization of speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and researchers in the fields of speech, language, and hearing, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) currently maintains a total membership of nearly 150,000 people. By adhering to its stated mission of advancing communication science, promoting effective communication, and speaking for people with communication and related disorders, ASHA hopes to make effective communication achievable and accessible for all. Members of ASHA enjoy access to a number of organizational benefits, including continuing education, advocacy, top-quality publications, and certification.

Continuing education: To help speech, language, and hearing professionals stay abreast of the latest advances in their respective fields, ASHA offers a number of continuing education (CE) courses in a variety of subjects, including language and literacy, autism and developmental disorders, fluency, and multicultural issues. ASHA members can complete their CE courses through either in-person conferences and events or remote telephone and web seminars. The ASHA Convention, one of the most prominent education events for members of the speech, language, and hearing profession, brings together more than 12,000 professionals for 3 days of seminars, workshops, and speaker series.

Advocacy: In addition to organizing continuing education opportunities, ASHA also acts as a voice for the speech, language, and hearing professions in legislative arenas. In particular, ASHA’s Speak Out, Be Heard federal advocacy program works closely with elected officials to draft laws that favor the interests of ASHA membership. High-priority items on the ASHA legislative agenda include the promotion of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) policies that lessen the burden of paperwork, support ESEA funding to help struggling learners in all school districts, and increase recruitment and retention of professionals in the field.

Publications: Through its series of award-winning publications such as the ASHA Leader newspaper, ASHA provides a valuable source of information for speech language professionals as they attempt to deliver the best treatment possible. ASHA also maintains an active presence in the world of scientific research, sponsoring journals such as the American Journal of Audiology, the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, and the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Certification: To ensure a high standard of professional and ethical conduct among its members, ASHA sponsors a certification program that recognizes the achievements and dedication of its members. For nearly 60 years, ASHA has certified professionals in the fields of speech, language, and hearing, conferring upon them a fundamental belief in their ability to provide clinical services of the utmost quality.

About the author: An accomplished speech and language pathologist and current member of the ASHA, Janet Turansky possesses more than three decades of experience in the field. A Bachelor of Arts recipient from Queens College in New York City, Janet Turansky earned her Master of Arts degree in Speech Pathology, Audiology, and Early Childhood Education from Hunter College.

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An Overview of Stuttering

by Janet Turansky

One of the most common speech disorders in today’s medical landscape, stuttering refers to the interruption of speech by involuntary prolongations of sounds and repetitions of syllables or phrases. Stuttering belongs to a larger family of disorders, called disfluency, which is characterized by breaks in the flow of speech and difficulty in verbal communication.

In general, stuttering develops in children as they gradually acquire the ability to form sounds, words, and sentences. Many cases of stuttering begin with repetition of hard consonant sounds such as K, G, and T at the beginning of words, which indicates a problem with the transition of consonant sounds to either vowel sounds or subsequent consonant sounds. Stuttering can also manifest itself in the repetition of entire words at any point in a sentence, often as a result of the speaker’s multiple attempts to produce a flowing sentence. In other cases, people with stuttering may prolong continuant sounds to unnatural length, often as a deliberate attempt to transition smoothly into the rest of the word. In children, prolongation of sounds often serves as an indicator of problems with stuttering in the future.

Because stuttering has the potential to severely impair a person’s ability to communicate in an effective manner, many people who stutter become frustrated and stressed during verbal interaction, which only worsens the effects of the stuttering. In some cases, people with stuttering can experience rapid eye blinking and jerking of the head or other body parts. People who stutter often compensate by pausing between sentences or words, including extra sounds to help with transitions, repeating parts of phrases, and elongating sounds within words.

For most people, stuttering is a highly treatable condition that requires consultation with an experienced speech and language pathologist. Although the majority of early stuttering cases resolve themselves with the verbal development of the child, people whose cases persist for more than six months often benefit greatly from speech therapy. Speech therapy for stuttering primarily focuses on calming the nerves of the speaker and helping him or her to monitor the rates of speech. Participants in speech therapy often undergo a process called fluency shaping therapy, which teaches them to exercise control of their phonation, articulation, and breathing through techniques such as soft speech contacts and continuous airflow. Although the majority of techniques result in slow, monotonic speech, speakers become comfortable with speech fluency over time and find themselves able to apply their training to real-world situations.

About the author: Janet Turansky is a seasoned speech and language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Throughout her career, Janet Turansky has developed a comprehensive background in a wide array of speech and developmental disorders, ranging from stuttering and autism spectrum disorders to aphasia and dementia.

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