The diagnostic pathway commences when an experienced teacher observes a child who has no obvious history of characteristics associated with autism, but who is very unusual in terms of his or her ability to understand social situations and conventions. The child is also recognized as immature in the ability to manage emotions and to express empathy. There can be an unusual learning style with remarkable knowledge in an area of interest to the child, but significant learning or attention problems for other academic skills. The teacher may also notice problems with motor coordination such as handwriting,...
A young child may be identified by parents and teachers as being clumsy, with problems with coordination and dexterity. The child may have problems with tying shoelaces, learning to ride a bicycle, handwriting and catching a ball, and an unusual or immature gait when running or walking.
We know that young children with Asperger’s syndrome are prone to develop mood disorders (Attwood 2003a), and some children seem to be almost constantly anxious, which might indicate a Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). One of the problems faced by children with Asperger’s syndrome who use their intellect rather than intuition to succeed in some social situations is that they may be in an almost constant state of alertness and anxiety, leading to a risk of mental and physical exhaustion.
The child may have developed compensatory mechanisms to avoid anxiety-provoking situations such as school, by refusing to go to school or being mute at school (Kopp and Gillberg 1997). There may be intense anxiety or a phobic reaction to certain social situations, or to sensory experiences such as a dog barking, or to a change in expectations such as an alteration to the daily school routine.