International Meeting for Autism Research: Identifying Children with Characteristics of Asperger Syndrome In the Special Education Units In Schools In Malacca, Malaysia

Identifying Children with Characteristics of Asperger Syndrome In the Special Education Units In Schools In Malacca, Malaysia

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
3:00 PM
K. Amat, University of Strahclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Background: Asperger syndrome (AS) is one of the PDD’s subtypes associated with normal intelligence and intact formal language skills (APA, 2000). In Malaysian schools, children with AS are not being fully recognised. Children with ASDs in Malaysian schools are generally identified as ‘autistic’ and are placed with other children with learning disabilities in the special education programme which is carried out in the normal primary and secondary schools. Children with Asperger syndrome should be identified so they could be given an appropriate and the same degree of diversification in terms of educational opportunities as other children (Peeters & Gillberg, 1999). It would be more important for children with AS and High functioning autism (HFA) to be identified because their higher IQ could lead them to have a better prognosis (Ben-Itzcak & Zachor, 2007) and they were also shown as very amenable to a variety of psychologically based interventions (Birkan, Mclannahan & Krantz, 2007).

Objectives: The aim of this study is to identify children with characteristics of AS within children diagnosed with autism in the special education units in schools in Malacca, Malaysia.

Methods: This study was undertaken using a standardised rating scale specifically formulated to identify individuals with AS (Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale or ASDS) and assessment of the children’s current language and IQ skills. These findings were compared to their language and cognitive developmental history, acquired from GADS parent interviews forms, to verify whether they fulfil the DSM-IV criterion for AS: ‘no speech and cognitive delays’.

Results: It was found that 2 children were ‘very likely’ to have characteristics of AS as determined by the standardised rating scale. However, their full scales IQ (FSIQ) indicated by the WASI IQ test fell in the low average and borderline range. For current language skills, even though one of the children has outstanding language skills, particularly in listening, speaking and reading, to some extent his writing skills are still quite low. Meanwhile, the other child did not record a high score, especially in writing, reading and speaking skills. GADS parent interview also revealed that both children had not used single words by age two, or communicative phrases by age three and they also have delays in cognitive development.

Conclusions: Even though 2 children were perceived by their parents and teachers as ‘very likely’ to have characteristics of AS, discrepancies in manifestation of their features make it impossible to absolutely verify that any child shows characteristics of AS. Furthermore, they do not meet the DSM-IV criteria for AS. Since their characteristics are hardly different from autism, they may then benefit from the wealth of knowledge available on how to support individuals with autism (Macintosh & Dissanayake, 2004). Therefore a dimensional rather than categorical approach would be more helpful in understanding the distinction amongst the PDD subtypes.

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