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"Is Asperger's Syndrome the same thing as autism?"
My cousin has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Is this the same thing as autism? She is 18 years old and I'm worried about her. Will she be okay? If she has it does it mean that other people in my family are likely to get it too?
Asperger's syndrome is one of several conditions that fall into what we call the 'autism spectrum.' This simply means that there are gradations of autism symptoms. Asperger's falls at the higher-functioning end of this spectrum, and is characterized in particular by trouble developing empathy for other people and, as a consequence, difficulty with social interactions. This may impact employment, education, and personal life. However, people with Asperger's syndrome have relatively preserved intelligence and verbal skills, and so, with the proper support mechanisms in place, they can often go on to lead rewarding and productive lives. Your relative will need to have close follow up with a psychiatrist skilled in the treatment of Asperger's, as often some of the related symptoms of social anxiety or compulsions need to be treated with medications. Additionally, therapy in both individual and group settings can be helpful, as people with Asperger's syndrome can often learn coping skills to help them manage better socially and in their jobs. There is a genetic component to Asperger's syndrome, meaning that relatives may be at higher risk of developing the condition. But there is no definite guarantee that having a relative with Asperger's syndrome means that you will develop the condition. Talk to your primary care doctor if you have more questions about this issue.
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