13 October 2009

Inheriting Asperger Syndrome

Q: What are the chances of Asperger syndrome being inherited?

A: . . . [T]here seems to be a strong genetic component associated with this disorder. . . .

Asperger syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a child's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics.

Signs and symptoms of Asperger syndrome often include engaging in one-sided, long-winded conversations; displaying unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures; showing an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects; appearing not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others' feelings; and having a hard time reading other people or understanding humor.

Doctors group Asperger syndrome with other conditions that are called autism spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders. . . . Asperger syndrome is generally thought to be at the milder end of this spectrum. . . .

[A] child born to parents who already have one child with an autism spectrum disorder has approximately a 4 to 10 percent chance of also developing one of these disorders, including Asperger syndrome. In families without a history of autism spectrum disorders, the chance of having a child with one of these disorders is approximately 0.7 percent.

There is no genetic or biological test for Asperger's snydrome. It is diagnosed by observing behavior. Some studies put the heritability of austism spectrum disorders considerably higher.

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