Many autistic people, including people with Asperger’s, don’t consider ASD a disability or disorder.
To put it another way, Asperger’s, like autism, isn’t a medical condition that requires treatment. Some autistic people may need support at school, work, or when handling activities of daily life, but support isn’t the same thing as treatment.
Early diagnosis can make it easier to get the right kind of support, which can help improve social interactions and day-to-day function.
When it comes to ASD support, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Different people have different needs, and a combination of therapies and other approaches can help address each person’s specific challenges.
People with Asperger’s could also, of course, have mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, just like anyone else. Getting treatment for these mental health symptoms can go a long way toward improving overall well-being.
There’s no medication that treats Asperger’s, but some people might use medication to manage symptoms of common conditions that occur at the same time, namely depression and anxiety.
Medications sometimes prescribed include:
- Antidepressants. Antidepressants can help ease symptoms of depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common type of antidepressants, can also have benefit for symptoms of anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Anti-anxiety medications. Anti-anxiety medications, including SSRIs and benzodiazepines, can reduce symptoms of social anxiety and other anxiety disorders.
- Anti-psychotic medications. Some doctors may prescribe these for irritability and agitation. Risperidone and aripiprazole are currently the only medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this purpose.
Various therapy approaches can help improve communication skills, emotional regulation, and social interaction. These include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help identify and change negative and unhelpful thought and behavior patterns. CBT can help with anxiety, depression, and other personal challenges or day-to-day difficulties.
- Speech therapy. A speech therapist evaluates and address language and communication challenges. For someone with Asperger’s, speech therapy might help with voice control.
- Social skills training. Social skills programs address issues that make social interaction challenging for people. Skills taught might range from conversational skills to understanding social cues and non-literal language, such as slang and commonly used expressions.
- Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT). PT and OT can help improve fine motor skills and coordination. OT can also help children with Asperger’s cope with sensory issues.
Parental training and therapy can also help parents get support with raising a child on the autism spectrum.
Not much research supports the benefits of other approaches for people with Asperger’s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t help.
Other potentially helpful strategies include:
- Melatonin. Sleep disturbances, which aren’t uncommon in children with Asperger’s, can worsen anxiety, depression, and irritability. Some evidence from 2018 suggests melatonin could have benefit, so it may be worth asking your doctor about trying it.
- Music and art therapy. Music therapy (also called sound healing therapy) and art therapy could help with communication, emotional, and social challenges associated with Asperger’s.
- Massage therapy. Massage therapy may provide a short-term reduction in anxiety or sensory-related symptoms for some autistic people, as long as they’re comfortable with being touched.
- Acupuncture. A 2018 review found that acupuncture could help improve social adaptation and sleep, along with other symptoms of ASD. The review authors emphasized the need for larger randomized controlled trials to support these findings.
- Support groups. Children and adults with Asperger’s, along with their families, may find it helpful to connect with others on the spectrum. Support groups and online forums offer an accessible environment to discuss Asperger’s and get more information and guidance.