Asperger’s syndrome is an inherited developmental neurological disorder of genetic origin. It falls into the category of autism spectrum disorders or autism. Asperger’s syndrome has no intellectual disability or language delay.
Asperger Syndrome in adults means an individual’s life plays out in their own world. They are usually isolated from others, so they may seem like strange people who fail to relate adequately relate with others or who do not adapt well to society.
Asperger’s syndrome was first described in 1943 by Dr. Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist, and was later reported to the scientific community by the British psychiatrist Lorna Wing in 1981. The American Psychiatric Association also formally recognized the syndrome in 1994.
Specifically, Asperger’s syndrome is characterized by difficulties with social behaviour, especially in the areas of verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as social interactions. A person with Asperger’s syndrome, or Aspie, is affected by “mental blindness” for everything that concerns social cues. As a blind person learns to find his way around a world he does not see, an Asperger child or adult must learn the social cues he she normally misses.
While some Aspergers are gifted, this is not the case for everyone, although they often have a slightly higher than average intelligence quotient. Note also that the onset of problems with Asperger is often later than for autism and that family history is common.
As in any disorder or disease, the sooner it is diagnosed better, in order to treat it properly. Some people can reach adulthood and it’s not been detected. That is why we must all be prepared to treat Asperger in adults, to know how it manifests itself later in life, and to consider advice we follow.
The ways in which Asperger syndrome manifests in adults
The most outstanding features of adults with the syndrome are as follows:
- They are different people who do not usually fit well into the society in which they live.
- They have an intelligence standard and, sometimes, superior standards.
- They do not have good social skills and that makes it very difficult for them to relate with other people.
- They do not feel empathy towards others, so they have a hard time.
- In relationships between couples, difficulties usually arise because they do not understand the other person, nor do they feel empathy for her.
- They usually have favorite activities in which they concentrate a lot and with which they can, in some cases, become obsessed.
- They may be somewhat clumsy in their movements.
- They usually say what they think directly without concern for taboos and without filters.
- They are perfectionists and demanding.
- They are able to store large amounts of information, especially their interests.
- They tend to be more efficient in technical work (computer science, photography, mathematics, administration, etc.)
- When the goals are well defined they tend to be persistent in achieving their objectives.
- They can sometimes struggle in high-pressure communication situations, like job interviews.
Therefore, Asperger syndrome has effects in three very important areas for the life of the individual: social, professional and personal relationships.
Advice for An Adult with Asperger
A person who thinks they have Asperger, or a person who knows someone who may have symptoms of this disorder, should see a doctor as soon as possible to be diagnosed.
The following tips can be followed for all ages in diagnosis:
- In social relationships, where empathy is important, they can use their intelligence to compensate for their lack of ability and learn how to act in each case.
- When talking to a person with Asperger, do not use abstract terms like “throwing in the towel” instead of surrendering, because they will understand it literally.
- A person with Asperger can improve a lot if they know themselves thoroughly so they are aware and change when necessary.
- In a relationship with a person suffering from Aspergers: for psychological support, it is important to understand that they do not act in a malicious way. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on the person as being different and not someone with defects.
- However, each person is a world to his or herself, so each case is very different from one to another. Pay attention to particularities.
Asperger and Autism: What’s the Difference?
Autism is distinguished from Asperger’s syndrome by intellect and language. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome do not usually have language delays or intellectual disabilities. Some Asperger’s cases – but not all – are sometimes endowed with impressive intellectual abilities (often mediatized in the mental calculation or memory).
According to the association ‘Actions for Asperger’s Autism’, ”for a person to obtain a diagnosis of High-Level Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, it is necessary, in addition to the criteria usually identified for a diagnosis of autism, that his intelligence quotient (IQ) be greater than 70.”
What is an Autistic Person with Asperger’s Syndrome?
We can summarize the symptoms of Autism by major characteristics:
Difficulties of verbal and non-verbal communication: difficulties in understanding abstract concepts, irony, puns, the figurative sense, metaphors, facial expressions, interpretations literally, what may be “valuable language” is missed.
Socialization difficulties: uncomfortable in groups, difficulties understanding social rules and conventions, can’t perceive the needs and emotions of others, and to recognize and manage their own emotions.
Suffering sensorineural: clumsy, poor eye contact, an often frozen face, difficulty looking into the eyes, heightened sensory perceptions, including hypersensitivity to noise or light, odors, intolerance to certain textures, sensitivity to detail.
a need for routine, which results in repeated and stereotyped behaviors, and difficulties in adapting to changes and unforeseen circumstances;
Interest Limited in number and/or very strong intensity, for what is passions other people feel strongly about.
Note that Asperger’s with autism differ in terms of communication and social meaning, are known for their honesty, frankness, loyalty, lack of prejudice and their sense of detail. All of these are assets that are welcome in many areas of society.
Still, the difficulties of communication and social integration experienced by people with Asperger’s Syndrome can be disabling and cause anxiety, withdrawal, social isolation, depression or even suicide attempts in the elderly. Hence the importance of early diagnosis, often experienced as a relief for the person himself and his family.
Female Asperger and Less Noticeable Symptoms
To diagnose autistic spectrum disorder, doctors and psychologists use a variety of tests and questionnaires. These symptoms can be more or less marked according to the individuals, and in particular for girls and women.
Several types of research tend to show that girls with autism or Asperger’s would be more difficult to diagnose than boys. Although it is still unclear why, perhaps for reasons of education or biology, girls with autism and Asperger’s syndrome use more social imitation strategies.
They tend to be more observant than males, and succeed in “imitating” others to mimic social behaviors that are foreign to them. Asperger females also mask rituals and stereotypes better than males and often have strong interests in more “socially acceptable” themes, such as psychology, animals, etc., where Asperger males are more often attracted to strange interests.
The difficulty of the diagnosis is, therefore, greater for a girl and women with Asperger’s syndrome, to the point that some Aspergers are diagnosed very late in adulthood.
Asperger’s Syndrome Support
Once the diagnosis of Asperger has been made, the individual may be best served by working with a speech therapist and/or psychotherapist who specializes in autism spectrum disorders, preferably. The speech therapist will help the individual to understand the subtleties of language, especially in terms of irony, expressions, perception of emotions, etc.
The therapist can help a person with Asperger to learn the social codes that are lacking, especially through discussing and working through scenarios. The support can be done individually or in groups, the second option being more practical to recreate everyday situations in which (ex: playground, parks, sports activities, etc.).
A child with Asperger’s syndrome will be able to attend normal schooling without any problem. The help of auxiliary school life (AVS) can, however, be a plus to help him integrate better into school.