In this blog post, we will explain why is so hard to detect Asperger’s and can people with Asperger’s syndrome develop healthy relationships.
Asperger’s syndrome is one of several autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) characterized by difficulties in social interaction and limited, stereotyped interests and activities.
What is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome or most commonly known as Asperger’s is a developmental disorder that from 2013 it was officially classified as an autism spectrum disorder. This syndrome causes significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. People with Asperger’s usually have restricted and repetitive behavioural patterns and interests. It is also called Asperger disorder, although there is little agreement among clinical researchers as to whether it should be called a syndrome or disorder.
These are some of Asperger’s syndrome symptoms and signs
• lack of social awareness;
• lack of interest in socializing/making friends;
• difficulty making and sustaining friendships;
• inability to infer the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others;
• either gazing too intently or avoiding eye contact;
• lack of changing facial expression, or use of exaggerated facial expressions;
• lack of use or comprehension of gestures;
• inability to perceive nonverbal cues or communications;
• failure to respect interpersonal boundaries;
• unusually sensitive to noises, touch, odours, tastes, or visual stimuli;
• inflexibility and over-adherence to or dependence on routines; and
• stereotypical and repetitive motor patterns such as hand flapping or arm-waving.
Why it is hard to detect people who have Asperger syndrome?
Asperger’s is a type of high-functioning autism or in other words, it is on the low end of the autism spectrum. But when someone mentions autism, usually people have certain stereotypes. When it comes to Asperger it is atypical autism, which means it is the less severe form of autism. In the past children that had this disorder and in their development stage had shown signs, the usual diagnosis was that they are just shy and withdrawn children. Now, recent studies, show the MRI scans can be used to pinpoint disturbed brain activity in people with Asperger’s and other types of autism, thereby better understanding and aiding in the diagnosis.
These are some of the symptoms and signs of autism
• Abnormal Body Posturing or Facial Expressions
• Avoidance of Eye Contact or Poor Eye Contact
• Deficits in Language Comprehension
• Delay in Learning to Speak
• Flat or Monotonous Speech
• Inappropriate Social Interaction
• Lack of Empathy
• Learning Disability or Difficulty
• Not Engaging in Play with Peers
• Preoccupation with Specific Topics
• Problems with Two-Way Conversation
• Repeating Words or Phrases
• Repetitive Movements
• Self-Abusive Behaviors
• Social Withdrawal
• Using Odd Words or Phrases
If a comparison is made between the symptoms and signs of Asperger’s and Autism, it is obvious that they have a lot of similarities, but Asperger’s is less severe and differs from other autism spectrum disorders in that way that there is no delay in linguistic and cognitive development. However, standard diagnostic criteria do not mention motor incontinence and atypical language use, which can occur frequently.
Paediatricians say that in the early years the syndrome shows certain signs, children who apparently have normal intelligence but lack the skills of nonverbal communication, also are physically incapable of showing empathy. This is some of the reasons why this disorder is hard to detect and can be undetected although the person has it, and is struggling with it.
Some research shows that symptoms of autism are often less obvious in girls than they are in boys.
Girls can be better at blending in or as some experts say, social camouflage. People with this disorder camouflage their autistic traits. This camouflage is also called masking, it means to artificially perform social behaviour that is more favourable and hiding the behaviour that is socially unacceptable. The masking can include fitting in and increasing connections with others, controlling the impulses to act neurotypical, rehearse answers to questions or conversations and mimic others behaviour.
But this process of social masking might lead to underdiagnosing forms of autism usually in girls and women in general. In some cases, people who have this disorder are so good at mimicking their behaviour that they pass the tests meant to diagnose autism. That is why there are people, usually woman in their thirties, forties, fifties even older that go undiagnosed for Asperger’s.
In other cases, the long-term stress that is caused by trying to blend in might cause a meltdown where a person with Asperger’s temporarily loses control because of emotional responses to environmental factors. This is so overwhelming for them that they can’t take in any more information. Also mimicking the desired social behaviour leaves people with high-functioning Autism, mentally exhausted and emotionally wrecked. This effect can also lead to further disturb the process of self-acceptance.
Whit all of this said it begs the question, does an Asperger’s person can develop a relationship?
Young people with Asperger’s syndrome have significant difficulty developing friendship relationships because they are not aware of what others may be thinking or feeling. Typical people do this naturally because from a small age they have been developing relationship skills with their family members and peers for many years. This is why later on in life they can create a successful romantic relationship. Young people with high-functioning autism have limited social conversational skills or the ability to communicate emotions and affection.
All of these traits affect relationships throughout childhood, and will eventually limit an adult’s ability to achieve a long-term successful relationship.
How do I get a girlfriend/boyfriend?
When it comes to relationship there are stages from being an acquaintance to being a partner. People with high functioning autism can have difficulties at each stage. To be successful in the relationship stages from a friend to intimate partner, a person with high functioning autism needs to understand how to flirt and court and also to read the signals of attraction and understand the concept of dating. These abilities are not innate for people with Asperger’s syndrome.
For most people the dating game is hard, the hard part is to see the true intentions of the other person that you are dating. Having in mind that people with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulties to correctly interpret someone’s intentions, dating is even harder. It’s typical for people with this disorder to not be able to understand the common rules of social contact, eye contact or word choice. This means that forming a bond with knowledge and experience with the other person is hard to accomplish. For a person with Asperger’s, an act of kindness can be perceived as a sign of a deeper level of interest. These people need help and need to be taught that the smile and personal attention is a sign of courtesy, not an indication of a desire for a relationship.
What kind of partners do people with Asperger’s need?
Managing social connections and social relationships are complicated for everybody, they require time and maintaining them requires effort. But people with Asperger’s largely are incapable of empathy and either emotional or physical intimacy, so when it comes to social relationships this is a real challenge for them. They are not able to understand how other people feel, and they have trouble being empathically attuned to others. This is sometimes called emotional blindness. So it’s not that uncommon for people with Asperger’s syndrome to be distant, they are also might be not fond of holding hands, kissing, or being physically affectionate.
They need a partner who is specific about their needs. For example: if you usually would say “Hey I don’t have time today, can you help me out with the house chores?”. If there is a lot of dirty laundry and dirty dishes, to you this obviously means they need to be washed. To your partner, it might mean dust cleaning the house. Instead, it’s more helpful to say: “Can you please clean the dishes and put the laundry in the washing machine?”.
In most cases, people that are emotionally involved with a partner that has Asperger’s, say that they express themselves practically rather than emotionally. That is why they are often seen as not having any feelings. On the other hand, people with this disorder do have feelings but they often say that others do not recognize their feelings when they are expressing them.
When it comes to creating romantic relationships with the person that has Asperger’s, they need a more caring and understanding partner and a partner who knows that he or she is dealing with a person who has Asperger’s syndrome. Next step is the partner to educate himself as much as he can about Asperger’s syndrome. If you don’t know much about this disorder, it’s easy to misinterpret your partner’s actions and think they don’t care about you.
It is really important to understand the reason of why the partner is behaving the way he or she is behaving, for example, why he is so distant, why he does not like to be hugged, why he does not show affection? Not knowing the reason might make the relationship feel like it’s an unfillable hole.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Asperger’s:
What are the characteristics of a person with Asperger’s?
People with Asperger’s have many characteristics, these are some of the common ones:
– Intellectual or Artistic Interest
– Speech Problems
– Delayed Motor Development
– Poor Social Skills
– The Development of Harmful Psychological Problems
How is Asperger’s different from autism?
Asperger’s is different from autism in several ways. People with autism usually have score below-average when it comes to IQ. On the other hand, people with Asperger’s usually score higher than their peers. Generally, people with Asperger do not have speech impairments or inabilities that often characterize those with autism. Actually people with Asperger’s have good language skills
Other difference is that autism is usually spotted in children before they reach school-age. This is because the symptoms are more severe and can be spotted earlier than those of Asperger’s. Because Asperger affects social interaction and communication, it goes undetected until an affected child encounters difficulties later on in life.
What causes Asperger syndrome?
There is no exact cause for the development of autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s syndrome. There can be many different causes and here are the main:
Genetic: Some researches show that in some children, the presence of Asperger’s syndrome can be associated with genetic disorders, such as Rett syndrome or Fragile X syndrome.
Physical: MRI scans show that there are structural and functional differences in specific areas of the brain of those who have Asperger’s and those who do not. This differences might be because in the embryonic cells during fetal development.
Environmental: such as viral infections, prenatal complications, and air pollutants, may play in the development of autism spectrum disorders,
These are some of the risk factors for developing Asperger’s:
Presence of a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety
Family history of autism spectrum disorders or other mental health conditions
Being born 10+ weeks premature
Having another medical condition, such as Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, epilepsy, and Tourette syndrome
Being born to older parents
What is Asperger’s syndrome in adults?
Asperger’s syndrome in adults affects the same way as it affects children. Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder and it is in the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. It restricts social interactions and exhibits repetitive behaviours. Adults have symptoms like:
lack of social awareness
lack of interest in socializing/making friends, difficulty making and sustaining friendships
inability to infer the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others;
What is Asperger’s called now?
Asperger’s before 2013 was recognized as an Asperger’s Disorder also known as Asperger’s Syndrome. In May 2013, the APA published the 5th edition of the DSM and Asperger’s Syndrome disappeared. Now, this disorder is in a broader category called autism spectrum disorder or ASD. This group of related mental health issues shares many symptoms. Still, a lot of people use the term Asperger’s.
What is an Asperger’s meltdown?
A meltdown is where a person with Asperger’s temporarily loses control because of emotional responses to environmental factors. This meltdown is not usually caused by one specific thing. Mimicking the desirable social behaviour, and following social conventions can trigger building up until the person becomes so overwhelmed that they can’t take in any more information.
Want to learn more about Asperger’s? Try these books!
1. Marriage and Lasting Relationships with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder)
2. Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and Long-Term Relationships: Fully Revised and Updated with DSM-5® Criteria Second Edition
3. The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder): A Guide to Living in an Intimate Relationship with a Partner who is on the Autism Spectrum
4. The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder): Revised Edition
5. Asperger’s and Adulthood: A Guide to Working, Loving, and Living with Asperger’s Syndrome