The first question that comes to mind is what is a normal life? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary normal is conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern. Are any of our lives normal? Do we all fit in the norm? maybe not. People suffering from Asperger syndrome may have their own version of what is normal for them.
This blog post provides an insight into the lives of people suffering from Asperger Syndrome while highlighting the characteristics, demystifying the misconceptions and providing ways to cope with Asperger’s to lead a “normal” life.
What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism. It is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. Expressing their emotions and reading social cues is a tough task for people suffering from Asperger’s. However, what many people don’t realize is that most people with Asperger’s are high functioning adults who lead independent lives
Many of the behaviours that Asperger syndrome causes are positive, such as, the ability to focus on one particular topic, activity or hobby intently which can lead to a person developing an excellent skill.
Common Characteristics of Asperger’s
People suffering from Asperger’s syndrome show unique behavioural patterns, however, some common characteristics include:
- Above-average intelligence they are often seen exhibiting a keen interest in a particular subject. For example, having a thorough knowledge of the planetary movements and being the master on that subject.
- Maintaining strict routines/ rituals and facing a challenge with change or transitions
- Due to their lack of social skills, people with Asperger’s may only make few friends and are often considered introverts/loners.
- People may find education difficult, due to classrooms being busy and overstimulating, teachers being unable to provide additional support, difficulty with learning new things and writing
- Sensory intolerance- too much noise, visual input or social pressure can cause a person to become overwhelmed
- Feeling lonely, anxious or isolated
- Not understanding concepts such as turn taking and sharing
- Showing a lack of empathy for how other people feel
- Preferring routine and becoming upset when routine is disrupted
- Having little imagination
- Difficulty making friends
- Delayed development of motor skills e.g. finding it hard to use cutlery
- Poor handwriting
- Understanding and being able to communicate, but misunderstanding elements of language such as changes in a person’s tone of voice
- Having very specific interests that other people may see as excessive or obsessive
The struggle of a boy with Asperger’s and his transformation over the years has been beautifully captured in the books ‘Look Me In The Eyes’ (click here).
Asperger syndrome and education
Some children with Asperger’s syndrome find mainstream education difficult. Some find that bullying is an issue that they feel lonely or are unable to keep up with their peers. This is not to say children with Asperger syndrome are necessarily less intelligent, and many actually have a higher than average IQ, but learning new skills, concentrating and just being within a classroom environment can be challenging for some.
Employment for people with Asperger’s
One of the important aspects of living an adult life is the ability to hold a steady job and pay rent and bills. For people suffering from Asperger’s there is an added challenge caused by their difficulty understanding social interactions. This means that the best jobs for a young adult with Asperger’s Syndrome are those that are highly structured, do not involve deadlines, but does require attention to detail. Aspies need to focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses.
Relationships for people with Asperger’s Syndrome
Adolescents and adults with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulty developing peer relationships and take significant time to understand what someone may be thinking or feeling. They suffer from an extreme sensitivity to particular sensory experiences. The characteristic traits of people with Asperger’s will affect their relationship skills throughout childhood, and may even limit their ability to achieve a long-term successful relationship. The person often becomes confused/overwhelmed when they are expected to demonstrate or receive expressions of affection in the slightest form.
Click here to know what a relationship is most often like with a person with Asperger’s.
Dietary planning for Asperger’s
People with Asperger syndrome sometimes have difficulty with eating and may only like a small range of foods. Poor diet can lead to health problems in the future and may make some symptoms and behaviours worse. Some people report that eliminating certain foods such as gluten or sugar from the diet of someone with the condition, or adding supplements for Asperger syndrome has improved their behaviours or helped them feel better, but there is little evidence to support these claims.
Physical activity for Asperger’s
Regular exercise is important for everybody and people with Asperger syndrome can benefit from a greater sense of self-esteem and wellbeing through exercise. Some people may prefer individual sports or exercise as opposed to team games because working with others in this environment may be challenging for them. Everybody is different though. Exercise does not have to be strict or comprised of set activities – simply running around and keeping active is still worthwhile exercise.
Confronting the misconceptions about Asperger’s
- People with Asperger’s outgrow it
It’s not uncommon for people to dismiss the behaviour of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome as nothing more than antisocial tendencies which will be outgrown. Children/ adults often develop skills to cope. However, Asperger’s is a lifelong condition. With the proper support and an accepting and learning environment, children can accomplish their goals.
- They chose to be antisocial
People with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to suffer from social anxiety and lack the skills needed in social interactions. For them, being antisocial is not a choice. These people don’t know what’s appropriate to say while they are taking part in social interactions, and face trouble understanding body language and other social cues.
- They are not empathetic
There are two different types of empathy- cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. People with Asperger’s Syndrome take time to understand the emotional significance of a situation. A person with Asperger’s may not react to bad news immediately, but once they’ve had the time to process the news, they might respond more intensely than other people.
- People with Asperger’s Syndrome aren’t normal
Often when people get to know that a person has Asperger’s their first response might be “But you look so normal.” This is hurtful because there is nothing abnormal with Asperger’s. These people may have trouble interacting with others and have sensory processing issues, but they are just like any of us. It’s perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about the disorder.
How to lead a better life with Asperger’s?
- People with Asperger’s syndrome require guidance in relationship skills at each point on the relationship continuum and probably throughout their lives.
- Children often require guidance from a speech therapist, teachers and school counsellors in the art of conversation, and strategies to improve friendship skills throughout the school years. These will help them form friendships thereby improving self-esteem and lay the foundations for adult relationship skills.
- Young adults will need encouragement and opportunities to make acquaintances and friends. This can be done by joining a hobby group that is related with a special interest. Asperger’s syndrome support groups can also provide an opportunity for a professional to address the group and provide discussion and guidance in relationships.
- Consider psychological therapy. It is tough to change your partner, however, educating yourself about the problem can help you understand and deal with your partner in a better manner. Therapy can help you and your partner to cope and do more than just survive the relationship.
- speech and language therapy- People with Asperger’s often have well-developed language skills. However, this therapy may help them improve their conversational tone, which may be unusual or monotone. It can also help people with Asperger’s to understand and respond to things like figures of speech or implied meanings.
- art and music therapy- This helps by addressing various cognitive, social, or emotional needs. The creativity in the process may help in improving communication and development of social skills. For example, making music with another person fosters behaviours like eye contact, taking turns, and engagement with another person.
Click here to learn more practical solutions to cope with Asperger’s.
People with Asperger’s can function very well in some arenas and not well in others. Some do quite well at work because they are extremely bright and well-suited to the job. There may be others who cannot function in a work environment, but can maintain one or a few friendships or acquaintances, be successful public speakers, and live independently. There might be others who can neither maintain employment nor sustain friendships, but can produce beautiful art.
Some of the famous examples of people suffering from Asperger’s are Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Beethoven with early intervention and the correct behavioural management strategies, most people with Asperger’s Syndrome lead independent lives. Many do manage to adapt to the challenges of daily life, find employment, and even enjoy fulfilling relationships
Q1-What does Aspergers do to a person?
Asperger syndrome is a high functioning form of autism. Persons suffering from Asperger’s exhibit a spectrum of psychological conditions that are exhibited by abnormalities of social interaction and communication that pervade the individual’s
Q2-Do Asperger’s symptoms worsen with age?
Asperger’s symptoms do not worsen with age. On the contrary people suffering Asperger’s learn to manage and exhibit their emotions in a better manner with appropriate help from therapists and family.
Q3-Can someone with Asperger’s Fall in Love?
People with Asperger’s can fall in love. However, they may not be able to express themselves in way that might be considered normal by others. They have trouble with intimacy and social interactions.
Q4-Do Aspergers have feelings?
People with Asperger do have feelings. However, they may have difficulty identifying and discussing them. In fact, many feelings such as fear, anger and joy seem to be experienced more intensely by those with Asperger profiles than by average people.
Q5-Do Asperger’s lack empathy?
People with Asperger’s do not lack empathy. People with Asperger’s Syndrome often receive a stereotype for being aloof loners or awkward nerds. They may take time to exhibit empathetic behaviour immediately.
- Living with an Asperger Profile for Adults by Jamie Freed – https://www.aane.org/living-asperger-syndrome-adults/
- Asperger Syndrome, NRS Health Care https://www.nrshealthcare.co.uk/articles/condition/asperger-syndrome
- Autism Spectrum Disorders By Stephen Brian Sulkes , MD, Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry – https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/professional/pediatrics/learning-and-developmental-disorders/autism-spectrum-disorders
- Asperger syndrome, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences – https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/5855/asperger-syndrome
- Austism Society – https://www.autism-society.org/what-is/aspergers-syndrome/
Autism spectrum disorder. (2019) – cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html