What is Aspergers Syndrome
Aspergers Syndrome (AS) is a condition that affects people’s ability to interact socially and communicate with others. The name is from the pediatrician who first identified it in the 1940s, Hans Asperger. Aspergers in adults and children refers to a range of different behaviors and symptoms that can affect some areas of life and not others. It first presents and develops early in childhood. There is a range of symptoms, but some main characteristics that people with Asperger Syndrome may have. They may have a limited capacity to socialize. They may have a tendency to focus intensely on special interests, and ritualized or repetitive behavior patterns,
Asperger’s is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). That is one that starts at birth or during infancy. Developmental differences are usually picked up as kids are expected to meet “normal” milestones. These may be in use of language, movement, and behavior. A formal diagnosis of Asperger’s is often not made until children are older or young adults. Then a fuller range of symptoms can be considered.
Symptoms of Aspergers in Children
For children with Asperger’s, they may speak very little or late. They also may speak in lengthy sentences at an early age. Children with Asperger’s may seem very serious, and remote. They may not like making eye contact. They may play by themselves rather than playing games with other children. Additionally, they may have difficulties using their fine motor skills, such as holding a crayon. They may seem uncoordinated, awkward, and clumsy. Their emotions may be from one extreme to the other. They may seem flat and unaffected. Or they may seem emotional, have tantrums and difficulties with anxiety.
The exact causes of Asperger Syndrome have not been fully determined. It is understood that it results from a multi-faceted mix of genetic, neurological, and psycho-social factors. So it may be a combination of family genes, own biological chemistry, and experiences as children that all come into play.
From the mid-1990s until 2013, Asperger’s Syndrome was a separate disorder under the autism spectrum. This changed in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is now considered a range of symptoms within the wider Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Aspergers in Adults
Asperger’s Syndrome and any ASD conditions in adults can vary in severity and the forms it takes. Someone with Aspergers is not likely to be towards the end of the autism spectrum where someone uses little verbal communication. People with Asperger’s tend to display characteristics of high-functioning autism. Their ability to speak and use language is fine. Although their expressions and ways of speaking may differ a little from others. High functioning means that while their symptoms may affect some areas of their life, in other areas they may excel.
By the time people who have Asperger Syndrome have reached adulthood, they have may have learned to mask or manage their symptoms to a certain extent. Many adults with Aspergers have successful jobs and function across society. Many adults diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome do not receive the diagnosis when they are children. However, they may have received other mental health diagnoses such as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, ADHD and so on.
If not diagnosed when a child, sometimes, adults with Asperger’s syndrome symptoms feel relief if they self-identify as Asperger’s or receive this diagnosis. It can give them a name and explanation about why they may feel different from others in some areas. Others may not, particularly with the current classification falling within the wider ASD diagnosis. Either way, understanding the characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome can go a long way for both the individual and those in their lives trying to gain a better understanding.
Aspergers Symptoms in Adults
To make a diagnosis of Aspergers or ASD, medical professionals consider many variables and symptoms. A doctor or psychologist will look at the combination of symptoms in a person, and also whether they have any co-existing health conditions. With this information, they are able to rule out any other mental health issues. Some of the wide range of symptoms of Aspergers in adults includes:
- Monologues: When you are speaking with a person with Asperger’s, it may seem like a strange situation. Oftentimes, conversations are one-sided. They can often only focus on one topic of conversation. Any attempts by another person to steer the conversation to another topic, or get a word in, may be difficult. They may also speak in a monotone.
- Intellectualization: Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be thinkers. They collect and process facts in a reasoned way to make sense of things. They tend to think about things in a rational or black and white way. They usually like to play by the rules and follow routines. They will usually speak their mind.
- Lack of Empathy: People with Asperger Syndrome can find it hard to understand other people’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They may also miss verbal and body language cues from that other person that indicate when others are upset. They may also misinterpret other what other people are feeling and saying if it isn’t presented to them in a direct and factual way.
- Single Focused: A person with Asperger’s Syndrome may be intently focused on one topic as a hobby or their career. They will often explore every detail of a particular interest, sometimes to the point of being obsessive.
- Lack of Short-Term Working Memory: Individuals with Asperger’s may not have good short-term working memory. This type of memory affects things like trying to multi-task. If they are distracted or need to switch between tasks, they may not remember where there were up to when they swap back. This means they may have to start again on the first task.
- Sensory Sensitivity: Adults with Asperger Syndrome may be super sensitive to loud noises or certain tones. They may also be sensitive to very bright lights or certain smells. They can find the feeling of clothing on their skin unpleasant, especially synthetic or heavily textured fabrics.
- Physicality: They may have difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills. With fine motor skills, this can involve problems with writing legibly and neatly. They may find it hard to manipulate small objects such as tying shoelaces. They may seem physically uncoordinated, clumsy, or lose their balance easily.
- Non-verbal Communication: People with Asperger Syndrome may use unusual facial expressions. This can range from avoiding eye contact with other people altogether. Or staring and gazing intently without looking away. They may have limited or inappropriate facial expressions in different social contexts. They may not recognize that they should adopt or change their expression in some situations.
- Repetition: Individuals may have repetitive behavior, especially if they are concentrating on a task, stressed, or anxious. Repetitive body movements can include rocking back and forth, hand clapping, or toe-tapping. Or, like someone with the obsessive-compulsive disorder, they may also feel the need for order and repetition of objects in their environment. They may organize items around themselves into straight lines, by color, alphabet, or repetitive patterns.
- Social Skills: Because adults with Asperger’s disorder can have difficulty understanding emotions in themselves and emotions of other people, they may not have good social skills. This can result in isolation and a preference to engage in solitary type activities. They do not necessarily shun social contact with other people. However, they may avoid interaction with groups of people in social situations. This also affects interpersonal relationships. They can have difficulties making close friends and forming romantic relationships.
- Anxiety and/or Depression: Anxiety and depression in people with Asperger’s can be a part of the condition. Either can be caused by the experience of living with Asperger’s. For example, someone may become anxious and frustrated if they are unable to concentrate on a task due to being in a noisy environment. Additionally, social isolation can result in depression.
Treatment of Aspergers in Adults
Receiving a diagnosis or identifying as Asperger’s can open the door to treatment and help with learning ways to manage symptoms if needed. Treatment from health professionals that specialize in working with Asperger Syndrome in adults may include:
- Telephone and face to face support
- Social activities
- Support groups
A therapist working with someone with Asperger Syndrome is likely to spend time helping the person understand his or her particular strengths and weaknesses in a non-judgmental way. They may help with strategies to help with social interaction and developing close friendships and relationships with others. A health professional may be able to teach someone with Asperger’s how they can apply their ability and skills in reasoning in situations that make them frustrated or anxious.
There is no medication or drug specifically to treat Asperger’s Syndrome. However, a medical professional is also likely to consider and evaluate the symptoms of any co-existing conditions. They may consider whether any depression and anxiety would benefit from treatment with medications in the short or long-term.
Aspergers in Adults: Bottom Line
The bottom line is that Aspergers in adults is something that will affect an individual throughout their life. However, it does not have to be debilitating. People with ASD or Asperger’s Syndrome do find ways to focus on their strengths and build careers that suit who they are, form relationships, and have families. Strategies and skills can be encouraged to manage symptoms of Aspergers in adults and support individuals, families, and communities.