Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism that affects someone’s ability to effectively communicate and socialize with others. The term autism covers all of the pervasive developmental disorders or autistic spectrum disorders, each of which includes problems in terms of communication and social skills. Asperger syndrome is used to refer to the forms of autism that are high-functioning. Despite the lack of cure for the syndrome, being diagnosed with an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) can be very positive.
Symptoms of Asperger Syndrome in Adults
1. Three Main Difficulties
Someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, or any other form of autism, will have difficulty in three main areas. Just like any other condition, no two people with Asperger’s are the same and because of this the spectrum of symptoms is incredibly broad. Although someone with the condition will have difficulties in each of the following areas, they will probably not have all of the following traits.
- Communication. Communication can be very difficult for adults with Asperger Syndrome and this includes expressing themselves socially and emotionally. People with Asperger’s may have problems understanding tone of voice, facial expressions or gestures. They may also have problems choosing conversational topics and knowing when they should begin or end their conversation. Another communication difficulty common to those with Asperger’s is using complex phrases or words without fully understanding their meaning. They also tend to be incredibly literal and find it difficult to understand sarcasm, metaphors or jokes. One example would be that an adult with Asperger’s may not understand the saying “That’s cool” or why it is used by people who wish to convey that something is good.
- Social Interaction. Despite wanting to make friends, people with Asperger Syndrome may have problems starting and maintaining social relationships and this in turn can lead to anxiety. A potential problem is struggling to create and keep friendships. Another possible problem is not understanding social roles that come natural to the rest of us, such as knowing where to stand when talking to another person or selecting an appropriate conversation topic. Someone with Asperger’s Syndrome may also find others confusing or unpredictable. It is also common that they will appear aloof or become withdrawn. They may also seem uninterested in others and behave in ways that do not seem appropriate.
- Social Imagination. Those with Asperger’s Syndrome may be incredibly imaginative based on the conventional meaning, being musicians, writers or artists. However, they tend to have a great deal of difficulty in terms of social imagination. They may find it hard to imagine alternative outcomes for situations and therefore find it difficult to make a guess as to what will occur next. They may also find it very challenging to interpret or understand the actions, feelings and thoughts of other people. That is because they frequently miss the subtle messages that we convey everyday using body language or facial expressions. They may also have a limited amount of imaginative activities and the ones that they do, they tend to pursue repetitively. An example would be collecting and organizing items or lining up toys.
2. Other Characteristics
In addition to the three main areas of difficulty mentioned above, many people with autism will have problems in one or more of the following areas as well.
- Sensory Difficulties. Some people with Asperger’s Syndrome or other forms of autism will have sensory difficulties involving one or more of the senses (taste, touch, smell, sound and sight). In most cases, the senses will be either under-sensitive (underdeveloped) or over-sensitive (intensified) but the degree of the problem can vary between people. Examples of this would be anxiety or pain caused by feeling certain materials, unusual food textures, overpowering smells, loud noises or bright lights. In addition, if an adult with Asperger’s has sensory difficulties, they may have difficulties with the body awareness system. This is responsible for telling us where we are located and therefore having problems with this system can lead to difficulties navigating around rooms in order to avoid obstructions, doing fine motor tasks (like tying shoelaces) or standing the appropriate distance away from others during conversation or in general. Some people who have Asperger’s deal with stress or help their posture and balance by rocking or spinning.
- Love of Routines. Because people with Asperger’s Syndrome can find social interactions and other facts of life confusing, they will usually set various rules and rituals that they must follow. Children with Asperger’s, for example, may always want to go to school following the same path. Throughout life, they usually prefer each day to follow a set pattern and may develop anxiety if this pattern or timetable is disturbed. An example would be an adult with the syndrome becoming upset or anxious if something prevents them from going to or leaving from work at their normal time.
- Mental Health Difficulties. In many cases, the sensory difficulties as well as confusion associated with trying to live in a world that they do not understand and view as predictable can lead to severe anxiety. In addition, it is fairly common that adults with Asperger Syndrome become isolated due to their difficulties, both in terms of communication and social skills. This in turn can lead to depression.
- Related Conditions. It is possible that someone who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome will not have any additional difficulties, but it is also common to experience related conditions. Some of the most common ones include dyspraxia, epilepsy and learning difficulties including dyslexia. When being diagnosed, it is important to mention any related conditions as these can help your doctor confirm your Asperger’s.