General Information about ASPIES
Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder. People with AS (or Aspies, as they refer to themselves) don’t have cognitive or language deficits. (If they do, they’re diagnosed with autism.) But they do have a difficult time interacting, communicating, and connecting with others. They’re unable to pick up on social cues and express their emotions.
Often, they also reside on either extreme of the spectrum: either they’re very orderly and “become unglued if things don’t go their way” or their days are in disarray and they have a lot of difficulty with daily responsibilities. (Valerie Gaus, Ph.D.)
The social deficits can get people with AS into trouble. That’s because of their “lack of understanding of the unwritten rules of social engagement.” Gaus noted that she’s heard of several scenarios where people with AS have gotten pulled over by police officers and they just didn’t know how to behave, seeming to be suspicious or belligerent.
Individuals with Asperger’s tend to be almost obsessive when it comes to their interests. They may collect categories of things. They may be proficient and extremely knowledgeable about different categories of information. Most have good rote memory skills (think of an Aspie who can give you all the lines in a favorite movie), but they have major difficulties with abstract concepts.
Asperger’s Syndrome is not a disease. According to Dr. Gaus, “It is a unique way of processing information” that makes Aspies not only vulnerable in many instances but also gives the “strengths that can help them succeed in life.” For instance, since many with Asperger’s are methodical thinkers, they can become winning engineers. It is important to understand that Aspie adults believe that AS cannot and should not be eliminated. After all, AS makes them the people they are. Rather it is important to identify which symptoms of Asperger’s cause an Aspie to stress. Once that is known, then solutions to overcome those symptoms may be developed.
- Children with AS will grow out of it eventually
Like ADHD, there’s a prevalent myth that Asperger Syndrome is strictly a childhood disorder that disappears after young adulthood. But AS is a lifelong condition. It does get better with appropriate treatment but never goes away. An Aspie child grows up to be an Aspie adult.
- Adults with AS don’t get married
The reality is that some adults do get married and have families and some have never had a romantic relationship. It depends on the personality of the AS adult. Some people with AS are super shy (seemingly melting into the woodwork), while other are overly extroverted (talking incessantly without regard to others trying to participate in the conversation). The rest are somewhere in between.
- Adults with AS have social phobia
While adults with Asperger’s do struggle with anxiety, they don’t have social phobia. For people with Asperger’s avoiding interactions is more about self-preservation. They’re well aware that they’re unable to read cues or know the appropriate thing to say since they have made mistakes in the past and experienced rejection.
- Adults with AS are aloof and uninterested in others.
Most Aspies want to have people in their lives. They want to fit in and have interaction with others. Sadly, they just know how to do it. Some even feel desperate that they haven’t been able to connect with others. But oftentimes their social-skill deficits convey the message that they just don’t care. Unfortunately, people with Asperger’s easily miss cues, don’t know when to stop talking about themselves, and may not realize that others have different thoughts and feelings.
- Asperger’s Syndrome is a mild form of Autism
Asperger’s is a neurobiological disorder which has a profound effect on basic life skills. Individuals with Asperger’s struggle immensely to overcome their deficits. They must learn much of what others learn intuitively; what others learn without even trying. To the observer, Asperger’s may “appear” milder than Classical Autism; however, for the individual living with the disorder, their struggles are not “mild.” The idea that Asperger’s Syndrome is a mild form of Autism is not new. In fact, in her book, Autism and Asperger Syndrome, 1992, Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor at UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, described individuals with Asperger’s as “having a dash of Autism.” Children with Asperger’s frequently have good language and cognitive skills, while those with Classical Autism appear to be limited in both. In fact, to the untrained eye, those with Asperger’s may appear to be “normal” but different.
- Asperger’s is caused by poor parenting
Current research has determined that there may be a genetic component. Parents of children with Asperger’s often possess some Aspie traits. For example, a father may be preservative (holds onto things) and a mother display inflexibility. The child diagnosed with Asperger’s may have traits from both parents that combine together to fit the Asperger’s diagnosis.
- Those with Asperger’s Syndrome are uncaring and rude and unable to empathize with others
People with Asperger’s do struggle with cognitive empathy but have no problem with emotional empathy. Often, because of their inability to perceive other’s intentions and perspectives and their impaired capacity to read the unspoken gestures and nuances in everyday social communication, individuals with Asperger’s do not respond or do not respond appropriately. This is not the result of not caring but rather the result of not responding to what they do not see or perceive. Since communication is a two-way street, we cannot expect someone to recognize, acknowledge, and respond to that which they are unaware of.
- Some people with Asperger’s don’t make eye contact and ignore people
It is true that some individuals with Asperger’s make limited eye contact or their eye contact does not appear meaningful (a quick glance); however, this is not the result of making a choice to ignore someone but rather a result of an impaired “theory of mind.” Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one’s own. The phrase, “theory of mind” refers to the notion that many Autistic individuals, including Aspies, do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view and have difficulties understanding other people’s beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. (Think Sheldon Cooper from the TV series The Big Bang Theory.)
- Behavior modification and punitive measures are appropriate techniques to use with Aspies (individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome)
When individuals with Asperger’s displays inappropriate or “bad” behavior, it is rarely the result of a willful choice on their part but more likely the result of their misperceptions in the social situation or simply a reaction to sensory overloads. The most effective treatment is using positive measures accompanied by techniques aimed to increase the individual’s awareness and understanding of their behaviors and the effects on those around them. Explanations should be concrete and logical and put in the context of how appropriate behaviors will benefit them personally.
- People with Asperger’s lack imagination
People with Asperger’s typically possess vivid, creative, and unique imaginations. However, during play, the imagination of children with Asperger’s is often devoid of imaginative expressions that would require taking another person’s perspective or point of view. For example, they might not pretend to be another person because that would require an ability to see things from that persons perspective. In this regard their expressions of imagination are not typical.
- Aspies have superior IQ scores
Some people with Asperger’s Syndrome have high IQ scores but many more have average IQ scores and struggle with learning disabilities.
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