More males than females have Aspergers (high functioning autism). While every man or woman who has the syndrome will experience different symptoms and severity of symptoms, some of the more common characteristics include:
- Adherence to routines and schedules, and stress if expected routine is disrupted
- Average or above average intelligence
- Difficulties in empathizing with others
- Hampered conversational ability
- Inability to manage appropriate social conduct
- Inability to think in abstract ways
- Problems with controlling feelings such as anger, depression and anxiety
- Problems with understanding another man or woman's point of view
- Specialized fields of interest or hobbies
The emotions of other individuals—
A man or woman with Aspergers may have trouble understanding the emotions of other individuals, and the subtle messages that are sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language are often missed. Because of this, a man or woman with Aspergers might be seen as egotistical, selfish or uncaring. These are unfair labels, because the affected individual is neurologically unable to understand other individual's emotional states. They are usually shocked, upset and remorseful when told their actions were hurtful or inappropriate.
Sexual codes of conduct—
Research into the sexual understanding of individuals with Aspergers is in its infancy. Studies suggest that affected individuals are as interested in sex as anyone else, but many don't have the social or empathetic skills to successfully manage adult relationships.
Delayed understanding is common; for example, a man or woman with Aspergers aged in their 20s typically has the sexual codes of conduct befitting a teenager. Even affected individuals who are high achieving and academically or vocationally successful have trouble negotiating the 'hidden rules' of courtship. Inappropriate sexual behavior can result.
Being a partner and parent—
Some affected individuals can maintain relationships and parent children, although there are challenges. Dutch research suggests that the divorce rate for individuals with Aspergers is around 80 per cent.
A common marital problem is unfair distribution of responsibilities. For example, the partner of a man or woman with Aspergers may be used to doing everything in the relationship when it is just the two of them. However, the partner may need practical and emotional support once children come along, which the individual with Aspergers is ill equipped to provide. When the partner expresses frustration or becomes upset that they're given no help of any kind, the individual with Aspergers is typically baffled. Tension in the relationship often makes their symptoms worse.
The Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services, in conjunction with a range of specialist employment services, help to place individuals with disabilities in the workforce. A man or woman with Aspergers may find their job opportunities limited by their disability. It may help to choose a vocation that takes into account the individual's symptoms, and plays to the strengths rather than the weaknesses. The following career suggestions are adapted from material written by Temple Grandin, who has high-functioning autism and is an assistant professor at Colorado University, USA.
Careers to avoid—
Careers that rely on short term memory should be avoided. Examples include:
- Air traffic controller
- Short order cook
- Taxi dispatcher
Career suggestions for visual thinkers—
- Appliance repair
- Building maintenance
- Building trades
- Commercial art
- Computer programming
- Equipment design
- Handcraft artisan
- Video game designer
- Webpage designer
Career suggestions for those good at mathematics or music—
- Bank teller
- Computer programming
- Filing positions
- Journalist, copy editor
- Piano (or other musical instrument) tuner
- Taxi driver
Common issues for partners—
An adult's diagnosis of Aspergers often tends to follow their child's diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. This 'double whammy' can be extremely distressing to the partner who has to cope simultaneously with both diagnoses. Counseling, or joining a support group where they can talk with other individuals who face the same challenges, can be helpful. Some common issues for partners include:
- A sense of isolation, because the challenges of their relationship are different and not easily understood by others.
- After accepting that their partner's Aspergers won't get better, common emotions include guilt, despair and disappointment.
- Difficulties in accepting that their partner won't recover from Aspergers.
- Failure to have their own needs met by the relationship.
- Feeling overly responsible for their partner.
- Frequent wondering about whether or not to end the relationship.
- Frustration, since problems in the relationship don't seem to improve despite great efforts.
- Lack of emotional support from family members and friends who don't fully understand or appreciate the extra strains placed on a relationship by Aspergers.
Like all mental conditions which cause people to behave differently from the norm, Aspergers is associated with depression. Depression can be caused by a number of things including:
- Anxiety and Panic Attacks
- Fatigue or Tiredness due either to the condition that all to the treatment of the condition
- Guilt or regret over past actions/outburst/meltdowns
- Miscommunications / Misunderstandings
- Overwhelming feelings and thoughts
- Social troubles because you do not seem to fit in
Recent research suggests that depression is common in individuals with Asperger syndrome with about 1 in 15 people with Aspergers experiencing such symptoms. There are a number of factors which would influence the onset of depression. These include as follows:
- Difficulty reading of other people's body language expressions and tone (leading to misunderstandings)
- Obsession with completeness, order and patterns
- Obsessive compulsion
- Unusual world view/Paradigm
- Very good long term memory
Things to remember—
A man or woman with Aspergers often has trouble understanding the emotions of other individuals, and the subtle messages that are sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language are often missed. Research suggests that the divorce rate for individuals with Aspergers is around 80 per cent. Social training, which teaches how to behave in different social situations, is generally more helpful to a man or woman with Aspergers than counseling.