Aspergers (high functioning autism) may lead to problems in social interaction with peers. These problems can be severe or mild depending on the individual. Kids with Aspergers are often the target of bullying at school due to their idiosyncratic behavior, precise language, unusual interests, and impaired ability to perceive and respond in socially expected ways to nonverbal cues, particularly in interpersonal conflict. Kids with Aspergers may be overly literal, and may have difficulty interpreting and responding to sarcasm, banter, or metaphorical speech. Difficulties with social interaction may also be manifest in a lack of play with other kids.
The above problems can even arise in the family; given an unfavorable family environment, the youngster may be subject to emotional abuse. A youngster or teen with Aspergers is often puzzled by this mistreatment, unaware of what has been done incorrectly. Unlike other pervasive development disorders, most kids with Aspergers want to be social, but fail to socialize successfully, which can lead to later withdrawal and asocial behavior, especially in adolescence. At this stage of life especially, they risk being drawn into unsuitable and inappropriate friendships and social groups. People with Aspergers often interact better with those considerably older or younger than themselves, rather than those within their own age group.
Kids with Aspergers often display advanced abilities for their age in language, reading, mathematics, spatial skills, and/or music—sometimes into the "gifted" range—but this may be counterbalanced by considerable delays in other developmental areas. This combination of traits can lead to problems with teachers and other authority figures. A youngster with Aspergers might be regarded by teachers as a "problem kid" or a "poor performer." The youngster’s extremely low tolerance for what they perceive to be ordinary and mediocre tasks, such as typical homework assignments, can easily become frustrating; a teacher may well consider the youngster arrogant, spiteful, and insubordinate. Lack of support and understanding, in combination with the youngster's anxieties, can result in problematic behavior (such as severe tantrums, violent and angry outbursts, and withdrawal).
Two traits sometimes found in Aspergers individuals are mind-blindness (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and alexithymia (i.e, the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in oneself or others), which reduce the ability to be empathetically attuned to others. Alexithymia in Aspergers functions as an independent variable relying on different neural networks than those implicated in theory of mind. In fact, lack of Theory of Mind in Aspergers may be a result of a lack of information available to the mind due to the operation of the alexithymic deficit.
A second issue related to alexithymia involves the inability to identify and modulate strong emotions such as sadness or anger, which leaves the individual prone to “sudden affective outbursts such as crying or rage.” The inability to express feelings using words may also predispose the individual to use physical acts to articulate the mood and release the emotional energy.
People with Aspergers report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them. They may have difficulty finding a life partner or getting married due to poor social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world can pose an extreme challenge for individuals with Aspergers . In the UK, Asperger's is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act; those with Aspergers who get treated badly because of it may have some redress. The first case was Hewett v Motorola 2004 (sometimes referred to as Hewitt) and the second was Isles v Ealing Council. The same applies in the United States with the Americans with Disabilities Act, amended in 2008 to include autism spectrum disorders.
The intense focus and tendency to work things out logically often grants people with Aspergers a high level of ability in their field of interest. When these special interests coincide with a materially or socially useful task, the person with Aspergers can lead a profitable career and a fulfilled life. The youngster obsessed with a specific area may succeed in employment related to that area.
What is Aspergers like?
- It affects individuals all of their lives, but as individuals get older they get better at social and coping skills.
- Many great scientists, writers and artists are thought to have had Aspergers, including many Nobel Prize winners.
- Individuals with Aspergers can do well when others understand the effects of the syndrome on their behavior and learning, and provide a supportive environment.
- Individuals with Aspergers find it hard to relate to other individuals.
- Some individuals who are said to be eccentric loners may have Aspergers.
- The effects of Aspergers can vary from slightly unusual behavior to quite aggressive and anti-social behavior.
- They have trouble understanding the feelings of other individuals and they do not seem able to read body language. For example, a person with Aspergers may not realize when they have hurt someone's feelings, or when someone doesn't want to listen to them.
- They like everything to be the same, and everything to be in the right place. They can get very upset if something is done 'the wrong way'.
- They may talk a lot about their own interests, but have problems getting the message across or giving others the chance to talk.
- It can seem as though they are really bright because they know a huge amount about something they are interested in, but they might have trouble keeping up with other subjects.
- Other students get better at interpersonal relationships as they grow older, but it can become more difficult for a student with Aspergers to be involved in friendship groups. However, they may enjoy groups which follow their special interest (e.g., science clubs).
- Secondary school can be very stressful for students with Aspergers because they have a different timetable each day, several different teachers, and have to move between classrooms. These changes can be really stressful for someone who likes everything to be the same.
Teenagers with Aspergers are usually able to manage stressors better than younger kids, and behavior problems at school may be less of an issue at secondary school. However a teenager with Aspergers may be so worn out after 'holding it together' all day at school that he or she may 'fall apart' at home.
- It may be possible to negotiate with teachers to reduce the amount of homework or extend tasks over a longer time.
- Feeling tired after school is often a problem, and facing up to homework at the end of the day can be very stressful for someone who has already had a stressful day.
- A school counselor can help to work out strategies for dealing with problems, which might include a place to work alone if things get too hard sometimes.
- If partners and kids are able to learn more about Aspergers, they are often more able to understand the behavior and live more comfortably with the person who has Aspergers.
- Individuals with Aspergers also need to understand relationships better and learn more about how their behavior and emotions can affect others.
- Most individuals with Aspergers can form strong bonds with a few friends, marry and have kids.
- Peer support groups can also be helpful for partners and kids. Check on the internet to see if there are support groups in your area.
- Their anxieties and difficulties with the subtleties of relationships can be confusing and upsetting to partners and their kids.
Problems for Brothers and Sisters—
It can be difficult if you have a brother or sister with Aspergers.
- Parents often have to spend a lot more time with the youngster who has Aspergers, so that you can feel you are missing out.
- Their behavior can be difficult to live with because they don't relate to others well.
- They may have frequent tantrums when things don't go their way, and this can be embarrassing to you, especially if your friends are around.
- You may have to watch out more for your brother or sister to protect them from others, such as protecting them from being bullied.
Understanding more about Aspergers may help you interact more successfully with your brother or sister.
My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children