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I've been diagnosed with Aspergers -- now what?


I’m a 35-year-old male. My therapist has suggested that I may have high-functioning Aspergers (symptoms are difficulty with talking, words and overall social ability; extreme difficulty with change in routine; isolation; astounding and detailed long-term memory with poor short-term, etc.). I find it hard to believe that a "fully developed" adult can actually remedy this.

Should I confront this diagnosis as a behavioral issue with cognitive behavioral therapy …or a biological one with medication? At this point, can a treatment do anything besides make me more comfortable with the disorder? I've asked my therapist, but because most medical literature addresses intervention in childhood, he can't say much.


Aspergers (high functioning autism) is nearly impossible to identify outside of the context of traditional social and cultural settings. The brain is simply wired a bit differently and acts on different sets of cues. You're not defective.

If your “impairment” is mild, you may have just always been considered "socially awkward" – and there may not be any particular medication available that doesn't have side effects or risks greater than the problems you already have. As a general rule of thumb, stay away from drugs. There's nothing to fix! If you have secondary symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety, OCD, etc.), then maybe you should consider medication (but make sure you get an opinion from an ASD specialist).

Treatment alternatives may be as simple as behavioral therapies, behavioral coaching, or group therapy. Aspies may need to work with a therapist longer than neurotypicals do, because the Aspie’s social skills are somewhat lacking. It can take longer for an Aspie to achieve the desired results compared to someone with a different, non-developmentally based problem. But, you may do more harm than good by going to a therapist who knows little about Aspergers.

The interpersonal relationship models that most therapists use are not really applicable to those with Aspergers. You'll find conventional therapy telling you to read body language, take social cues, and all sorts of things that the Aspie brain is not wired for. A therapist who specializes in Aspergers will key you in on things that will work.

The areas you'll need to focus on are primarily interpersonal relationships (e.g., manners, courtesies, diplomacy, social conventions, dress, hygiene, etc.). Neurotypicals generally acquire those things from an early age through socializing, but Aspies don't pick up on it as well.

Any adult who has been told that they “may have” Aspergers should ask himself/herself the following questions:
  • What am I trying to change in my life?
  • Will an official diagnosis (as opposed to being aware that I probably have Aspergers) do anything or create any opportunities to help me change those things?
  • If my therapist is correct in his diagnosis, what does he have in mind to make it worth my while …what's his plan?
  • Should I get a second opinion before doing anything else?

Aspergers is definitely not a death sentence – far from it. So what if you find out that you really have Aspergers? If you have it – you have it – and you always had it. So it’s really nothing new.


mount pleasant dental said...

It helps to have a support group as well. This fosters well being among the afflicted.

Anonymous said...

My four year old son was recently diagnosed with Asperger's and then just kind of were left in the dark. Ok? What next? The reason we had him seen is because he was showing ALOT of social awkwardness and was obsessing over his trains. He has no other interest in any other toys. We never take them away, because then he just reverts into himself being the train. He becomes "John-train" when he get's in trouble at school for not listening and they are lecturing him, when it's loud in the room and even when he is in large groups. How can I continue to encourage him to branch out and try new things? Also, how can I tell his teachers that this is due to his Asperger's syndrome and what should I have them do when this arises?

thetaoofdonald said...

I'm only 4 1/2 years late with my comment...but in fairness, I just saw this post on FB this morning.
I an a 62 Y/O man and I was diagnosed with ASD earlier this was both an explanation for many things in my life and a painful realization that some things were not going to be the same in my life.
I am currently in CBT and I'm thinking about using a group as support therapy.
Medication won't help me and my major "neuro-diverse" issue seems to be lack of empathy...which I am told I cannot remedy, only manage.
And while I've had a successful life in many respects (to this point), there has always been an element of being a little "off" embarrassment (or worse) to my wife...a person who is difficult to be close friends with, etc.
CBT does have some tools that I have been using to try to manage my Asperger's behavior (with some success), but the best advice I have received from my therapist is "slow down and be mindful".
So I practice mindfulness (structured mindfulness, as part of my CBT) on a daily basis and try to remember this simple mantra when I'm faced with situations in real life..."take a beat".
I try to take a moment to pause and think, reflect, understand and modify (if needed) before responding, acting, etc.
It doesn't always work...but it works often enough to be very useful.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism 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 others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...