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Aspergers in the Elderly

Although Aspergers has been around for many years, it was only classified as a distinct condition in 1992. This means that many elderly folks could not have been diagnosed as kids because the signs and symptoms were not recognized.

There is evidence that Aspergers can run in families, and elderly folks may become aware of their condition when a younger family member is diagnosed. Moms and dads normally read up on the signs and symptoms and may recognize the same signs in their older relatives.

Grown-ups with Aspergers present with similar signs of the condition as do children and teens. In some cases, the problems may not be quite as pronounced as the grown-up may have developed coping mechanisms.

Elderly folks with Aspergers normally display the following symptoms:
  • Social interaction is difficult, and the Aspie is normally too detached or too intense. They struggle to understand the full meaning of relationships, and sexual issues may be a problem. Some are unable to distinguish between date rape and seduction.
  • Obsessional interests are common, and the Aspie may work in a position that is related to this interest. Computers are frequently the focus of attention. Collectibles (e.g., stamps and coins) are also favored. Some elderly folks with Aspergers may also be obsessed with trains, airplanes or other forms of transport.
  • Elderly folks often like routine, and Aspergers may magnify this to extremes. They may have rigid routines and become unsettled and difficult if they are pressed out of their comfort zones.
  • Communication problems are common, and the Aspie often engages in long-winded, one-sided conversations, not realizing they are boring the other party. Information may be shared in a lecture-like manner and with little or no facial expressions. Body language is weak and eye contact poor.

While some older folks find a diagnosis helpful, others refuse to accept it and prefer to carry on as they have been for years. Accepting a diagnosis means the individual will often look back and examine past actions and decisions. For an elderly man or woman set in his/her ways, this may be an alarming prospect.

Currently, there is no single diagnostic tool for Aspergers that is universally recognized. A family member may read an article about Aspergers and the elderly and see the signs in an aged relative. If the subject is broached, it is possible the potential Aspie will visit a doctor for confirmation. An evaluation may include a review of childhood behavior, analysis of school reports if available, and a questionnaire. Even if medical opinion is not sought, the knowledge that signs and symptoms of Aspergers are apparent can bring relief and understanding in some areas.

A firm diagnosis of Aspergers in an elderly man or woman may be met with resistance - but can be helpful. Even if the Aspie does not want to change or alter his/her behavior and routines, it can be comforting to know there is a reason behind the behavior.


Anonymous said...   As long as you are not struggling in a particular facet of your life, then receiving a formal diagnosis does not matter, however if you are struggling, a psychotherapist can help, and if you have health is generally covered.
Anonymous said...   I had struggled my whole life in many facets. I no longer struggle now because I accept I am different. Now I can happily dance to my own tune. I hope others are as lucky!!
Anonymous said...   My dad is 65.... I think he has aspergers.... My eldest son is 23 yrs old and was diagnosed aged 10 with aspergers /adhd and I see so many similarities in them.... It has made it easier having my son to understand my dad if that makes any sense?....
Anonymous said...   National Autism day is coming up soon in April - not sure of the date. I think there might be T Shirts available. Anyone know?
Anonymous said...   Same here ... But I have a hard time justifying the expense of a diagnosis when I'm not sure what it would do for me.
Anonymous said...   That is my point. I can't afford to get a diagnosis privately and don't feel inclined to go through the stress of trying to get diagnosed through the health service. I know I'm Aspergers and I can live my life accordingly now.
Anonymous said...   The hard part if finding trained professionals who understand enough to give you any guidance or help.
Anonymous said...   Yes my Father is 92! with Aspergus.
Anonymous said...  . It was classified in the U.S. as a distinct condition in 1994 in the DSM-IV (with an update in the DSM IV-TR in 2000) and in the ICD-10 (also in 1994). However, it was a distinct condition that was diagnosed in Europe in the 1940s onward. What's more, prior to Asperger Syndrome being added to the DSM or the ICD, childhood schizophrenia was the diagnosis most often given. With the addition of AS in the DSM and the ICD, the number of diagnoses for childhood schizophrenia decreased at a similar rate to the increase diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome.
Anonymous said...  I was diagnosed in adulthood. No help or understanding in schools colleges or work.
Anonymous said...  Just so that you know, the most Aspie of us who lived life without the diagnosis have been living as mimics for our whole lives. I would mimic the behaviour of "normal" people my whole life and that's how I managed to get where I am now. I was beat up a lot during my childhoood and still suffer some bullying by "atypicals" to this day but I still find that aping behaviours seen in "typicals" help me in everyday life. I feel bad for those Aspies who cannot mimic!
Anonymous said...  My little boy is now 5. After he turned 2 he started regressing and showing signs of autism. When I was going through the lengthy process of getting him diagnosed, I recognised a lot of likenesses between his actions and behaviours and my own, both as a child and indeed right through my adult life. After we got him diagnosed (he is low functioning, non verbal), I couldn't help but listen to the nagging voice telling me to find out more about myself. I have taken the Autism Quotient test time after time over a period of time and constantly come out with a score of 47. I have found out as much as I can about Aspergers and I am yet to find a facet of my personality which doesn't map over as typical Aspergers. Every action and decision of my adult life can be explained with Aspergers, and the fact that I have always felt that I am different to what is classed as the 'norm'. I didn't go to school for the final year, so sat no exams, but even with that, I sat an IQ test with around 8 work colleagues when I was in my late twenties and even though some of them had masters degrees in technical subjects, I still scored higher than all of them with 146. I am not inclined to pursue a diagnosis, but let me assure you, now that I understand myself, it's like the weight of the world is lifted from my shoulders instead of beating myself up (emotionally) every day.

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Unknown said...

I am a 72 year old male. I am a retired Special Education Director and Educational Diagnostician. I taught for five years in both high school and middle school. I've taken quite a few surveys/personality tests and come up with an Aspergers rating on everyone of them.

I realized that I had Aspergers characteristics when I was testing special needs children, as I saw their characteristics as like my own as a child. I would hide under the edge of the house and play with my toys in novel ways. One day my mother found that I had taken a hammer and smashed most of my toys and heaped them in a pile. She was horrified and asked why I did that. I replied, "I just wanted to make a junk yard." When I learned to ride a bicycle, which was almost impossible because of lack of coordination, I was obsessed with a siren that was activated by the movement of the tire. Sometimes I would turn my bike upside down and just crank the pedal and listen to the siren for an extended time. Oh, my childhood (and adult obsession) was/is firetrucks and sirens. I even now know a website that has the sounds of all kinds of sirens. Also, fortunately my home is three blocks from a fire/EMS station and I get to hear sirens everyday. I still prefer the sound of the classic old loud sirens with super high speed motors used to alert an entire community of an emergency.

I had previously attributed my social inadequacies and odd habits to growing up in an isolated part of the country with no age mates to play with and having only a brother who was ten years older. Fortunately I had good parent training and was smart enough to do well in school. I did have a third grade teacher who commented on the back of my report card about how I was "progressing slowly" in my social development. She did teach me control my verbal self-stimming that I did by making repetitious noises with my throat and mouth. I valued social acceptance so I forced myself to acquire certain social skills but I never felt I had the full understanding of interactive conversation and social exchange. I had a few friends and tried to be popular but always felt alone. I had a common Aspie strange sensation that when I went to a party that I had landed on another planet inhabited by aliens. I played football through high school, which helped with my peer relationships.

When I got to college I was adrift in a sea of strangers with few innate social skills. I even had the nerdy job of working in the college library. Loved it! I launched my own improvement program, however, by taking the yearbook and memorizing names and greeting people by their names. I also went into student politics being elected president of student government and working as co-editor of the college newspaper. I was developing social skills but I realized their acquisition was very hard for me and didn't come naturally. I even began dating and married a popular and pretty girl after I graduated.

Although divorced now, I have two adult children. I cultivate a few old friendships but am mostly alone as I don't see the need to force myself to exercise social skills. I guess I will always be bothered by my social inadequacies though I learned to overcompensate and get along. Social skills were to me like tools that I needed to acquire to be successful and have the social interactions necessary for getting along in life and work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this intimate look at your life. My husband is 79, and though not formally diagnosed, all are fairly certain of the diagnosis. I love your junk yard story, and can't wait to tell him. To this day, he loves a good junkyard! BTW _ I taught him how to shake hands with another when he was 45. He had been looking down, and backing away - the opposite of what we do! He is so receptive to my help and advice, no matter how blunt or harsh it may be. But he has a lot to deal with. You might enjoy reading a book called "Look Me in the Eye" which is a bio by someone with Asperger's.

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.

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