Asperger Syndrome and Its Symptoms in Children and Adults

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder. It is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, non-verbal communication and in differences in social behaviour. People with the Asperger syndrome tend to have troubles establishing relationships with other people. Interaction with others is very complicated for them and makes them avoid social interaction. Understanding basic social interactions is difficult for them and their communication abilities tend to be oriented differently than in intact population. Communication signals natural and easily understandable for most people are cryptic for them. This makes it difficult for them to understand others and move comfortably around them.

Facial expressions, gestures and body language tend to be limited in people suffering from Asperger. Some of their behaviour patterns are out of accord with their intellect which is sometimes even significantly above-average. It fairly frequently happens that people with Asperger syndrome take great interest in very scientific information.

Basic Characteristics

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder. Autism and Asperger syndrome have common features such as difficulties in communication, problems in social relationships and difficult imagination. People with Asperger syndrome do not avoid society; they desire social contact with other people, but they have trouble understanding some notions of communication that are commonly identifiable for unaffected people. People with AS may seem as perfectionists and take everything too literally. Humour, exaggerating and irony are completely confusing and incomprehensible to them. They usually have no trouble with language and speech skills. However, they way they communicate may seem arrogant and with no interest in others, but the reality is different. Sometimes, they simply start talking and forget to stop because they get too engulfed in the topic. Sometimes, people with AS have problems in abstract thinking which makes it difficult for them to do well in certain subjects at school. People affected with AS like routine repetitive activities, they dislike sudden changes and they prefer very specific time schedules.

Many of them are aware that they are different and they know their limits. They may even have great knowledge in certain fields but they find it difficult in practice. Repeated failure in various life situations or interpersonal interaction may lead to inappropriate self-criticism, self-judgement and underestimation. Support of their family is very important to them and it is often the only firm point in their lives. The ability to control their behaviour may be limited and so their feelings of frustration may lead to uncontrollable temper tantrums.

Two Basic Asperger Personality Profiles and Lifestyle

Expert literature states two basic personality profiles for people with an autism spectrum disorder, such as Asperger syndrome. In the first type, verbal thinking is on a much higher level than analytical and technical thinking. This type shows excellent vocabulary and ability to retain large amounts of information. They are great at citing, argumentation, they excel in discussions. The second type has abstract and visual thinking on a much higher level than verbal abilities. These people are great and comprehending complicated information, they excel in natural sciences and programming. They are great at finding solutions but they have difficulties explaining them to others and defend their ideas.

Based on these personality traits the lifestyle of people with AS shapes further. There are three basic types of people with AS according to their lifestyle: 1) autistic-closed, 2) active but peculiar and 3) passive and friendly.

Lifestyle

Symptoms

Autistic-closed

They actively avoid people, often refuse to leave a room, other people make them feel uncertain and anxious.

Active but peculiar

They do not avoid people, sometimes they even physically touch them, but they are considered troublesome, their active approach often goes unappreciated.

Passive, friendly

They passively accept company of other people, they do not express themselves much, and sometimes they stay so low people around them don't even consider them troublesome.

Specifics of Adult Life of People with Asperger Syndrome

People with AS are typical for unbalanced development profile; their social and emotional skills often lag behind their cognitive performance. This leads to problems in social interaction and to tendencies of people around them to misjudge them for so-called logical mistakes. Differences in a person with AS are not that obvious to unaffected people which makes them approach such individuals as if they didn't need any special care. On one hand, the fact that this disorder is "invisible" at the first sight is an advantage as there is no immediate stigma. On the other hand, however, it may be counterproductive because people around cannot understand that a child or an adult with AS ar not able to complete a seemingly simple task for no apparent reason.

The most difficult tasks and the biggest barriers for people with AS in the field of social communication come in the adult age. People with AS only experience desire to communicate with their peers once they reach adolescence. That proves difficult also due to lack of previous experience in relationships. People with AS have problems expressing their feelings or interest in other people and so people around them may misread their behaviour as lack of interest in them.

Aspergers also have reduced ability to respond to imminent danger which may get them into complicated situations. Their lives revolve around stereotype behaviour patterns and stable repeated interests. They usually have a system of routine behaviour worked up. Disrupting the stereotype may be very upsetting for them. They are able to concentrate on one area very intensively and they often achieve quite a proficiency in it, while they utterly disregard other areas, e.g. things of everyday life.  

Asperger Syndrome - Diagnostics

Diagnosing disorders of autism spectrum is fully in the competence of a children's psychologist or clinical psychologist. Family medical history, patient's examination and medical reports from other experts provide significant clues. The patient is examined in terms of social behaviour, communication, intellect, locomotor abilities, extent of emotionality discord and pastime of such a child or adult. The social behaviour examination focuses on:

  • physical contact and attachment to parents
  • communication skills
  • body language
  • gestures and facial expressions

In communication, the patient is examined in terms of verbal and non-verbal communication. People with AS often have extensive vocabulary and it is particular that they often verbalize their thoughts (think aloud) even in situations when they are expected to only think to themselves.

As far as emotions in people with AS are concerned, they may show some mood and behaviour swings. The swings are usually triggered when their routine and order of everyday life gets disrupted. Small, sometimes even minute changes to their rituals may anger the person or make them anxious.        

Intense interest in a certain field or skill or activity is also a standard symptom in a person with an autism spectrum disorder and also with Asperger syndrome. Differential diagnostics (discerning the disorder against other types of diseases and disorders) must concern schizophrenia, schizoid personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome and some learning disabilities.

Problems in people affected in this way are not visible or apparent at the first sight. Their environment often judges them as weirdos, crazy or shy individuals that are difficult to understand, but also as hostile selfish people, apathetic or uneducated people. Other people often describe autistic social behaviour as character flaws or lack of good parenting. People with Asperger syndrome often suffer from feelings of uncertainty and social exclusion, feelings of underappreciation and misunderstanding by others.

Timely and correct diagnosis may spare them much stress and anxiety. It also allows for initiation of a suitable treatment and pedagogic approach.

Asperger Syndrome - Treatment

This disorder is not curable. It is possible to give an affected individual some guidance and direction through suitable pedagogical education. It is important that parents of a child with AS, doctors and special teachers cooperate with each other. Adults suffering from AS need to be acquainted with their diagnoses. Many people with similar problems float around in the society perceive their problems in social behaviour and their exclusion, but they do not know it is because of a disorder.

If you have any doubts, visit a psychiatrist and tell them how you feel. Having a diagnosis is liberating for many people as it provides answers to many of their questions.

Famous People with Autism Spectrum Disorders or Specifically Asperger Syndrome

A diagnose of Asperger syndrome or an autism spectrum disorder does not mean that the affected person cannot assert themselves in the society or at work. On the contrary - we find very interesting, capable and successful individuals among them, such as:

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770 - 1827, composer

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756 - 1791, Austrian composer

Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886, American poet

Thomas Alva Edison, 1847 - 1931, American inventor

Albert Einstein, 1879 - 1955, theoretical physicist

Henry Ford, 1863 - 1947, American industrialist

Carl Gustav Jung, 1875 - 1961, Swiss psychologist

Franz Kafka, 1883 - 1924, German-Czech writer

Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910, American writer

Vincent Van Gogh, 1853 - 1890, Dutch-French painter

Hans Asperger, 1906 - 1980, Austrian pediatrician, the Asperger syndrome is named after him

The Asperger syndrome was named after a Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger who was the first to describe it in 1944. He noticed peculiar behaviour in some of his children patients. Although these were children with normal intelligence level who had no trouble with language, they were still unable to work well in a group. They were unable to communicate with others efficiently because they are decipher non-verbal expressions of others and they make mistakes even in understanding spoken communication (they do not understand exaggeration, irony and similes). When confused or disoriented, they often responded with aggression and closing into themselves. These children are not uneducated or out of control, it is a kind of defence mechanism on their part.

Alfred Hitchcock, 1899 - 1980, English-American director

Andy Warhol, 1928 - 1987, American artist

Woody Allen, 1935, American comedian, actor, director, producer, jazz clarinet player

Bob Dylan, 1941, American singer and songwriter

Bobby Fischer, 1943, American chess champion


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