Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
In layman’s terms: AS is a neurological and developmental disability that affects the interpretational abilities, speech functions, and behavior of the individual. It is more frequently diagnosed in children, since the symptoms are most prevalent in childhood through adolescence, but adults are still widely diagnosed.
Since its induction into the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual in 1996, in the United States (1992 for the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems in Europe), people that have shown symptoms of the syndrome, but were either ‘not diagnosed’ or ‘misdiagnosed,’ now have the opportunity to receive an accurate diagnosis and receive treatment.
Since AS is considered a neurological and developmental disability, you cannot acquire it like you would a cold, or cure it; you inherit it through a family member. Many people, after receiving their diagnosis, feel a sense of relief that’s been compared to having a weight lifted from their shoulders.
It is also important to understand that AS is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ condition. Everybody’s situation is unique; however, treatment options remain very similar. The only people who would know what’s best for your situation would be your counselor(s), doctor(s), and even those closest to you.
People with AS (also known as Aspies) tend to show deficits in the following areas:
- Speech development consisting of speech delays, difficulty forming sentences of phrases, difficulty in verbally communicating at the same relative speed as others).
- Difficulties interacting with others in social situations, making and maintaining relationships with others, the inability to accurately process and interpret feelings as they relate to those relationships, and difficulty understanding potential boundaries that exist within certain relationships.
- Misinterpretation or misunderstanding of social cues and nuances. This goes for facial, nonverbal, verbal, and tactile. They will either miss them completely, mistake one for another, or be slow to catch on. The dominant theory is that the part of the brain that makes these connections, is either damaged, non-existent, or was late developing.
- Unable or struggles to read people. This relies on being able to take a combination of gestures, vocal inflections, and possibly actions, and develop an intuition or ‘gut’ based on these signs. The average person learns much of this as they grow, develop, and explore the world around them.
- Ritualistic or meticulous in their ways, which can make transition very difficult. Aspies enjoy structure and a set way to do things, with very little deviation.
- Very literally driven in spoken, textual, and social contexts. Since Aspies can have a difficult time understanding nuances such a sarcasm, teasing, anger, happiness, joviality, or joking, attitudes can rub them the wrong way. The average person learns the discernment as a result of seeing it in a social scene and assimilates quickly.
They also show many strengths in several key areas:
- They tend to be highly intelligent and have an inordinate desire to learn and seek out new information.
- They will notice things out of the ordinary that nobody else would. This is different than someone being observant. Being highly observant relies on you knowing what you’re looking for; Aspies tend to notice things, when they’re not paying attention.
- Although they may be socially inept, they’re processing without you realizing it. Their ability to process and comprehend information that might have been otherwise overlooked, outweighs their social capacity. Give them a day or two after learning a lot of information, and you’d be surprised what kind of observations you will get.
- They can be honest to a fault. Lying, deception, and manipulation are three traits that many Aspies don’t easily grasp since each trait involves extra energy and processing. Lying and deception involve wanting to hurt somebody or distract somebody from the truth; they’re more about trying to make friends than trying to screw somebody over. Manipulation involves being able to get such a good read on somebody and adapting that ‘profile’ to match your needs/wants – too much work involved.
- Aspies tend to see the bigger picture since they rely less on an emotional state and more on a logical or directional state. Does this mean that they don’t feel or perceive emotion? Not at all, they just don’t process it or regard it the same way as everyone else.
- They are considered extremely loyal in the same of friendship and relationship; even if they have an interesting way of showing it. It may not be in the form of hugs and handshakes when the moment is right, but they do show it in their actions.