What Are the Symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome in Adults?
Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that is part of the autism spectrum. Though autism and other pervasive developmental disorders are not fully understood, doctors say that Asperger’s syndrome is a diagnostically unique disorder from autism, with different symptoms, treatments, and expectations. Like all autism spectrum disorders, the cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not know, though there are plenty of theories. We know that there is a genetic component of Asperger’s syndrome, like with all autism spectrum disorders, but it is unclear how large a role heredity plays in the development of Asperger’s.
Also like autism and other PDDs (pervasive developmental disorders) Asperger’s syndrome affects people from all walks of life and in every social class — however, most researches agree that PDDs are as much as four times more common among men. Asperger’s is even more of a “male” disorder — some doctors claim that 80% of Asperger’s diagnoses are given to men. Other names for Asperger’s syndrome — Asperger’s disorder, Asperger’s, or AS.
Unlike other autism spectrum disorders, people tend to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome well into adulthood. Some of them are highly symptomatic from the time they are young children, but the nature of the symptoms of Asperger’s are such that the disorder can hide itself in a person’s youth. For example — the highly unusual and specific interests that patients with Asperger’s syndrome develop may only result in a child being “weird” or having trouble getting along with classmates. Some of these highly focused interests may even be good for a young child — should a young patient with Asperger’s become really interested in mathematics or computer programming, we may readily call him a young genius without realizing that his highly specialized obsessions are a part of his Asperger’s syndrome. Many adults with Asperger’s share that they were often the target of bullies as youngster, insulted for their strange interest in extraordinary things.
Does this mean every child who is bullied has Asperger’s syndrome? Hardly. But the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome in adults are not so bizarre that they stand out, like the repetitive or violent behavior of true autism. Many doctors explain a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome using words like “quirky” or “eccentric.” What are those symptoms?
1. Impaired social reactions
This is the main component of an adult diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. For various reasons, some thought to be biological, people who suffer from Asperger’s syndrome have trouble developing long-lasting relationships with friends or family. We know that people with AS are biologically different in some specific ways (different levels of intestinal flora, different facial features, differences in brain chemistry) but doctors are not sure how much of this trouble forming bonds is biological and how much is psychological.
2. Difficulty understanding communication
The subtle language that humans use with their eyes, bodies, and facial expressions is difficult or impossible for people with AS to understand. This difficulty communicating also means that people with AS have trouble showing love or affection.
3. Inappropriate behavior
People with Asperger’s syndrome are sometimes though of as “rude” or disrespectful because they don’t understand other people’s expectations of “appropriate” behavior. Their difficulty socially combined with an inability to judge other people’s feelings, means that people suffering from AS find it hard to get along with others on an emotional or social level.
How is AS Different from Autism?
People with Asperger’s syndrome almost always lead “traditional” lives in many respects. They are active members of the community, parents, teachers, employees in every part of the workforce. Doctors think many people will go through their whole lives without realizing they have Asperger’s syndrome — so what makes AS so different from true autism? Why is it that people with AS can go so long without being diagnosed?
The biggest difference between autism and Asperger’s is that people with true autism suffer from multiple developmental delays. Think of autism as disordered development across multiple categories — speech and motor development, emotional development, communication, social interaction, etc. Autism affects many more areas of your developmental life than does Asperger’s syndrome. People with AS tend to be highly intelligent (one concomitant symptom of AS is “above average intelligence”) and in order to be diagnosed with AS, you must fail to meet the diagnostic criteria for any other PDD such as autism.
Researchers in autism spectrum disorders say that patients diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome tend to be excellent workers and driven professionals — highly focused, logical, and exceptionally talented in the field of their choice, usually in math or some sort of hard science. It is assumed that Albert Einstein had Asperger’s syndrome, though his early trouble developing speech tends more toward a severe PDD such as true autism.
Treatment for Asperger’s Syndrome
Like all of the major pervasive developmental disorders, there’s no cure for Asperger’s syndrome. Some treatments have shown more promise than others in helping people cope with their AS. One exciting are of research is good old-fashioned cognitive behavioral therapy. This run of the mill therapeutic talk treatment is affordable and accessible, and seems to help people with AS interact more efficiently with the world around them. Some people with AS will need speech therapy and counseling to deal with AS’s more physical symptoms, like difficult forming words and understanding facial expressions.
When people with Asperger’s learn how to cope with their syndrome, it is normal for them to have “normal” lives — married with kids, gainfully employed, and leading a successful and independent life.
The trend now is for people with Asperger’s syndrome to self-identify. They use the term “aspies” or “Aspergians” to make themselves part of a larger community rather than feel victim of a disease process. There’s a growing movement to celebrate Asperger’s syndrome, to highlight its benefits and play down the downsides, to do away with the syndrome’s stigma and to celebrate what Aspergians call “neurodiversity”. Asperger’s patients try not to think of themselves as people with an illness in need of medical treatment.
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