Asperger’s is a mild form of autism, typically diagnosed during childhood. The
Diagnostic Manual (DSM-V) has removed the word Asperger’s in favor of Autism
Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Although there is some controversy on this topic, I still prefer using this word, as it better describes clients who are high functioning, often very bright, but lack certain social skills. This impairment in social skills makes it harder for individuals with Asperger’s to form relationships with other people in both their personal and professional lives.
What is Aspergers?
To provide a clearer depiction of what Asperger’s is, imagine you’re in a room filled with
people, but you cannot communicate effectively. You have something to say but are not
sure when it is appropriate to speak and how you should phrase your thought. You find
it difficult to make eye contact and have received feedback that you’re not friendly
enough. People constantly say that you need to work on social skills, but you don’t
know how. You want to contribute to the conversation but sometimes are told that you
were too blunt or said the wrong thing. In the end, you may leave saying nothing after
so many failed attempts.
What is Social Communication?
What does it mean to struggle with social communication? In general, individuals with Asperger’s often do not pick up on the typical social cues the way the rest of the population does. For example, we have all been in situations when a friend is saying a story and although we do not find it interesting, due to social norms, we nod along and feign excitement. An individual with Asperger’s is likely to express their boredom verbally or just stop attending to the conversation without thinking about the social consequences. Even if the conversation becomes uncomfortable for other people, for children and adults with Asperger’s, this awkward feeling often goes
unnoticed. Therefore, conversations tend to continue even when they are inappropriate.
When children and adults with Asperger’s do find a topic, they enjoy, they may become preoccupied and obsessed. This can result in difficulty forming friendships as it can be tiring speaking to an individual who only cares about their own interests. In general,
children and adults with Asperger’s lack the ability to view things from another person’s perspective. To put it more simply, people with Asperger’s may fail to think about the best interest of others in social situations. For example, if a baby is sleeping, individuals
with Asperger’s may talk loudly, not understanding why people want them to be quiet.
Children and adults with Asperger’s also struggle with interpreting nonverbal forms of communication (maintaining eye contact and interpreting facial expressions etc.). Other areas of social deficits include that individuals with Asperger’s often speak in a monotone,
speak too loudly or too formally for the setting they are in (i.e. speaking to friends at a party the way you would speak in class).
Additionally, children and adults with Asperger’s also tend to have rigid routines and dislike change. This can affect friendships as individuals with Asperger’s are likely to be inflexible when plans change and not want to switch their usual routine.
As you can imagine, these symptoms make daily activities challenging, confusing, and at times overwhelming. Individuals with Asperger’s work hard throughout their lives to better understand the confusing social world around them. Asperger’s treatment with experienced doctors can greatly benefit people struggling with everyday social situations
Clarification About Aspergers
Not all individuals with Asperger’s experience the same levels of impairments and it is not always obvious if a person has Asperger’s or not. It’s important to understand that individuals with Asperger’s can carry a conversation and are often high-functioning and able to work and attend school. In fact, many exhibit exceptional language development, especially when focusing on their topics of interest. Being able to speak well, and developing thoughts and ideas, are not the issue. The challenge, rather, is having a socially appropriate conversation.
There are many positive characteristics of children and adults with Asperger syndrome that are important to note. These characteristics include increased ability to focus on details, capacity to persevere in specific interests without being swayed by others’ opinions
ability to work independently, recognition of patterns that may be missed by others, determination an original way of thinking.
It is important to remind yourself of these unique skills you (or your child) have which can help you be successful in many areas of life.
We offer testing for Aspergers at the Sachs Center. The Aspergers test is two hours long and consists of a clinical interview where we learn about your past and current symptoms. We also offer specific evidence-based research Aspergers tests from third-party researchers.
The Sachs Center has groups for adults and children with Autism. Offering safe spaces for its members, and custom-designed group experiences, our groups allow teens and adults to connect and share their unique neurodiverse perspectives.
The Sachs Center also has online support groups for adults with Aspergers. Call or email us for information on that group.
We offer a unique group for African-Americans with ASD called BASE. The Black Autism Spectrum Experience (BASE) supports African-American adults with High-Functioning Autism and Aspergers.
Social difficulties are often the most challenging obstacles for adults with ASD and Aspergers. This is compounded by a sense of rejection by the African American community, which has historically dismissed mental health problems like Autism. BASE group therapy sessions offer African-American individuals
with shared struggles the opportunity to connect and learn skills that will help them better navigate future social situations. Group topics often include:
- Understanding the feelings of being different.
- Working with and mitigating pressures received from
family and society.
- How to understand and process the anxieties of dating
and finding a partner.
- Setting healthy boundaries with friends and family.
- Discussing popular social topics that are fun and
engaging for patients, like movies and video games.
The Sachs Center also maintains connections through the Birch Family Services of Manhattan to help clients find supportive and engaging employment opportunities.
Reach out to us below to learn more.
Contact the Sachs Center in Manhattan, New York to learn if you or a loved one has Aspergers.