What Is Asperger Syndrome?
Imagine you’re in a room filled with people, yet you struggle to socialize and communicate. You want to strictly discuss a topic you personally enjoy but the others in the room do not share this common interest with you. You don’t really acknowledge their lack of interest, but when they start to walk away , you shout at them, only to be left puzzled as to how they responded to your actions.
Now, imagine that this is everyday life, struggling to make sense of the social world around you. Feeling confused, lacking the common social knowledge in which most humans possess as a common trait.
This is what it is like to have Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism, which is typically diagnosed in childhood. Adults, too, may exhibit symptoms of Asperger’s, as some individuals are not diagnosed as children. So, what exactly is this syndrome and what is life like for those affected?
Imagine, not understanding our highly social world…
As mentioned, Asperger’s is a form of autism, causing individuals to experience social challenges within school, work, or within their personal lives. Often first diagnosed as ADHD in childhood, individuals living with Asperger’s are bright, yet lack critical social skills. Once these social impairments become obvious, individuals often display an exceptional ability to focus which is, of course, is a critical impairment for those with ADHD.
It’s important to understand that individuals with Asperger’s can carry a conversation and are high-functioning individuals. In fact, many exhibit exceptional language development, especially when focusing on topics of interest. Being able to speak, developing thoughts and ideas is not the issue; engaging in a socially appropriate conversation is the challenge.
If individuals affected by Asperger’s begin speaking inappropriately or lack the attention from the people they’re speaking to, this does not register with them. Individuals with Asperger’s lack the ability to view things from another person’s perspective, not being able to truly connect with those around them.
What It’s Like to Live with Asperger’s Syndrome
To better understand what Asperger’s truly is and what it is like for those affected, it’s beneficial to focus on key symptoms and the criteria that distinguishes this syndrome from other conditions. Remember, individuals with Asperger’s often exhibit strong language skills and do not experience a delay in cognitive development.
Social impairments are what characterize Asperger’s, as these individuals struggle to make sense of appropriate social interaction. They lack the understanding required to hold a meaningful conversation, as they often struggle with nonverbal behaviors, such as eye contact or appropriate facial expressions.
Individuals with Asperger’s struggle to develop meaningful relationships and friendships due to their failure to respond both socially and emotionally. They do not pick up on social cues the way the rest of the population does, lacking empathy and interest in what others have to say.
When they do find a topic they enjoy, they will often become preoccupied and obsessed. For some, their obsession may pertain to British sports cars while other individuals may know everything there is to possibly know about tornados or basketball statistics. Once again, if they’re interacting with others, they’ll want to discuss their specific interests and may even exhibit repetitive behaviors, such as tapping their hands.
As you can imagine, these symptoms make day-to-day activities challenging, confusing, and even overwhelming at times. Not understanding humor or how to appropriately respond to someone’s emotions, for instance, can make conversations awkward and uncomfortable.
For the individuals with Asperger’s, however, that awkward feeling will go unnoticed. This is why conversations often continue even when they are inappropriate. They also do not think about the best interest of others when engaging in social situations. For example, if a baby is sleeping on a bus, individuals with Asperger’s may scream and yell, not understanding why other people are telling them to be quiet.
Since we are all unique human beings, the same is true for those with Asperger’s. Although there are common traits which are shared across most diagnosed individuals, symptoms can vary, especially in terms of their severity. One child with Asperger’s may develop symptoms in which another diagnosed child will not.
Just as these individuals work hard throughout their lives to better understand the confusing social world around them, it is critical that others take an interest to better understand this syndrome. Knowledge and understanding are key and can help bridge the gap between those with Asperger’s and those who interact with them, aiding in the development of critical and meaningful relationships.
Asperger’s (Autism) Treatment
Benjamen, M. (2013). Symptoms of Asperger’s Disorder. PsychCentral. Retrieved from