Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that may lead to complex mental health problems. People with Asperger’s are all individuals, different from one another, but share certain characteristics.

Strengths of People with Asperger’s Syndrome

May have exceptional memories:

  • Tend to have stronger visual memories that auditory memories.
  • May be unusually good at memorizing facts and figures in their areas of interest.

Areas of special interest:

  • Are frequently talented in music, engineering, visual logic, or computer programming, but may also have different special interests.
  • Can be highly original thinkers, not bound by the unwritten rules of society.
  • Are often highly intelligent in certain domains. Tony Attwood speculates that Mozart, Van Gogh, Einstein, Bill Gates had/have AS.
  • Have exceptional ability to focus on areas of special interest.

Potential in the workplace:

  • Can be consistently punctual.
  • Can be meticulous and apply high standards to their work; can be perfectionists.
  • Can be extraordinary problem solvers in their areas of interest.

Social Interaction:

  • Are very responsive to those who understand them and like them, although it may not be obvious.
  • Are honest and direct and prefer honest and direct responses; can’t read between the lines. (Don’t understand abstractions or subtleties of communication.)
  • Can develop interesting quirky senses of humor.
  • When taught with sensitivity to their differences, will make excellent use of what they have learned.
  • Can have exceptional vocabularies and may become fascinating conversationalists.
  • When treated well, can be kind, and are vigilant about rules they understand.

Vulnerabilities of People with Asperger’s

Difficulties with social communication:

  • Often have pedantic or formal speech patterns, and may talk at you rather than with you.
  • Have difficulty reading nonverbal communication: body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.
  • Have difficulty developing “theory of mind” (understanding that others have different thoughts, feelings, and desires.)
  • May not display empathy.
  • May have problems guessing accurately what someone else is thinking or feeling – no social intuition.
  • May make little or no eye contact.
  • Are prone to literal interpretation of language: have difficulty understanding jokes, sarcasm, metaphors, expressions, abstractions, hints.
  • Have difficulty identifying and articulating emotions in selves and others.
  • May be highly intelligent in some areas but be socially and emotionally immature.

Problems with Executive Functioning:

  • Difficulties with planning, organizing, time management, etc.

Soft Neurological Signs:

  • Sensory difficulties: over sensitivity to touch, taste, temperature, noises, sounds, visual stimuli, smells, textures. Although different in every individual, this may lead to sensory overload and explosive behaviors.
  • Low muscle tone.
  • May display repetitive body movements.

Routines:

  • Prefer the structure and predictability of routines.
  • May become unusually anxious when confronting unanticipated changes and transitions.

Websites:

Recommended reading:  Attwood, Tony (2007). The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Jessica Kinglsey Publishers, London.

(Source: L. Baker, Keene State College, 2005)