People with Asperger’s syndrome are often distinguished by high intelligence and excellent memory, but surrounding people can have serious difficulties in communicating with them. How can you diagnose this disorder in people close to you?
Common signs and symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome
Asperger’s syndrome is one of the autism spectrum disorders. Its symptoms are milder than those of autism. People may exhibit only some or all of the characteristics.
Social symptoms that can affect a person’s interactions or communication with others include:
- Problems establishing or maintaining friendship
- Isolation or minimal interaction in social situations
- Poor eye contact or a tendency to stare at others
- Problems interpreting gestures
- Failure to recognize humor, irony, and sarcasm
- Inappropriate behavior or strange manners
- Lack of empathy, problems with expressing empathy, controlling emotions, or expressing feelings
- Lack of common sense
- Tendency to one-sided conversation (they prefer to talk about themselves)
- Passion for certain topics
- Interpreting information literally
- Following a strict schedule or routine
An adult or child with Asperger’s syndrome may not exhibit all of these signs, but is generally prone to social difficulties.
For example, a person with Asperger’s syndrome may obsessively talk about one particular subject. Obsession with different species of birds, sports statistics, or their own personality is a clear example of this.
He may not understand when someone is feeling uncomfortable, offended, or unselfish. Since he does not always recognize social rules, he may speak loudly at the wrong time or place. Others may interpret these symptoms as bad manners or just rude behavior.
Language and speech problems. Unlike other autism disorders, a person with Asperger’s syndrome does not usually experience delayed speech. But it does have some linguistic features. From the outside, the speech image of a person with Asperger’s syndrome may seem unusual:
A scenario with a formal or “robotic” type of conversation
- Lack of intonation, voice modulation
- Monotony or rhythm, loud speech
- Problems with using the meaning of words in a social context
- Repetitions or obsessive speech
A person with Asperger’s syndrome usually has a strong vocabulary and good grammatical skills, but may not be able to use the language correctly in social situations.
Cognitive features. Typically, the intelligence of children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome is normal or above average. While some do well academically, others may have difficulty. Some common cognitive features of people with Asperger’s syndrome include:
Excellent mechanical memory
- Ability to understand technical or factual information
- Problems understanding abstract information
- The ability to see details, the tendency to focus on them, which can lead to missing the “big picture”
- Independent thinking
- Physical symptoms. Adults with Asperger’s syndrome may experience physical symptoms such as:
- Awkward movements
- Coordination problems
- Sensitivity to loud sounds, smells, clothing, or food texture
They may seem awkward. They may have problems with simple activities such as catching a ball. But some have no motor problems.
How to recognize the syndrome?
Usually, a child with Asperger’s syndrome begins to experience difficulties in preschool age. It is difficult for him/her to adhere to rules and to follow instructions. He differs from other children and has a different facial expression, movements and speech. In addition, at this age there is a difficulty in being able to put oneself in the shoes of another person or to assess the consequences of one’s actions. He has very great difficulties in establishing contacts, and it is difficult for him to ask for help.
Growing up, adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome drop out of social life. They do not understand the forms of social communication, and they have practically no common interests with their peers. In addition, they are perfectionists in everything they do. They do everything more thoroughly than others and do not accept criticism. All this does not contribute to socialization and reduces emotional contact.
By adulthood, the characteristics of the syndrome reach such a level of development that people with Asperger’s syndrome often prefer to live alone. Social communication is still a big problem for them, and any need to move away from typical behavior patterns is stressful.
They also have an increased tendency to go headlong into certain subjects or hobbies. Adults find it difficult to express emotions, and they remain unusual in speech and motor skills. Unlike people with autism, people with Asperger’s syndrome can live on their own – with or without a partner.
Does Asperger’s syndrome induce violent behavior?
Many parents wonder if Asperger’s syndrome is associated with violent behavior. The answer does not seem clear.
Several high-profile massacres, including the shooting at Virginia Institute of Technology in 2007, the Newtown, Connecticut massacre in 2012, and the Parkland, Florida, tragedy in 2018, are believed to have been committed by men with an autism spectrum disorder.
Aggression and violence among people with autism spectrum disorder are reactive rather than premeditated. For example, children with autism may resort to violence if they are sick, frustrated, or unable to convey how they are feeling.
People with Asperger’s syndrome are rather peaceful, they are rather naïve than aggressive. Their naivety is easy to exploit with malicious intent. It happens. Asperger’s syndrome makes people vulnerable due to a lack of communication. In life, they are often faced with ridicule or bullying, which can lead to a desire for revenge.
Although Asperger’s syndrome can trigger violent behavior, most studies do not show a specific link only between violent crime and autism. Some studies suggest that other comorbid mental disorders may explain aggressive behavior in people with autism.
Scientists continue to explore this connection and hope to gain more information about the role that Asperger’s syndrome and other mental illnesses play in violent crimes.
Sometimes people with Asperger’s syndrome have special talents
Many people with Asperger’s syndrome consider their symptoms to be a gift, they have special talents and abilities. Some of the positive qualities that distinguish people with Asperger’s syndrome include:
- The ability to focus on something intensely and for a long time
- Wonderful mechanical memory
- Unique special sense of humor
- High appreciation of fairness and honesty
There are many adults with this disorder, who are successful lawyers, doctors, artists, writers, professors, and educators. Among famous personalities in history, retrospectively assessed as having Asperger’s syndrome, we can name Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, scientists Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, composer Ludwig van Beethoven, musician Elvis Presley, Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
In fact, some people with Asperger’s syndrome are offended by the idea that their symptoms need to be “treated” or “cured”.
Asperger’s Syndrome: Diagnosis and Help
No two people with Asperger’s syndrome are alike. The disorder manifests itself in different ways. Some have only minor problems, while others face major challenges.
In addition, since Asperger’s syndrome is now classified under the broad diagnosis of an “autism spectrum disorder,” some symptoms are no longer recognized as solely Asperger’s symptoms, but rather “belong to the spectrum.” This change was included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013.
The main conclusion for parents: If your child develops any unusual signs or symptoms that might indicate that he or she has an autism spectrum disorder, you should see a professional. This can provide accurate and fast diagnostics. The sooner children are diagnosed, the sooner they can begin effective treatment that will help them cope better.
American scientists have found that the hormone oxytocin in autistic people increases social intelligence. Perhaps this is one of the medicinal methods for better awareness and warming of emotions, which means changing the quality of social interaction.
The Asperger’s diagnosis is not a sentence for imprisonment in your inner world. Everyone must find their own path. Extroversion can be developed by studying other people and using simulated behavior. The work on overcoming the social dysfunctions of Asperger’s syndrome should turn into a process and bring positive development.