How to Detect Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of Autism that is defined by the person’s lack of social skills and communication difficulties. There are many people in the world who aren’t comfortable talking to strangers or speaking in front of a crowd—but for people with Asperger’s, the social barrier is much more complex and involved.
People with this condition don’t have any obvious difference in their appearance, so it usually goes undetected until someone has a conversation with them or watches them interact.
My oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in elementary school. An Asperger's diagnosis is made only after administering multiple tests and interviewing those who are closest to the person. In my son's case, we arrived at a diagnosis after years of observing and documenting his social challenges, as well as his spectacular abilities.
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What Are The Signs?
There are a few different behaviors or idiosyncrasies that are indicative of a person having Asperger’s Syndrome. Some of those symptoms may include:
- difficulty with communications
- trouble with personal interactions
- anxiety associated with transitions
- sleeping problems
- sensory sensitivities
- lack of empathy
- a consuming specific interest
Always present any suspicions or concerns to your doctor for a formal diagnosis.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have an exceptionally large vocabulary and often talk very quickly. The difficulty they experience with communication has more to do with what they say than their ability to say it. The sentences they say aren’t always organized in the right way or completely on topic. However, their words are usually enunciated and pronounced perfectly. In short, the words that they need are in their heads, they just sometimes have a hard time organizing them to get across what they are trying to tell you.
Young children with Asperger’s communication will sometimes consist of simply repeating. Not necessarily repeating back what you have just said to them but, repeating television commercials or conversations they have heard. All children enjoy saying a funny line from a cartoon over and over. This is different.
When a child has Asperger’s the only conversation they will engage in is one that has been learned. Repeating dialog instead of organizing their own words is easier for these kids because they frequently have an incredible long term memory and it satisfies their need for predictability.
Part of the social challenge that people with Asperger’s have is that they aren’t able to control or predict what another person will say or do next. This can cause major anxiety for them because the unknown is very scary. That is why reusing a conversation that has already happened is the perfect solution for these kids, they know exactly what will be said next.
This particular behavior is a perfect example of how people with Asperger’s learn social behaviors much like a typical person learns another language. When someone wants to learn Chinese for example, a teacher or visual aid will instruct them how to respond to certain situations or request what they need. The student repeats the phrase over and over until they have learned so many conversations they are able to break them apart and organize them into their own dialog. This is very similar to how people with Asperger’s learn to navigate the social world around them.
A common visual indication that someone may have Asperger’s Syndrome is that they don’t make eye contact and often don’t notice facial expressions or body language. This is extremely challenging for the person who is interacting with them because it isn’t clear if they are paying attention. They also have a very hard time understanding sarcasm, humor, and passive aggressive behaviors. They take everything that is said very literally.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome typically spend much of the time in their own world, mentally isolated from others.
You may notice that children with this syndrome have a lack of interest in cooperative play. Activities and games that are independent or that involve side by side play are much more appealing to them. They may want to play in a sandbox next to another child, but they will be building their own masterpiece instead of joining in on a team project.
People with Asperger’s also don’t enjoy pretending or making up rules to a game as you go along. Everything has to be very organized and predictable. Fantasy and fiction doesn’t have a place in their world of facts and order.
Change or switching from one situation to another, better known as transitions can cause extreme anxiety for people who have this syndrome.
The degree of anxiety and transition varies due to the fact that no two Asperger cases are the same but some level of difficulty is certain.
These transitions can range from a person getting very agitated when they have to leave their home to go somewhere new, to a complete melt down because a child had their seat moved at school unexpectedly. It is very important for individuals with Asperger's that life is as predictable as possible and that any change in routine is told to them well in advance so they have time to adjust and organize it to their comfort level.
Did You Know?
People Diagnosed with Autism
People with Autism who have Asperger's Syndrome
1 in 110
1 in 3
Meltdowns are something that happens to people with Asperger’s when they are extremely anxious. When children have meltdowns it can be mistaken for a tantrum. There is a huge difference.
A tantrum is a manipulative tool used to get something a child wants. It is forced noise and obnoxious behavior with the goal of embarrassing or irritating an adult into submission.
A meltdown is an overload of emotions and fear that bubbles over into a fight or flight response. When a child with Autism or Asperger’s has a meltdown they are visible panicked and appear to be fighting for their lives. The events that lead to these meltdowns vary from person to person. Common triggers for children are: an unexpected change in schedule, loud noises, and different sensory stimulation. As an individual with Asperger’s gets older, they generally learn what their personal triggers are and avoid these scenarios.
People with Autism and Asperger’s often have heightened sensory sensitivities. These sensitivities are different for everyone but some examples are:
- bright lights
- loud noises
- clothing fabric irritations
- crowded places
Sensory issues will cause major anxiety and can easily lead to meltdowns. It should be understood that having a sensory sensitivity isn’t a choice for people with Asperger’s so it isn’t something they can just get over or deal with.
Deeply Specific Interests
People with Asperger’s Syndrome generally have an extreme interest in one specific thing. An example would be:
- classic cars
- computers programs
- sports statistics
Their interests consume them and monopolize many parts of their lives and almost all of their conversations. They will seek out as much information as possible on this particular subject and think about it almost constantly. This makes it hard to engage in a variety of activities or have conversations about anything else.
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have a very hard time with empathy.
They may react or respond inappropriately when someone tells them something sad or if that person is angry. Many times someone with Asperger’s will do or say something hurtful without realizing how it affects those around them. If the same thing is done to them however, they will get very angry and hurt. When the hypocrisy is pointed out to them, they most likely will not understand the correlation.
While having a conversation with a person with this syndrome it isn’t unusual for them to seem distant and disinterested. They might interrupt many times in an attempt to change the topic and interject with some information about their particular interest. It is a challenge for them to absorb and concentrate on things that they aren’t interested in or don’t have to do with them directly.
Children with Asperger’s may often be seen as bullies and adults are sometimes seen as being jerks but their lack of apathy isn’t intentional and certainly isn’t meant to be cruel in any way.
Like many of the social skills people with Asperger’s lack, this can be taught with lots of patience and persistence.
Many times people with Asperger’s have an extremely hard time sleeping. Either falling asleep or staying asleep seems to be an issue.
It is common for these individuals to lay awake for hours trying to fall sleep, only to awaken after about four hours.
There have been theories about whether or not their brains produce the necessary amount of Melatonin and that could very well be the cause.
I personally discovered taking 1-3 mg of Melatonin 30 minutes before bed time is tremendously helpful. Each person is unique so if you are interested, I encourage you to explore this option for yourself so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your loved ones.
Asperger's Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of
Asperger's Syndrome is not something to be feared or shameful of. Many people view it as a tremendous asset!
The preceding has been a guide of symptoms for possible detection of Asperger's but it doesn't outline all of the wonderful benefits.
We all have challenges and we all have gifts.
Individuals with Asperger's may have more pronounced challenges than the typical person but they also have pronounced gifts.
If you believe you or a loved one may have Asperger's Syndrome or fall somewhere withing the Autistic Spectrum, it would be worth it to find out for sure. A whole new world of opportunities could open up.