Do you have trouble in social situations? Do others see your behavior as rude when that wasn’t your intention?
Asperger Syndrome is a condition involving severe difficulty with social interaction and communication. It is closely related to autism and can be seen as a milder form of the disorder.
Asperger’s tends to be diagnosed later in life than autism and other related disorders which are noticed in early childhood. This is partly because those with Asperger’s don’t have language problems and are of normal intelligence. Many times Aspies, as they are sometimes called, are very intelligent and self-sufficient. By all signs, Aspies appear “normal”. However, their issues with social communication becomes more clear as they grow older and must interact with other people. People with Asperger Syndrome don’t understand basic rules of social interaction which can cause them to be socially ostracized or teased as young adults and into adulthood.
What does it mean to have Asperger’s? There are two major signs of Asperger Syndrome: impairment in social interaction and narrow, restricted interests.
People with Asperger’s tend to be lost in social situations and interact awkwardly with other people. They especially have trouble with non-verbal behavior such as eye contact: they either make little eye contact or stare. Their facial expressions can be off: they may not make many at all or their expressions may be inappropriate for the situation.
Aspies can take figurative expressions literally. They also seem to lack empathy for others and have trouble understanding things from another person’s point of view.
Narrow, Restricted Interests
Aspies regularly develop unusual, narrow interests. For example, a child may become obsessed with dinosaurs and devote all of their time to this interest. They know detailed information about their subject(s) of interests and talk about their interests all the time.
People with Asperger’s also tend to have a high preference for consistency and routine. They show rigid patterns of behavior and can become agitated when their regular routine is changed.
Having several of these traits indicates that you may be diagnosable with Asperger’s. But not looking people in the eye or boring people with mathematics is not what make an Aspie and a single symptom is not proof of the condition. Self-diagnosing is dangerous, not to mention inaccurate. To know if you have Asperger’s, you must go see a professional.
Coping Social Mechanisms
If you do have Asperger’s or know someone who has it, there are ways you can learn to cope with the lack of social awareness. Social cues can be learned, but not in the way a person without Asperger’s or similar disorders (known as “neurotypical”) would learn them.
For example, a neurotypical simply knows when it’s their turn to speak or what amount of eye contact is desired. If you’re an Aspie you can learn: when a person stops talking, count two seconds in your head before you start talking, to make sure it’s really your turn to speak and you’re not interrupting. You can learn what topics and behavior are off-limits when it comes to social interaction, but this usually comes with experience.
Some coping mechanisms may seem mechanic and “dishonest” to a neurotypical person, but it doesn’t have to be. Aspies generally don’t want to be rude or appear cold and unsympathetic. They just don’t know how to express what they feel. So learning these coping mechanisms is like learning a foreign language: you translate what you feel to the language a neurotypical person can understand.
This post was developed using comments from Mira.