Asperger’s: Signs and Coping


Josh Hartnett in "Mozart and the Whale", a film about Asperger's

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.

Social Impairment

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.

54 thoughts on “Asperger’s: Signs and Coping

  1. The thing with Asperger’s is that only a few decades ago, the condition wasn’t even known. And today it’s become some sort of a “trendy”, almost “popular” illness that many quirky, socially awkward people claim to have.

    One important thing to understand is that Asperger’s (just like Autism in general) can manifest itself in many forms. It truly depends on the person. Two people with Asperger’s might be completely different and you wouldn’t guess they both have the same condition.

    These personal differences also mean that you can be affected more or you can be affected less.

    I am not sure how doctors determine this, but I always take it as “how able you are to control your inner Aspie”. Some people can’t control the behaviour others perceive as weird and inappropriate, while others can. It’s not a matter of discipline: some Aspies have serious sensory issues (for example, they can’t stand certain sounds: imagine that the sound of someone chewing a bubble gum sounds annoying and horrible like scraping a chalkboard with the fingernails. Now imagine you’re supposed to pretend it isn’t there). Also, some Aspies are better at learning social cues while others aren’t interested in them.

    There’s also a huge difference between males and females. There are more men than women who are diagnosed with Asperger’s, but it’s often because symptoms with women are different. Women are better at mirroring other people’s behaviour and mannerism, and even it’s never natural for them to act that way, it can make them seem less noticeable than their male counterparts. Also, shyness is a trait that’s seen as more “normal” for girls to have, so shy boys stand out.

    Some differences between male and female symptoms and the summary of female Asperger’s symptoms:

    Some social tips from an Aspie girl. I love her advice: “never talk on a subject as long as you want”. That’s a great advice. Because Aspies usually don’t know when the other person is bored, and because their special interests are often everything to them, they can talk about it for hours – virtually – and then even more (think how certain mothers or even dog owners can’t stop talking about their kids or pets? Same goes for an Aspie and Trains/Dinosaurs/Constellations/Lord of the Rings).

    Also, most of the Asperger’s people suck at the small talk, and never know what to say and what not to say, so they appear rude, emotionless or creepy. It doesn’t mean people with Asperger’s lack empathy; they just have no idea how to express it the way others can understand it.

  2. Mira,

    You’re right about Asperger’s becoming a “trendy” condition to have. It’s not rare for a socially awkward person to claim to be slightly Aspie.

    “some Aspies have serious sensory issues (for example, they can’t stand certain sounds: imagine that the sound of someone chewing a bubble gum”

    I can’t stand the sound of people eating anything, unless I’m also eating (so it drowns them out). Sometimes I will leave the room when people are eating if it’s particularly unbearable. So I can relate to that; I’m not Aspie, however. 🙂

    Re: empathy, it seems like it’s more of an individual thing. Some people who have Asperger’s claim they only appear to lack empathy because they’re not good with non-verbal expression, but they don’t actually lack it.

    Thanks for the links.

  3. Oh, I used the bubble gum example because I don’t pay attention to stuff like that. It could be anything: any noise or smell that others either don’t notice, or even find it pleasant.

    I think Asperger’s is a trendy illness because it can be seen as an excuse, or as a proof of someone’s “special” status. In reality, however, while there are people who are only mildly affected, Asperger’s is more serious than not picking social cues. And even if it’s mild enough to pass for a quirkiness, it’s important to understand Aspies in general don’t see themselves as quirky: they see themselves as ok (“normal”) and don’t understand why people don’t accept them or think they’re weird. Even after they realize others see them as “weird” and “strange”, they don’t understand why. Also, many do want to fit in but that takes a lot of energy.

    But just looking at the symptoms (for example, these female ones) it’s easy to understand why it’s not an easy condition to diagnose. I bet many neurotypicals share these symptoms (being shy, staring at their love interests, finding comfort in animals, being a tomboy). That’s why I think a true diagnosis requires lots of work and tests. Plus, I think doctors still don’t know everything about the condition and that’s why some people get their diagnosis either too late, or never, while others use self-diagnosis to label themselves Aspies because it’s seen as a trendy thing to have and somewhat fits their symptoms.

  4. I wonder how many people back home have this without knowing.

    I can’t stand the sound of people eating anything, unless I’m also eating (so it drowns them out).

    Weirdo 😀

    Just kidding. I can’t stand people talking with food in their mouth.

  5. Mira,

    “I think doctors still don’t know everything about the condition and that’s why some people get their diagnosis either too late, or never”

    Yes. They more or less admit this. It’s still new as compared to related disorders.

    “while others use self-diagnosis to label themselves Aspies because it’s seen as a trendy thing to have and somewhat fits their symptoms.”

    I also see some diagnosing famous people. Like supposedly Bill Gates is supposed to have Asperger’s traits. Plus Einstein, Da Vinci, and Mark Zuckerberg. I wonder what all these people have in common (besides their supposed Asperger’s)? 🙂

  6. Nkosazana,


    What, am I the only one who doesn’t like that? 🙂

    “I wonder how many people back home have this without knowing.”

    There are probably several. There is a taboo among certain cultures involving mental conditions. They just act like it doesn’t exist or say the person is just “different” and being themselves.

  7. Asperger’s and Autism are not culture and ethnicity specific. There are, however, more males than females on the spectrum, but the gender difference is not as large as it seems because (at least with Asperger’s), many females aren’t diagnosed).

    There is a taboo among certain cultures involving mental conditions.

    In my culture, having a mental condition is seen as shameful. The person and his family is often ostracized from the rest of the society. However, none of it is done explicitly: on the outside, people will pretend everything’s ok. A person won’t lose her job… But her friends will just stop calling. And they will forbid their kids to play with yours (because, you know, mental illnesses are genetic, and you don’t want your kids to play with a crazy child).

    But usually, a family accepts a member with mental condition. However, families often pretend “everything’s fine”: said family member isn’t different, he’s just like the rest of us. It’s done not in a way of accepting the fact, but in a form of heavy denial.

    I wonder what all these people have in common (besides their supposed Asperger’s)?

    I don’t get it. What? They’re male? White? What?

    In a way, I understand the need to “claim” famous, successful people from the past (and present). It’s good to know there are successful people with Asperger’s, and that Aspies are not useless, bad people. Still, I don’t know how it’s possible to diagnose someone from 15th century.

    PS- Some say Keanu is an Aspie, but I guess it’s just because they want to excuse his bad acting.

  8. There is a taboo among certain cultures involving mental conditions.

    Well my uncle is a bit nutty in the head, he used to work in the gold mines in Johannesburg during the fifties to the seventies to support his family. All that dust and horrible treatment (he got scars all over his body, but he never wants to speak about it) went to his head and he can get quite aggressive. Mum always said to be nice to him and we brought him some food once in a while.

    But other than that I don’t remember anyone speaking about mental illness. And I doubt that most people have the money and time to get themselves checked for asperger’s.

  9. Mira,

    “I don’t get it. What? They’re male? White? What?…I understand the need to “claim” famous, successful people

    That’s it: successful and/or highly intelligent.

    “Some say Keanu is an Aspie, but I guess it’s just because they want to excuse his bad acting.”



    That’s the thing: they don’t talk about it. They just pretend it doesn’t exist. Which can be problematic, to say the least.

  10. Well, denial approach is never good. But it’s the way some people deal with the problems (for example, my grandmother).

    As for the doctors, you can get physiologists and psychiatrists for free here. However, they have many patients and are always in a hurry. They didn’t have much understanding for my questions about Asperger’s either. And one of them even told me online I didn’t have it (which is strange, because she never met me or tested me or anything).

    Yes, that Keanu thing was a joke (sort of), but the lack of acting ability (as in: playing the games of pretending, “family” etc. in childhood, that requires you to take different roles) is seen as an Asperger’s trait. Which is a bit misleading: many Aspies spend much of their time pretending and trying to imitate what others do. Some (particularly females) are even good at it. So give Aspies some credit!

  11. As for successful Aspies: it’s not a surprise there are intelligent people with Asperger’s: the condition doesn’t affect your intelligence. And while not all Aspies are highly intelligent, some (many?) are. Now, the success is a bit tricky. It’s quite possible, but it depends on your interests. The “mad scientist” kind of success, yes. It fits an Asipie, and having Asperger’s is not a problem here (some even claim it helps). But becoming a talk-show host? It’s a bit trickier.

    Then again, having Asperger’s doesn’t make you anything more “speshul” than the rest of the people.

  12. There was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, Heather Kuzmich, who had Asperger’s. She got pretty far — 5th place, and is a professional model now, but she was so …awkward. She didn’t know how to socialize with the other women so she was excluded and made fun of. She would hold her body in weird ways (which sometimes helped in photo shoots) and always seemed to be lost.

    It made complete sense to me when it was later revealed on the show that she had been diagnosed with Asperger’s as a teen. But some outsiders say she is misdiagnosed and has too good non-verbal and social skills to be Aspie.

  13. But some outsiders say she is misdiagnosed and has too good non-verbal and social skills to be Aspie.

    Honestly? It’s bullshit. Aspies CAN appear to be ok in non-verbal or social skills. It’s perfectly possible for her to have Asperger’s (just like it’s possible that she’s just a bit awkward).

    But the fact she seems just a little “strange” (as the opposite of, say, Rainman) proves nothing. It’s one of the tricky things about the Asperger’s: it can manifest itself in many ways, and it can be too mild to make a person “obviously disabled”. Like one of the commenters at an Aspie forum said: “with low-functioning autism individuals, people will feel sorry for them and adjust their behavior; with us, they’re just: get this weird thing out of here!”

    (not that feeling sorry is necessarily a good thing, but I know what they mean).

  14. Oh, and among famous people certain websites list are: Michael Palin, Dan Aykroyd, along with the “usual suspects” (Mozart, Da Vinci, Einstein), Michael Jackson, Woody Allen (ok, I can actually buy this one). But seriously, making this sort of lists seems way too random. It also makes Asperger’s syndrome seem like a joke, in a way.

  15. Mira,

    The thing is that Heather doesn’t have good non-verbal or social skills! I picked up on that immediately. She was painfully awkward from the start and it was clear she was clueless about social norms and the like.

    You can watch her audition from 1:39 to 2:39 here. She talks a little about her Asperger’s (and ADHD) too. This is probably one of her least awkward moments…

  16. Well, that’s what I was talking about. She seems a bit awkward, I guess, but not to the point of being “obviously disabled” (read: crazy). Or even autistic. (The way people imagine autism to be).

    The thing with Asperger’s is… Well, you know there are people who are very charismatic and who make others feel relaxed and good when are around them? These people might not be particularly attractive, or smart, but there’s just something about them that makes people want to socialize with them, something about their charm and charisma. And I guess that sort of people make others feel comfortable and relaxed.

    Well, Aspies are quite the opposite. Many (not all, but, dare to say: the most) of them aren’t charismatic. They might be good looking and smart, but there’s jsut something about them that doesn’t make them a pleasant company. Furthermore, they make others feel uncomfortable and sometimes nervous when are around them.

  17. Another great post Alee. I enjoyed this topic on here ever since it came up in past comments. It does suck that its become trendy to be an aspie. I’m sure the creative, artsy community just eats this disorder up.

  18. Mira,

    That seems like an accurate description. Everyone always remarked that Heather was beautiful and would be a great model if she didn’t make people go, “WTF?” whenever she was around.


    I bet Asperger’s is really popular in the artsy community. I know ADHD is a disorder many artsy people claim to have and some really do have.

  19. Alee,
    You said it now…lol, ADHD. My son was diagnosed with that a few years ago. After teaching in different schools I was able to tell the children that had it from the ones who didn’t. It is definitely over diagnosed though. My son definitely has it unfortunately, he checks off on every symptom and was hyper in the womb! When someone is truly ADHD it is very difficult to deal with on a daily basis, but since it has been overly diagnosed many people take it as a joke, especially if you say your child was diagnosed with it. Anyway… I strayed off topic, sorry :).

  20. Nikisha,

    Yes, I do think ADHD is overdiagnosed… there was actually a study on it several years ago which concluded just that and the percentage of people being diagnosed with ADHD increases every year.

    It’s not off-topic because people with Asperger’s are often misdiagnosed with ADHD. Some of the symptoms of Asperger’s can look like those of ADHD and many believe the two disorders are related. So I’m glad the topic has come up.

  21. Ok, now I read what person who thinks Heather Kuzmich was wrongly diagnosed had to say. It’s interesting to read about it, but still, I don’t think it’s possible to diagnose someone you never examined. If that is possible, then it’s equally possible to self-diagnose yourself online, based on Internet tests.

    Also, she claims to know what’s inside Heather’s head. For example, she claims Heather can look people in the eyes, while “a true Asperger’s needs a conscious effort to do so”. So how can be so sure Heather does that instinctively? Also, not looking people in the eyes is only one problem people with Asperger’s might have. Others do the opposite: they stare at people for too long. And some do understand you have to look someone in the eyes for a bit, and then look the other way, but can’t tell when or what is appropriate or how much is ok or when to look away (this is definitely true for me).

    On the other hand, this psychologist might be right. Or maybe Heather is borderline- something that many experts claim it’s impossible (because brains of people with Asperger’s are wired differently than neurotypicals). But there’s no consensus on this. Some experts claim quite the opposite: everything is a spectrum, with low-functioning autism on one end, and neurotypicality on the other. So theoretically, you can fall anywhere between the two extremes, and in this sense, it’s able to be “borderline” Asperger’s.

  22. Mira,

    “she claims Heather can look people in the eyes, while “a true Asperger’s needs a conscious effort to do so”. So how can be so sure Heather does that instinctively?”

    Good thing you brought this up because she actually explained this on the show when Tyra asked why she had such good eye contact when she has Asperger’s. Watch her explanation here from 6:10 to 7:04.

    Still, to me she doesn’t have good eye contact in general, just in photos. Usually she has this zombie-like stare and it takes her noticeable time to focus on what she is going to look at. It does seem like she has to make an effort to make eye contact, that’s why she looks so long and without “awareness”, if you understand what I mean.

    “Some experts claim quite the opposite: everything is a spectrum, with low-functioning autism on one end, and neurotypicality on the other.”

    This makes the most sense to me. Few things in biology have rigid boundaries.

  23. Looking at the camera and looking people in the eyes are two completely different things. If nothing else, even if you don’t look DIRECTLY at the camera, you can appear to do so, while it’s tricky with people (but many Aspies do the trick of looking at the person’s nose instead of the eyes, and many people can’t tell the difference).

    I understand why she can look at the camera and appear completely “normal” (eh, in lack of a better word) that way. But in real life, yes, I’ve noticed she has a bit strange eye movement. Even when she looks at a person she appears like she’s looking through them.

    This is exactly what people say that I do, especially with strangers. I often appear like I’m not listening or like I’m lost in thought when talking to people, but not in a good way, but in an “unfocused, empty, distant stare” kind of way. The sad thing is that I try my best to seem focused, I even try to make it stronger by nodding, or rising my eyebrow, to make the person realize I’m really, really listening. But often to no avail.

    I have no problem with photos; in fact, everybody says I look much better in photos than the real life. I assumed I was just photogenic (or that I avoid photos that show full-figure), but maybe this is it? The sort of focus I display in photos is rarely seen in real life with me, I guess.

    It’s better with people I’m close to, because I don’t think that much about how I appear to them (and, paradoxically, that makes me even more focused on what they’re saying because I don’t think about the way I stand, or the way I look at them), but even my husband or my mother often get angry because they think I’m not listening to them. “If you’re listening to me, give me a sign!”, they say. They even made me repeat their words to make sure I was listening. And I’m all, wtf, wasn’t it obvious I’m all ears?

    Also, about this psychologist: she seems to assume no Aspies use or develop coping skills. Maybe it’s because she works with kids. But many adult aspies already learned, any way they could, at least some of the social cues. For example, when people say “what’s up?”, the instinct Aspie reaction would be to look up and say what’s on the ceiling. But after a while you realize that’s not the appropriate thing to do, and that by saying “what’s up” people expect you to say something completely different. You might not know how to respond, but you sure know that looking up isn’t the right way.

    But according to this psychologist, if an adult has any sort of “semi-neurotypical” reaction, it’s not an Aspie.

  24. Mira,

    “Looking at the camera and looking people in the eyes are two completely different things. If nothing else, even if you don’t look DIRECTLY at the camera, you can appear to do so”

    That’s what I was thinking. You can always seem like you’re focusing on something in photos, even when you’re not.

    You do seem focused in photos — you have this “electric” gaze.

    “Also, about this psychologist: she seems to assume no Aspies use or develop coping skills.”

    Right: people develop coping mechanisms for their “quirks” all of the time. I don’t think Asperger’s is any different, especially if some of the celebrities who are thought to have Asperger’s actually have it.

  25. I think people egzoticize the condition. In a way, it’s no different than learning new skills, skills that you’re not talented for, but need to learn them anyway. The only difference here is that the skills Aspies must learn are those that others either learn instinctively, or adopt early in childhood.

    For example, wearing clothes. It’s not natural for anybody, and we learn how to dress. Some people are good at it, others are not. But it’s something that can be learned, even if it’s on a basic level. Aspies need to learn most social skills that way. For example, the mere answer to “what’s up” seems so complicated. But many are able to learn how to answer it, even if they have to learn by hard some answers and reactions. Most will still seem a bit awkward. But the way this psychologist says, all Aspies are completely clueless and are on the level of “walking naked”, if we go back to my clothes analogy.

  26. Mira,
    Is there any difference between hearing actors in a movie say “what’s up” and real life? How about between reading it in a novel and in a movie.
    Is any of these situations easier for you to grasp the speakers meaning than others ?

  27. Tim,

    Well, I don’t know what to say, because I’m not a native English speaker and we don’t say “what’s up” here. Also, keep in mind that I’m not really diagnosed with Asperger’s, so what I say might not be how a “true” Aspie feels.

    To me, written communication is NOTHING like face to face communication. I have almost no problems in written communication. That’s why I’m ok even if people are writing to me.

    With novels and movies, it’s different because you’re not a participant and all you have to do is observe what others are doing. Nobody expects YOU to do anything. To me, it was always easier to understand when others do it. But they say many Aspies don’t understand characters’ motives in books and movies; I rarely have a problem with that.

  28. In short, it’s always easier for me to understand (or to respond in an adequate manner) when it’s written. And if it isn’t, then better be that I’m not part of the conversation (for example, movie), because chances are that I won’t say the right thing (and even if I do, it will seem forced… Because well, it will be).

  29. so the difficulty isn’t in the processing of the information and deducing it’s proper context. The difficulty comes due to social pressure interfering with that information processing?

    Reminds me of people who do fine at math and then when test time comes around the stress of testing reduces their cognitive capacity.

  30. The difficulty is, most of the time, not knowing what’s an appropriate thing to do. If it doesn’t involve you, it’s different. At least for me. Not sure for people who are, you know, really diagnosed and all.

    But yes, with me, social pressure is big. Not sure about the others. Like I said, in theory, Aspies are equally unable to interpret social cues in movies and in real life. But there are some people who claim it’s easier when it’s not happening in RL; if nothing else, you have a time to think about a logical explanation of someone’s actions.

  31. thanks for discussing it so comfortably. It is an interesting topic. What effect does moderate amounts of alcohol have? Does it make it easier (possibly due to reduction of social pressure concerns) or harder (possibly due to reduction of cognitive capacity) to reply to someone who asks you “whats up” or similar slang?

  32. A significant percentage of people with Asperger’s claim they hate alcohol (which is no way a rule: I guess there are many who enjoy it). So it’s all individual, but many Aspies don’t enjoy or find comfort in stuff others find fun or comforting.

    With me, alcohol makes me care about what I do less. But no, it doesn’t make interaction with people easier; I just don’t care about faux pass I make.

  33. “There was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, Heather Kuzmich, who had Asperger’s. She got pretty far — 5th place, and is a professional model now, but she was so …awkward.”

    I thought Heather stopped modeling and focused more on her art.

    I liked her and was rooting for her to win that season. I could not stand Bianca and thought she was a bully (though in interviews Heather said otherwise). Heather unfortunately was screwed the episode she got eliminated.

    Yeah, there were little things she did, such as hugging an uncomfortable-looking Mary J. Blige when she won the Carol’s Daughter photo prize, that showed she had Asperger’s. And I remember the Internet going crazy during Heather’s time on ANTM talking about what’s considered a true Aspie and what isn’t, etc.

    Aside: Tyra’s inability to pronounce “Asperger’s” properly in that second clip you linked.

  34. Re: Heather. Do you girls think she was really that good as a model, or was she picked because producers wanted to have a disabled person on the show?

    I don’t say people with Asperger’s can’t make good models; but my experience says people run away as fast as they can in a presence of someone’s with Asperger’s (even if they don’t know why; they just feel uncomfortable). That’s one of the reasons why Aspies have a trouble finding a job: they are unable to present themselves and their abilities, and they make employers uncomfortable.

    I’d hate to think Heather was on the show just because they wanted to have someone “different”.

  35. “Do you girls think she was really that good as a model, or was she picked because producers wanted to have a disabled person on the show?

    Both. While ANTM seems to love casting people with disabilities and differences for shock value, I actually thought Heather was a decent model.

  36. changingmoods,

    Oh, she has? I did hear Heather was going to focus more on art, but I never got any confirmation on that.

    Bianca was entertainment — I didn’t get the vibe that she was truly, truly mean. She seemed like a stereotypical NYC borough girl. My favorites were Ebony and Saleisha. Ebony could take the modeling world by storm if she just had a litle more courage and determination.


    I agree with changingmoods that it was both. Heather was an okay model. She has the height and bone structure of a model but she came upon great photos because of those reasons and luck, it seemed. However, looking at her later modeling photos, she has learned a lot and is now a great model.

  37. Slightly off-topic:

    There was this reality competition with disabled models called “Britain’s Missing Top Model.” It came on years ago and I think it only had one season. There were girls with missing limbs, nerve disorders, girls who were deaf, and one who was paralyzed. I felt the show was more sensitive to these girls than ANTM has ever been.

    This clip is labeled as a “trailer,” but it’s really the “Previously on…” intro.

  38. I would add a couple things to this thread from my experience with my ex-husband’s Aspergers and his and my conversations with his psychologist (who specialized in Autism Spectrum disorders): First, I was reading an article in a newspaper, about Heather Kuzmich when I noticed similarities between her behavior and my husband’s. This began my search for answers on the internet. I found a questionnaire from a university that helped gauge the possibility that a person may be neurotypical or tending towards Aspergers. It definitely said that a professional should be consulted to obtain a real diagnosis.

    My husband had been an alcholic from his mid-teens until 17 years before I met him, because the differences he felt with other people didn’t bother him so much when he was drunk. It’s telling that he was able to stop drinking immediately after his first A.A. meeting. He has much of that organization’s information memorized, though it’s become obvious he doesn’t fully understand the reasoning behind much it.

    He is naturally very drawn to people and social situations, though it takes him a while to look people in the eye and not just to the sides of their faces. He’s happiest when he can link other people together and feel that he has created bonds between them. (He never thinks to foster or nurture these bonds.) His therapist was very surprised by his interest in social situations and concepts (especially New Age religious ones) that he showed he couldn’t really understand. She was curious as to why he felt he did.

    When we met, I had unknowingly become his “special interest”, and that intensity and devotion felt warm and safe for me, though now I realize he was incapable of listening to me and understanding what I was saying about myself. I didn’t know that everything he heard and saw about me was filtered through his skewed lens, and he actually had no idea who I was or how I felt about anything except on some superficial levels. His psychologist said that would never change, that emotionally he would rarely be able to respond to my needs and I would always have to put his emotional needs first in our relationship (to keep the peace) and find friendships outside our marriage to address my emotional needs.

    I know that there are neurotypical/Aspergers relationships (and friendships) that work for the needs of the people involved, but I’m a very empathetic person, and this sort of relationship has so far been very detrimental to me. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that each person with Aspergers is an individual. Though they have some defining core deficiencies in common, they each have their own unique personality, just like any of us.

  39. sparksinshadow,

    Thanks for your comment, it’s pretty helpful. I’m sorry your marriage didn’t work out, but it seems like your husband tried his best.

  40. Thanks Alee. I had a strong reaction to what you said, but I gave myself a few minutes to figure out why. I guess it’s extremely hard for me to think he did his best when he gave up on us based on feelings he had about me that were so opposite of how I behaved toward him. I was more loving and patient than I thought I could be under such extreme circumstances. I worked so hard to understand him and learn to read his true motivations, that my own therapist was frustrated that I didn’t take care of myself more. I was even an advocate for him with his family, when they wanted to ignore the meaning of his diagnosis.

    His thinking I was “cruel” is the lasting blow I have to live with. If he hadn’t thought that, I think he would have tried to learn a few techniques by rote to honor the fact that I had feelings. “Best” just doesn’t feel like the right word.

  41. sparksinshadow,

    Well, you know your relationship best; I was just going by your comments here. But if you don’t think “best” is the right word, then I won’t disagree with you. I know how it feels to have a partner completely misunderstand your actions and feelings.

  42. Startup company succeeds by hiring autistic/asperger adults.

    “””Aspiritech was founded by Moshe and Brenda Weitzberg after their son, Oran, now 32, was fired from a job bagging groceries. Oran was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 14. He now works at Aspiritech.
    “He went from failing at bagging groceries to being one of the best software testers on our team,” said Brenda Weitzberg.
    The Weitzbergs modeled Aspiritech on a successful Danish company called Specialisterne, or “the Specialists.” Specialisterne also employs software testers with autism. Its satisfied clients include Oracle and Microsoft.”””

  43. The software development world is said to have many autistic people. I have met a few. Programming can be so rewarding in terms of “flow” that I think over time it can move you on the autism spectrum. I get less social when I am going through a burst of coding. When I worked in biotech that didn’t happen. props to the Weitzbergs and the people behind that Danish company.

  44. Tim,

    “The software development world is said to have many autistic people. I have met a few.”

    I could see that being the case. It seems people with autistim/autism spectrum disorders have an affinity with technological careers. It might be the repetition of it, and possibly because there is little to no socializing involved.

  45. Sorry for waking up an old post…

    I think it’s interesting to explore one important issue when it comes to Asperger’s, and that’s the level of someone’s interaction with neurotypical people. The more contact with them you have (as long as you’re accepted – which is not always the case), the less autistic traits you’re going to display and you’ll have less problems integrating even more into society.

    That’s why Aspies with more socially acceptable interests might get further in social interaction, because they excel in something neurotypical people admire. Like acting, or modeling.

    Or (I just found about this guy) surfing:

  46. Mira,

    “Sorry for waking up an old post…”

    Not a problem! If you ever have thoughts on a post, no matter when it was published, feel free to comment. All comments add to the post.

    “The more contact with them you have (as long as you’re accepted – which is not always the case), the less autistic traits you’re going to display and you’ll have less problems integrating even more into society.”

    I would have thought so. Because you get to practice your social skills, and practice makes perfect (or at least better!).

    With Heather who we were talking about above, having to practice her modeling 24/7 with ANTM did make her (much) better at modeling. So it makes sense that the same would apply to her social interaction.

    “Or (I just found about this guy) surfing:”

    Interesting. Despite his appearance and interests, he still doesn’t look like a very sociable person to me. He just gives me a “loner” vibe.

  47. The problem is that people with Asperger’s and Autism are often isolated and ostracized from the general population. Kids (or their parents, often), don’t want to socialize with them. So their fragile social skills become even worse.

    Clay Marzo seems like an Aspie to me. But I watched some of his interviews, and the way his eyes seem unfocused… Reminds me so much of me it’s scary. I’m good with photos but in conversation, people often tell me I look like I’m looking right through them or like I’m not listening because.

    And I believe he’s of Italian descent. Funny, huh? Remember we talked about an Italian guy with Asperger’s.

  48. Mira,

    His eyes are unfocused. Usually I’d think that was just shyness; a lot of shy people won’t look directly at other people. But knowing about Asperger’s it makes more sense because it seems he has trouble with actually looking at people.

    “And I believe he’s of Italian descent. Funny, huh? Remember we talked about an Italian guy with Asperger’s.”

    Yes. That is funny. It sounded so random at first — a cute Italian guy with Asperger’s. But there he is. 🙂

  49. Aspies are the absolutely most cruel people second only to sociopaths. I work with one and her whole modus operandi is resentfulness and bitterness towards people especially me because she can’t force me to want to be her friend. Being her friend would be like drowning myself on purpose. She’s disturbed and disturbing. I’ve also seen her many meltdowns for the most frivolous problems. The other disturbing thing is that she will make excuses for her errors such as exhaustion but berates the rest of us as incompetents when the rest of us make errors. I wish with every fibre of my being that she would get another job and resign. You never know what kind of mood she’ll be in and even when she’s in a so-called good mood, she talks at me, not to me because she just talks and talks without letting up to allow me to enter the conversation. She is the incarnation of a migraine wrapped in a cramp. I don’t mean to offend and I’m sure I have, but one cannot be excused for behaving unfairly or cruelly to people, and then be allowed to behave as if someone’s feelings weren’t hurt in the so-called melt-down.

  50. elfen33,

    “Aspies are the absolutely most cruel people second only to sociopaths.”


    Perhaps your it’s your co-worker’s personality and not necessarily her Asperger’s (if she really has it) that makes her this way?

  51. Perhaps you’re right but there’s definitely something not quite right with her… She seems to fit all the symptoms of the disorder.

  52. Elfen33, you do realise that if your colleague is an Aspie then she can’t easily control the way she is behaving? She doesn’t realise automatically that other people have feelings different from her own. She also doesn’t easily pick up on social cues, so when she “talks at you” she is trying to engage with you but won’t “get” when you’re bored or it is your turn to speak. What she needs is support and a little more understanding of her condition.

    I am convinced that my beautiful 3 year old boy has Aspergers and it absolutely terrifies me to think what the future holds for him. I hope he encounters more compassion and understanding than your colleague has. We’re going to do all we can to teach the social skills that come so naturally to neurotypical people, but even so I know the road ahead is likely to be rough for him. I believe educating neurotypical people on how they can respond to people with Aspergers (and high functioning autism) would help.

    I realise this is an old thread and your colleague may have moved on to pastures new but I wanted you to see things from the other side. If you meet another Aspie in the future I hope you’ll be a little more tolerant of their genuine difficulties with social interaction: they don’t usually intend to be “mean” or irritating and many really want to connect with those around them, they just don’t know how.

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