Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism and is often referred to as an autistic spectrum disorder as its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. The disorder affects the way in which the sufferer perceives the world around them and how they are able to interact with it. While someone with Asperger Syndrome may have above average intelligence, be very able at the arts or be able to calculate difficult mathematic equations easily, they may be lacking in communication skills and social awareness.
Being unable to express themselves emotionally or adhere to unwritten social rules can make forming and maintaining relationships very difficult, sometimes leading to depression and other problems. While there is no ‘cure’ for Asperger Syndrome there is plenty of help available for sufferers, allowing them to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
Symptoms to look out for
While the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome can vary widely, there are three main aspects with which sufferers have problems. If you feel that you have difficulties with many or most of these things then make an appointment with your G.P. as soon as you can.
- Trouble with making or maintaining relationships
- Not understanding ‘unwritten rules’ that guide social situations
- Finding other people confusing or even unlikeable
- Being told that your behaviour is inappropriate when you see nothing wrong with it
- Difficulty expressing emotions
- Using overly technical language or being pedantic
- Not understanding facial expressions or voice intonation
- Not knowing what to say or what topics of conversation are acceptable
- Not understanding jokes or sarcasm
- Having a very limited range of interests
- Being unable to imagine different outcomes to those you previously anticipated and feeling confused or anxious when they happen
- Having a lack of empathy or not being able to understand other people’s emotions
Other difficulties could include fixating on certain tasks or routines. Some Asperger sufferers find themselves making to-do lists which they feel they must stick to rigidly and, if the order is disrupted, they can become scared or confused. Others may find themselves fixating on tasks which may seem peculiar to other people such as counting the tiles on the ceiling or repeating words that are new to them. Another symptom common to Asperger sufferers is heightened or diminished sensory perception. This could manifest itself in finding lights too bright even when it is overcast or finding certain textures distressing.
Methods of Diagnosis
If you are concerned about whether or not you may have Asperger Syndrome the first thing to do is to make an appointment with your G.P. and talk to them about your worries. If they feel it is appropriate they will then refer you to see a trained professional such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist who has more expertise in the area. Once you have seen a specially trained mental health professional you may be given a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome or a similar disorder on the autistic spectrum. As with all mental illnesses a diagnosis will be made by talking to a trained professional who will asses your symptoms and recommend treatment according to your needs.
Treatment of Asperger Syndrome
Although there is no ‘cure’ for Asperger Syndrome getting help from trained professionals can help you cope with day-to-day life. As everyone’s symptoms are different, treatment will focus around your specific needs and help you find ways of living a healthy, independent life. Some treatments use the patient’s strengths (such as high intelligence) to compensate for some of their weaknesses (such as empathy) using a variety of methods. Treatment may also be available within the community, such as in community centres, where getting other people with Asperger Syndrome together to promote socialising and communication skills can be a very effective treatment.