Autism and Asperger’s (High Functioning Autism)
Areas affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including both autism and Asperger’s, can be broadly classified under 1) speech or communication, 2) social skills, and 3) “quirky” characteristics and rigid behavior.
You might want to visit our Test Kit to access autism and Asperger’s screening tests for children and adults. It will be important to keep in mind that screeners are not a substitute for a professional diagnosis.
For those with high-functioning autism (Asperger’s), scroll down for a brief description of areas of difficulties. Also see Tony Attwood’s “Asperger’s Is a Gift”
ASD at a glance (what is causing troubles for this group?)
Most crucially, people with autism spectrum disorder lack a Theory of Mind: i.e., understanding of their own and other people’s cognitive and emotional experiences. Articulating their own thoughts and feelings doesn’t come easily to this group, just as they find it very hard to intuit those of others. To those with high-functioning autism (Asperger’s), figuring out the intricate mechanism of an engine is easy, figuring out the intricacy of the human mind is VERY hard and almost exhausting (where their supreme sense of logic can be of little to no help).
How do I know if my child has autism? Specific behaviors to watch out for are:
- socialization and communication difficulties (e.g. lack of reciprocity, one-sided communication)
- difficulty making friends and keeping friendships
- limited eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures
- a lack of understanding of emotional cues (in self and others)
- difficulty with self-regulation
- fascination with specific objects (e.g., dinosaurs, trains, fans) or part-objects (wheels of cars)
- awkward body language and poor coordination
- repetitive and rigid behavior
- sensory sensitivity (troubled by noise, certain textures, lights)
- difficulty with change and transitions (e.g., same breakfast every morning)
- limited understanding of figurative speech
- speech delays
Adult ASD at a glance
In adults, people with high-functioning autism are often seen as stubborn, rigid, quick-tempered, lacking in empathy, and sometimes even slightly “weird.” They tend to experience on-going difficulties in understanding other people’s perspectives, experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Interpersonal difficulties are especially pronounced in close relationships, such as with family members and spouses.They often misunderstand social cues and non-literal speech from others, which can lead to arguments. Because they also struggle with understanding and communicating their own thoughts and feelings, and tend to rely on rigid and limited coping strategies to deal with difficult emotions, they can experience a lot of frustration, confusion, rejection, and distance in the area of interpersonal relationships. A common example is they will repeatedly ask for the same thing over and over again, ignoring their communication partner’s response. This frustrates the other person and results in conflicts and distance. As a result, adults with high-functioning autism often feel socially isolated.
How is autism treated?
- Behavioral modification
- Parent education and training
- Social skills training
- Speech and language therapy
Watch a TV presenter’s first person narrative: Asperger’s and Me
To gain a deeper understanding of Asperger’s, read an expert’s view of the condition.
This blog gives good illustrations (in a highly-digestible story form) of what adults can do to help kids with autism.
Blogs on attachment-parenting, a relational orientation that parents find helpful to their kids with autism .
There are a lot of resources available for kids with autism. Parents and teachers can explore with these children as to what holds their interest! Identifying what works for these kids individually is a crucial step: give them space to explore and lead you to what appeals to them, and then join them in those activities.
Social training (google the following tools)
- Social play
- Social stories
- Peer mentor/rent a friend
- Friendship diary