ASPERGER'S & INTERPERSONAL
Individuals diagnosed with Asperger syndrome
may develop problems in their abilities to successfully engage in
Social impact of Aspergers syndrome
Asperger syndrome may lead to problems in social
interaction with peers. These problems can be severe or mild depending
on the individual. Children with Asperger's syndrome are often the target of bullying
at school due to their idiosyncratic behavior, precise language,
unusual interests, and impaired ability to perceive and respond
in socially expected ways to nonverbal cues, particularly in interpersonal
conflict. Children with Asperger's syndrome may be overly literal, and may have difficulty
interpreting and responding to sarcasm, banter, or metaphorical
speech. Difficulties with social interaction may also be manifest
in a lack of play with other children.
The above problems can even arise in the family;
given an unfavorable family environment, the child may be subject
to emotional abuse. A child or teen with Asperger's syndrome is often puzzled by
this mistreatment, unaware of what has been done incorrectly. Unlike
other pervasive development disorders, most children with Asperger's syndrome want
to be social, but fail to socialize successfully, which can lead
to later withdrawal and asocial behavior, especially in adolescence.
At this stage of life especially, they risk being drawn into unsuitable
and inappropriate friendships and social groups. People with Asperger's syndrome
often interact better with those considerably older or younger than
themselves, rather than those within their own age group.
Children with Asperger's syndrome often display advanced abilities
for their age in language, reading, mathematics, spatial skills,
and/or music—sometimes into the "gifted" range—but this
may be counterbalanced by considerable delays in other developmental
areas. This combination of traits can lead to problems with teachers
and other authority figures. A child with Asperger's syndrome might be regarded by
teachers as a "problem child" or a "poor performer."
The child’s extremely low tolerance for what they perceive to be
ordinary and mediocre tasks, such as typical homework assignments,
can easily become frustrating; a teacher may well consider the child
arrogant, spiteful, and insubordinate. Lack of support and understanding,
in combination with the child's anxieties, can result in problematic
behavior (such as severe tantrums, violent and angry outbursts,
Although adults with Asperger's syndrome may have similar problems,
they are not as likely to be given treatment as a child would. Adult
individuals diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome may find it difficult finding employment
or entering undergraduate or graduate schools because of poor interview
skills or a low score on standardized or personality tests. Such
persons may also be more vulnerable to poverty and homelessness
than the general population, because of their difficulty finding
(and keeping) employment, lack of proper education, premature social
skills, and other factors. If they do become employed, adults
with Asperger's syndrome may be misunderstood, taken advantage of, paid less than
those without Asperger's syndrome, and be subject to bullying and discrimination.
Communication deficits may mean coworkers have difficulty understanding
persons with Asperger's syndrome, who in turn do not understand them. Resultant problems
with authority figures continue as difficult, tense relations become
Difficulties in relationships
Two potentially disruptive traits sometimes found
in the profile of Asperger's syndrome individuals are mind-blindness (the inability
to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and alexithymia
(the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in oneself
or others), which traits both impose a reduction in the ability
to be empathetically attuned to others. Alexithymia in Asperger's syndrome,
it must be noted, is in no way a result of mind-blindness but functions
as an independent variable relying on different neural networks
than those implicated in Theory of Mind. In fact, lack of
Theory of Mind in Asperger's syndrome may be a result of a lack of information available
to the mind due to the operation of the alexithymic deficit.
A second issue related to alexithymia involves
the inability to identify and therewith modulate strong emotions
such as sadness or anger, which leaves the individual prone to “sudden
affective outbursts such as crying or rage” According
to Tony Attwood, the inability to express feelings using words may
also predispose the individual to use physical acts to articulate
the mood and release the emotional energy.
People with Asperger's syndrome report a feeling of being unwillingly
detached from the world around them. They may have difficulty finding
a life partner or getting married due to poor social skills.
In a similar fashion to school bullying, the person with Asperger's syndrome is vulnerable
to problems in their neighbourhood, such as anti-social behaviour
and harassment. Due to social isolation, they can be seen as the
'black sheep' in the community and thus may be at risk of wrongful
suspicions and allegations from others. Individuals with Asperger's syndrome will
need support if they desire to make connections on a personal level.
In order for them to see the purpose or relevance of a relationship
beyond a point of interest or concept it may represent to them,
it will require facilitation from a skilled professional.
These connections are crucial throughout the life
of an individual with Asperger's syndrome. When these connections become incredibly
complex, however, is in adulthood and unfortunately this is when
the fewest services are provided for this population. Direct teaching
around how to identify and establish social boundaries as well as
recognizing a person and relationship that he or she can trust is
necessary for social success. The complexity and inconsistency of
the social world can pose an extreme challenge for individuals with
Asperger's syndrome. And if all else fails, at least in the UK Aspergers is now confirmed
as being covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. This means
that those with Asperger's syndrome who get treated badly because of it may have
some redress. The first case was that of Hewett (sometimes referred
to as Hewitt) v Motorola 2004. and the second was Isles v Ealing
The intense focus and tendency to work things
out logically often grants those people with Asperger's syndrome a high level of
ability in their field of interest. When these special interests
coincide with a materially or socially useful task, the person with
Asperger's syndrome often can lead a profitable career and a fulfilled life. The
child obsessed with naval architecture may grow up to be an accomplished
shipwright. People with Asperger's syndrome have also served and in many cases
done well in the military. Although Asperger's syndrome is generally a disqualifier
for military service, the individual can be qualified if he or she
has not required special accommodations or treatment for the past
year. More research is needed on adults with Asperger's syndrome.
1 Asperger Syndrome: What Is It?. The National
Autistic Society (2007). Retrieved on 2007-12-29.
2 Stoddart, Kevin P. (Editor) (2005), p. 22.
3 Asperger Syndrome: What Is It?. The National Autistic Society
(2007). Retrieved on 2007-12-29.
4 Myles, Brenda Smith; Southwick, Jack (2005). "Asperger Syndrome
and Difficult Moments". Shawnee Mission, Kansas: Autism Asperger
Publishing Co. ISBN 1-931282-70-6, pp. 14–17
5 Barnard J, et al. Ignored or Ineligible? : The reality for adults
with ASD (PDF). The National Autistic Society, London, 2001.
6 Moriguchi, Y., Decety, J., Ohnishi, T., Maeda, M., Matsuda, H.,
& Komaki, G. Empathy and judging other’s pain: An fMRI study
of alexithymia. Cerebral Cortex (2007);
7 Bird, J., Silani, G., Brindley, R., Singer, T., Frith, U., and
Frith, C. Alexithymia In Autism Spectrum Disorders: and fMRI Investigation
8 Nemiah, C.J., Freyberger, H., & Sifneos, P.E., ‘Alexithymia:
A View of the Psychosomatic Process’ in O.W.Hill (1970) (ed), Modern
Trends in Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol-2, p.432-33
9 Krystal, H. Integration and Self-Healing: Affect, Trauma, Alexithymia
(1988), p. 246; McDougall, J. Theaters of the Mind 1985, p.169-70
10 Taylor, G.J, Parker, J.D.A., & Bagby, R.M. Disorders of Affect
Regulation- Alexithymia in Medical and Psychiatric Illness (1997),
11 Atwood, Tony (2006). The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome,
Jessica Kingsley Pub. ISBN-1843104954 p. 130, 136
12 Tsatsanis KD (2003). "Outcome research in Asperger syndrome
and autism". Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 12 (1): 47–63,
vi. PMID 12512398.
13 List of Cases / Hewett v Motorola Ltd, EAT 2004
14 Unison: Disabled members, Union member discriminated against
15 Stoddart, Kevin P. (2005), p. 24. Stoddart notes: "Adults
who have succeeded in keeping employment may be found in vocations
that rely on a circumscribed area of knowledge."
16 Meyer, Roger N. (2007-12-02). Asperger Syndrome in Military Service.
ASPIRES. Retrieved on 2007-12-29.
17 Stoddart, Kevin P. (2005), p. 239.
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