What is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder, meaning it affects people differently, and to differing degrees. It is lifelong, and people with Asperger syndrome typically experience the world differently to ‘neurotypical’ people. People with Asperger syndrome don’t usually have problems with speech.
People with Asperger syndrome typically have average or above average IQ. As with autism, people with Asperger syndrome often experience social and communication difficulties, such as not recognising body language or facial expressions. This can make conversation challenging for them, as they have to make a conscious effort to remember the many unwritten (and frequently changing) rules that most people unthinkingly adopt when talking to someone. They may miss cues that the person they are talking to has lost interest, or go into more extensive detail about a topic than others might expect.
Signs of Asperger syndrome
- Difficulty in interpreting/recognising body language, facial expressions or other people’s emotions and feelings.
- Difficulty in understanding abstract ideas, including jokes and sarcasm – though people with Asperger syndrome can often tackle logical problems with great efficiency.
- Sensory overload – people with Asperger syndrome will sometimes experience the world around them more intensely, making trips to busy, noisy places difficult.
- Appearance of immaturity in comparison to peers during early/adolescent years, often coupled with a more trusting/naïve outlook.
- Strong desire for routine, to the extent that change or being confronted with too much choice can be stressful. This can also present challenges in adulthood when someone with Asperger syndrome finds themselves in an unfamiliar situation for the first time – such as during a job interview.
- People with Asperger syndrome will often focus their interests, amassing large volumes of factual knowledge on one or two specific subjects.
- People with Asperger syndrome may also have learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, or ADHD, and may develop mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. It’s therefore important that they are supported to access appropriate services that are able to treat them holistically.
Help and support
Hft’s Fusion Model of Support allows for a holistic approach to supporting individuals with Asperger syndrome.
Organisations supporting people with Asperger syndrome need to invest in their staff, and provide specialist training to help them deliver person-centred support. This may include access to therapeutic approaches and specialist support in areas such as art therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, relaxation techniques, social stories, Applied Behaviour Analysis, and person-centred active support. A broad general level of understanding and awareness of the specific needs of people with Asperger syndrome needs to be built into the core training of a range of disciplines involved in delivering services.
- Hft supports adults with autism including Asperger syndrome nationally. Contact your local service to discuss support options.
- If you’re a family carer for someone with Asperger syndrome, Hft’s Family Carer Support Service can help with guidance and advice on support options and some of the benefits that are available.
- The National Autistic Society provides information and guidance on everything from diagnosis and health to benefits and social care support.
- NHS Choices provides a range of information and links to further useful resources.