Asperger's: Insights to a Social Disorder
You Can't See Me
Figuring out where one is on the autism scale is like figuring out how many grains of sand are on the beach during a windstorm. Neurotypicals, or NTs as "normal" people are referred, often need guidelines on how to deal with their Aspie friends or family.
It is not like Down Syndrome where there is a distinct facial construction that physically differentiates an Aspie from an NT. It is not contagious like the flu. Herein lies a major issue with being pegged on "the scale." As an Aspie learns or copes and is more assimilated to their surroundings, an NT would be hard-pressed to point one out. In a sense, an Aspie can potentially fake themselves off that scale and be accepted into the NT world. This doesn't mean they are "cured" - it only means they have learned to read the queues. This, by no means, changes how they internalize or feel about things.
Just Like You...Kind Of.
Believe it or not, Aspies are very fluid. They have good and bad days; are brilliant in some areas and not so brilliant in others. They can talk up a storm (on subjects they are interested in, of course) to the point where their listener is silently begging for an exit strategy. Surprising? Perhaps. But if one thinks about it, isn't everyone like that?
It is truly through the impartial observations of many parties that one can be assessed.
A parent might observe an ASD "symptom" but ignore it as a quirk. Yes, it is a quirk, but as long as it doesn't affect the child or their surroundings in a negative or harmful way then most would write off the behavior as individualism or uniqueness. It might not be until the child enters school or even reaches puberty before behavioral issues rise to such a point where an assessment is first broached.
As we continue with hints and what-to-look-for scenarios in scoping for Aspies, please bear in mind that this is NOT an end-all-be-all checklist. Remember what was mentioned earlier: Aspies are fluid and "symptoms" may be mild to severe. This precludes other diagnoses that may be associated: ie. OCD, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder (aka Manic/Depression), Anxiety, Tourette Syndrome, etc.
First Few Years
Lack of interest in people & social events
- Little to no interest in play groups
- Not keen on displays of affection (public or private)
- Quite ritualistic and prompt - deviating from their schedule is not usually well-received
- QUIET TIME IS SACRED TIME
- Hand wringing
- Finger twirling
- Drumming or twirling items like pens, pencils, hair
- Rocking themselves
- The lines of the socks have to go across the toes just so
- No tags on shirts or pants
- No jeans or hard material
- Favorite shirt? Have several on hand so you can wash the worn one.
- Shy with eye contact - or - stare you down
- Limited facial expressions
- Very literal - A lack of understanding idioms (reading between the lines)
- Sometimes says the wrong word (Example: "soldier" when they mean shoulder)
Coordination or lack thereof
- Clumsy. Finding their balance on objects other than their feet may prove difficult (bicycles, skates, snowboard/skis...)
- What are these extra limbs for? Arms and legs seem so trivial when they just want to use their brain.
Young Adults & Adults
Include everything from the first few years and add:
Getting Dressed & Personal Hygiene
- Not always coordinated with colors or patterns
- Sometimes needs gentle reminders to shower or brush hair & teeth
Obsessive & Intense
- The potential to develop obsessive interest in certain subjects. Examples: sports statistics, bugs, maps, puzzles, science, etc.
- Not very good at delegating. Why dish off something one is good at to a lesser being?
- How are you not as interested in this subject as I?
- Skill or talent in particular areas where something hard is made to look easy. Examples: Math, Music, Art, Technology
- Attention to detail. When given a task they enjoy they will go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure it's perfect.
As mentioned earlier, there are many levels of quirkiness. Perhaps you know someone who kind of fits the descriptions, maybe you recognize some of these traits in yourself.
A dumb person thinks they know all the answers.
A smart person never stops asking questions.
What kind of person do you want to be?
To an Aspie: Being one is not a bad thing and does not have to be debilitating. It can lead to a beautiful and fulfilling life. The key is letting one's guard down enough to surround one's self with positivity, seek knowledge, admit you don't know everything (at least once in a while) - and on occasion ask for help. When you are starting to feel overwhelmed: STOP. Your brain needs time to catch up and process. Be kind and give that to yourself.
To an NT: Be patient and kind. Sometimes the Aspie brain doesn't get the message the first time around. Think outside the box and figure out an alternative way to explain things. Remember, your friend or family member is über literal, not stupid! Remain calm. Aspies probably hate conflict more than most and defense mechanisms will quickly arise. Most of the time it's not personal - it's spatial. Give them space to recover and get their balance. Warning: Say what you mean and mean what you say. One lie or broken promise may put you on the Do Not Trust list forever. It takes a lot to gain the trust and confidence of an Aspie, but once you have it consider it a true gift.