People with Asperger syndrome have a form of autism. They usually have average to above average intellectual ability, although about 5% also have an accompanying learning disability. However they all have great difficulty with:
- Communication skills, especially non-verbal language. For example, problems understanding the ‘give and take’ of normal conversation and figurative language. Generally they have rather rigid thought patterns, love routine and hate change.
- Understanding and interacting in social situations. For example difficulty understanding the ‘rules’ of social interaction and great difficulty understanding or working out what other people’s behaviour means. This means that people with Asperger syndrome often don’t understand danger signals from other people.
- Understanding and empathising with other people’s thoughts and feelings, so although their imaginative powers may be exceptional, they cannot make use of them in social settings.
- Sensory impairments: Hypersensitive to touch, smell, taste, texture, clothing, food, sound, light and proximity.
People with Asperger syndrome look like everyone else but they experience fundamental social difficulties. They long for friends, to be accepted and to contribute to society. But they don’t know how. Society can be very unkind to people with poor social skills. Most of them suffer loneliness and bullying at school and fail to achieve their academic potential. Few adults with Asperger syndrome find employment, live independently or have a social life. The resulting frustration emerges as anxiety, depression, paranoia, aggression and frequently, suicidal ideation. Without support many may suffer from mental illness. However with the appropriate support many are able to live meaningful lives and achieve their full potential.
People with Asperger syndrome often have special interests or obsessions and amass a huge amount of knowledge about a particular subject. The ability to focus exclusively on one subject and the joy that people with Asperger syndrome get from their chosen interest is a great gift. People with Asperger syndrome may find it difficult to maintain long term relationships but they are often very loyal friends.