Asperger’s syndrome is covered in depth in our feature entitled Aspergers. On this page we look at the specific symptoms of this syndrome which is considered to be a ‘hidden disability’ because an Asperger’s sufferer has no obvious outward signs of their condition.
Aspergers syndrome (AS) is a form of autism in which the sufferer finds it hard to make sense of the world around them. They have difficulty in processing information which can lead to problems in relating to other people.
Known as a spectrum disorder, Aspergers affects different people in many different ways. People with the condition have difficulties in three main areas which are often referred to as ‘the triad of impairments’. The three areas are:
- Social interaction
- Social communication
- Social imagination
People with AS often have difficulty with social interaction. This is largely due to the fact that AS sufferers find it difficult to read body language. A person with AS finds it hard to read a person’s facial expression which may indicate that they are feeling sad, angry or happy for example. Because of their inability to gage another’s mood they may seem to respond to them inappropriately. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and frustration for the AS sufferer. It can be difficult for people with AS to make friends or maintain friendships.
People with AS frequently have difficulty with social communication. Although people with AS do not tend to have language problems they may choose not to communicate with others or they may become over-communicative and talk at length about a subject that interests them whilst being totally unaware that the person that they are talking to are completely uninterested or bored. A person with AS may have no empathy with others.
A person with AS may lack social imagination. This is due to their inability to judge the mood and expectations of others. It would seem to be a natural characteristic for most of us to look at others and judge how they are feeling which then sparks an instinctive reaction but this does not happen for AS sufferers. When we can judge the mood of others it is then possible to use our imagination to gage how to respond but this does not happen in people with AS.
People with AS may also have sensory difficulties. These difficulties can affect one or all of the senses which include sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Although the degree of sensory difficulty varies considerable from one AS sufferer to another, most commonly an individual will either have intensified or underdeveloped senses. This can make bright lights, loud noises or strong smells and tastes very distressing for people with AS and can cause anxiety and even pain.
Although there is no ‘cure’ for Asperger’s syndrome for many individuals the symptoms decrease as they mature. Many people with Asperger’s lead independent and full lives with the right help and support.