Asperger’s Syndrome - Understanding and Educating
by:(name withheld by request)
Asperger’s Syndrome so named after the Austrian researcher
Hans Asperger, who first described this condition in a paper
he wrote, publishing it in German in Vienna in 1944. The paper
and others he wrote were not accessible in English until Uta
Frith had the original paper translated and published in 1988.
Today we will briefly consider:
1.Asperger’s syndrome what it actually
Aspergers Syndrome is experienced three different ways by those who are on the spectrum, those who experience someone who is on the AS spectrum, and those are cognitive theorists who deal with AS and people associated with them. A number of aspects have been selected and expanded to allow the reader a fuller understanding of those aspects that their individual or themselves manifest. The topics selected below are by no means exhaustive and others exist.
Social Relationship Problems
From my perspective, many AS people try hard to be social
when we become aware of that need but often much effort results
in frustration and alienation. Essentially we are not programmed
to be social and each type of interaction must be learned
by rote and cannot be transacted by instinct, as everyone
else is able to.
AS people often experience great bother with communication of any sort. Sometimes some AS people are unable to speak or do so much later, than nonspectrum people, i.e. after 3-5years of age. Problems are many fold either it is difficult to communicate in linear thought and or we fail to interpret nonverbal signals, or that what we communicates is out of kilter with the audience expectations. Also we are often extremely literal in our interpretation of others conversations, on many occasions we can become confused when ambiguous communication appears. Thus we may check that cats and dogs are raining down and announce they are not here yet, or understand there are two suns when someone talked about two sons.
Socially imaginative Play Deficits
Many AS children are unable to play pretend games often indulging in repetitive behaviours, seriation, tearing up paper, rocking, ant tracking, and other actions. Symmetrical patterns, colour grouping and repetitive activities are nearly always preferred to joining others in their activities. Some AS children may be attracted to wheels and perseverate over activities that involve them, as a child the bike turned upside down was a most excellent toy for as long as I could be allowed to indulge I could ignore all. Preferring to play alone AS children may play parallel to other children or perchance with others try to dominate the activity.
Poor Coordination and Motor Clumsiness.
AS people may have cerebellum developmental delays resulting in poor balance, poor hand to eye coordination, or poor spatial awareness. Some may have motor clumsiness that results in difficulties with sequencing a task correctly, catching a ball, handwriting, cleaning teeth, shoelace tying, and other such like activities. These bothers make the person appear uncoordinated prone to fall and stand out when the person tries to run with other people, simple ball handling skills appear almost impossible. Some of these bothers if untreated will remain for life, others learned slowly later. Poor coordination may result in avoidance of some or all activities by the AS person as they aim for perfection not pleasure when completing some sports tasks.
As with other AS bothers this problem area tends to manifest as a spectrum ranging from no sensitivity to extreme sensitivity. Although some AS have under sensitised systems the majority are more highly sensitised to their environment than nonspectrum people. The most noticeable response to a stimulus would be light or sound. Briefly we have included aspects of the stimulus that causes bother
Too much light, the wrong sort of light i.e. blue light, movement, synesthesia where sound appears in the brain as light
Too much sound, too much of one frequency of sound, and or the brain focussing on one sound and ignoring all other sounds i.e. a computer fan, cause AS people great discomfort and distraction. Unable to filter extraneous sounds a melange of sound overloads the AS who often has bother discerning which they should be hearing or ignoring individual peaks of sensitivity aggravate an already troublesome condition
Often referred to as tactile sensitivity, Asperger people are highly sensitive to certain fabrics; sometimes these cannot be tolerated i.e. wool, wearing shoes, hats sunscreen application and the like. Seams labels joins in the fabrics are also sources of often-intense irritation. Others cannot tolerate; hugs, light caress like touch that is perceived as painful, certain types of food in the mouth or even full stomachs
Some AS people are able to detect certain chemicals or tastes to micro molar amounts whereas others totally lack taste discernment. When medication, for the AS person, is administered via drink or food the AS person is often able to detect the presence of medication via taste even in very small doses. Other people have extreme bother in consuming certain types of food for the taste they perceive overpowers them greatly to cope they often limit themselves to what they eat opting for bland or foods of a certain taste only at the expense of everything else.
As with food smells and fragrances affect different AS in
different ways. Some perfumes over power others do not, the
response to the overpowering may be avoidance, anger, windup
due to overload, or inability to cooperate with the person
who has the perfume, ditto other odours and smells but a number
of AS people prefer some odours and try to smell them more
Attwood, Pers. com. 1998 has stated if an AS person has sensitivities to light sound etc then the AS person may have an ability to detect things in the spiritual realm, to certain areas or sites, people’s houses, even certain people themselves. Instinctively able to sum up a person results in their perception taking place before the other person has even spoken to them.
Right and wrong
Many AS people seem pre-programmed to detect right and wrong and often will bluntly announce what is wrong. Other times will note others short comings but not their own.
Some AS people are unable to detect pain, others do but have a high pain threshold. On the other hand some are more sensitised and respond to only very small pain incidents out of proportion to the incident, still others may respond to minor pain incidents but fail to do so in more severe events.
Need For Routine
As a train or tram needs tracks so to do ASD people need routine and predictability. Change can cause ASD to become stressed and too much change can lead to meltdowns. Changes like a different teacher at school, a new routine, doing things in a different order are some of the more obvious more subtle might include putting pants on before the shirt, going to the toilet at someone else’s place, changing a bedroom curtain can contribute to stress.
ASD people often develop unusual interests some of whom will
be suitable for employment; an interest in busses allowed
my brother a bus-driving career. Other interests may not be
so useful and when one inappropriate interest is extinguished
another usually takes its place.
A number of AS people show special abilities these would include, painting /drawing, logic /computer skills, able to load the brain with facts, detail specific, early reader, hyperlexia, mathematical abilities, engineering tendencies, logic and argument. While these in themselves are useful when nurtured the individual can achieve ha high level of competency in a chosen field, this could be in sciences eg chemistry, physics, geology or IT where computer work requires ability and learning rather than training alone. Others may excel in music performance, composition or teaching. A number of gifted people of high achievement are / were AS this would include Grandin, Einstein, Wittgenstein, Gates, Mozart and Bella Bartok to list but a few. By supporting and promoting the AS person’s skills early in life greater achievement is possible in that person’s life.
AS people are often unable to protect themselves at school or in various social settings they find themselves in. In later life they are may be regarded as eccentric odd or different, some unable to work as supervisors but capable of high work out put and ethics when in suitable employment. Some ASA people are extremely trusting others suspicious of all.
Detail vs the Big Picture
As AS people are often skilled at noticing details problems
invariably arise. The importance of the detail prevents the
AS person from understanding the bigger picture as the context
of that detail is only a detail. The context often requires
social understanding to be able to process the whole picture
this would require theory of mind, flexibility, where in the
whole the detail may fit and its size to the end result.
Anger and frustration
Anger in AS people needs to be understood as an over stimulation
where a little or a lot will cause the same effects, and that
many AS people irrespective of age have a one size fits all
response. Anger management presents problems for some AS people.
Their ability to see things in black and white results in
tantrums when they don’t get their exact own way, or
per chance they are used to getting their own way and now
cannot. Anger expressed may be a childish way to cope the
person needing to be trained early on what is socially appropriate.
AS people not only experience bother understanding time they often are unable to utilise time effectively. Organisational skills in some AS people are non existent chaos characterises interactions their lives and homes. Deadlines are ignored, as they may not be understood.
As the twenty-first century proceeds many interactions are becoming more socially oriented the employment available away from town decreases and many AS people find they are forced to be schooled in large groups, seek employment as part of the team and the like. Being required to function in the intensely social realm contributes to the alienation AS feel. When the alienation commences differs person-to-person the higher functioning people probably feel this earlier than others. Not being able to relate on the wave length, not aware of social issues, correct ways of responding, preferring to delve deeply into a subject, not being admitted to social groups, ostracism, bullying, teasing have all contributed to we the AS people understanding that we are from a different planet, cultural aliens at best shunned and actively excluded at the worst. To sum; the advise given by an AS person don’t worry about them worry about yourself.
Some AS people have learned to act to use social coping strategies to mask their AS mannerisms thus AS is concealed, others become reclusive, however no one AS person will ever be exactly like another each responding differently to another.
As AS people lack social capacity or awareness even, they
find that despite sincere efforts and hard work they are unable
to; connect rationally, understand body language, obtain friendships,
employment, trust and or relationships. Many AS can and do
work hard to be employed, marry as well as having at least
one friend however there are some who find themselves isolated
or worse alienated.
When Asperger’s Syndrome is suspected preliminary
checks can be made via T Attwood’s Australian checklist,
consulting the DSMIV, perusing various checklists and diagnostic
tools present on the net. The next step would be to arrange
a consultation with a competent child psychologist, paediatrician
or child psychiatrist. You will need to consult resources
in your area or discuss with a school how to access relevant
How to deal with Aspergers Syndrome
How to deal with Aspergers Syndrome is a book in itself. We
have selected a number of strategies to allow choice to ascertain
what works with the individual you deal with.
Attempts should be made to check if diet is causing bother as many AS people are affected by gluten and casein intolerances predominantly and sea food i.e. prawns, or soy or peanut sensitivities. Various web sites will advise on how to enact the diet Sue Dengates book is particularly useful. Additives, 282 often found in bread, in particular often contribute to anger outbursts. If ADD or ADHD is also present then colourings and additives will need to be investigated very thoroughly.
When one or both parents are compassionate people, that is their motivational gifting is compassion, the AS person who is primarily a perceiver, will always be in a position to manipulate instinctively knowing where the weakness are. The compassionate person seemingly unable or reluctant to deal with the problem lets things slide. Once the AS person establishes a precedent the pattern is set and the AS child can and does become a tyrant expecting to get his or her own way, this can produce life long bother and can be dangerous when puberty manifests. Compassionate people deal in feelings, generally want peace at any price and give in easily, all this the perceiver AS person has worked out and exploits unmercifully. The maxim is always firm but fair for if allowed to continue the person will be very difficult to live with and may not be able to obtain work, as they have not learned to fit in.
From time to time some AS people experience great anxiety
and can become very wound up. As a result it takes very little
to make them angry and meltdowns can and do occur. It is prudent
here to outline the windup cyclicity and what to do. First
we need to say events can wind AS up, but the body does as
well and this we refer to now.
As many AS people are very literal sarcasm has little relevance, and may contribute to misunderstandings that they experience.
When the AS person gets angry they either simmer or blow-up immediately, however if your blow-up they will watch your response and model that, this may cause problems as the swear words, mannerisms may be accurately copied. When situations of anger arise and undesirable out bursts are experienced remember the sequence to check for reasons i.e. triggers, then when the AS person is calm demonstrate what the episode looked like, next announce that adult behaviours are like this, model the acceptable behaviour to demonstrate how grownups deal with the bother. When the AS person has a relapse ask are you growing up or down always stressing good adult behaviour is what is expected. One question posed would be would Mr.?? Or Mrs ?? behave like that, similarly say lets go to investigate how many people behave like this, eventually work out that little people do and as the AS person is growing up to behave like adults needs to be learned now so they can train their children in the future. Consult Carol Grey Social Stories for a Social story approach to use a different approach to change attitudes or responses.
One way positive outcomes for people with Asperger’s
Syndrome are possible is to obtain early diagnosis. Early
diagnosis rules out bad parenting, deliberately wrong teaching
strategies and alerts people to the need of different strategies
which will help the AS child understand academic, social content
of the work that they undertake.
There are a number of parents and some grand parents who have realised their AS child needs to be home schooled. Some people are scared that their AS child may miss important aspects of their education when commencing home schooling not aware that home schooling advantages outweigh supposed disadvantages.
Briefly advantages would be;
Where to go for help
The Internet is a great place to browse and explore for help
recourses and practical ideas. Various chat rooms allow parents
to realise they are not the only ones suffering bother of
Web sites and Bookmarks
The following by no means exhaustive list was prepared by
someone else and we acknowledge our gratitude to that nameless
person for their due diligence in collating this most extensive
and comprehensive resource.
A considerable number of adults with ASD live productive useful lives contributing much in their field of endeavour. A number of adults have come together to organise their own support groups, web sites, or chat rooms. Others have become married and been able to raise children and survive being AS adults. While many AS people experience some bother in their lives a few have ongoing bother with the social aspects of their lives and need help from time to time. An AS diagnosis even for an adult allows that person to realise its not their fault but and aspect of Asperger’s Syndrome. A diagnosis is not a curse but a description of that type of behaviour and behaviouralresponse.
This article was donated to Roland Munyard at Homeschool.co.uk by (name withheld by request)
More than one million children are Homeschooling in the United States and approximately 150,000 children are homeschooled in the United Kingdom, (about 50,000 families homeschool in England)