There’s a growing trend. Autism and Aspergers have become more widely known and accepted in both medical and cultural circles. Growing attention has championed the need for early intervention for children with Aspergers.
Those children are growing up, and after age 21, no longer have the extensive web of educational and support services given them in high school. Even more important, there are generations of adults with Aspergers who were never diagnosed, or who were diagnosed later in life. They haven’t received the extensive early intervention services many of today’s young people with Aspergers received in early childhood through young adulthood.
What Does Aspergers in Adults Look Like?
Adults with Aspergers have a host of strengths that balance out the challenges they face. often have higher than average intelligence and a wonderful sense of humor.
They tell the truth, and have an uncanny ability to focus on areas of interest.
The positive characteristics of Aspergers children continue into adulthood.
Aspergers, like autism, is a spectrum. In other words, one adult may struggle a lot more with organizing and executing tasks, while another may do well with organizing, but struggle with understanding and relating to other people.
In general, based on Dr. Valerie Gaus’ framework, an Aspergers person struggles with core processing deficits. In other words, she may struggle with understanding the inputs that come in to the brain through the environment. An Aspergers person may struggle with processing information about others. The Aspergers adult is, contrary to many opinions, highly empathetic, but struggles with knowing exactly what the other person is thinking or feeling. It’s hard to understand and process social cues, or to understand non-verbal body language and facial expressions. An Aspergers person may also struggle with processing information about himself. Information about self includes understanding and regulating emotions and sensory inputs. Finally, an Aspergers person may struggle with processing nonsocial information, as evidenced by challenges with executive functioning (flexibility, planning, organization, goal setting, and the use of working memory). While an Aspergers person can sense a myriad of details, she may struggle to filter all that into a big picture to make effective decisions of what to do with the data.
Aspergers in adults, as seen in the above Aspergers signs and symptoms, leads to the following.
Social Skill Deficits result from difficulty reading social situations and cues; understanding one’s own feeling states; and challenges with picking up social learning at different points of childhood.
Sensory challenges and social blindness challenge adults with Aspergers, because they often don’t know how to respond to others, nor do they know what’s expected of them.
Odd mannerisms, difficulty understanding and expressing social language, and “rude” behavior [although never intentional, because they don’t know they’re being rude] can lead others to become frustrated and angry, leading to negative social consequences. Imagine being ignored, bullied, and rejected, without ever knowing why! Yet it happens every day across the world.
Executive functioning difficulties, combined with difficulty understanding oneself, can cause problems in self-management and activities of daily living. These can manifest as inefficient task management, procrastination, poor self-direction, and poor problem basic problem-solving. The Aspergers adult may have a genius level IQ, yet still struggle with these different aspects of living. The daily living consequences and frequent daily hassles add up to a lot of stressful events.
Adult Aspergers Statistics
According to this Aspergers syndrome fact sheet, “no studies have yet been conducted to find the incidence of Asperger syndrome in adult populations.” On the one hand, many Aspergers people succeed very well vocationally and relationally; however, many adults with Aspergers struggle with relationships and careers. The answer is somewhere between: adults with Aspergers may succeed in a few areas, but struggle in others. You can read some of my articles about famous people with Aspergers to better understand this.
Dating, Relationships, and Marriage
Dating, friendships, and marriage all hinge on social communication. As noted above, social communication can be challenging for people with Aspergers. This challenge means both partners need to work on better understanding each other. If one partner has Aspergers and the other does not, the Aspergers partner may need to work on better understanding the neurotypical way of thinking, and the neurotypical needs to respect, understand, and honor the Aspegers way of thinking. Compromise and compassion are the hallmarks of successful relationships and friendships, married or not.
Aspergers in Adults: Aspergers Help
Here are some hyperlinks to articles on this blog to help promote hope, understanding, and solutions for each of these areas.
I also wrote this post on Psychology Today, called What Everybody Should Know About Aspergers and Marriage. A few Aspergers people have criticized the article for seeming to put more blame on the Aspergers partner versus the NT partner. However, that was not my intent. At some point, I hope to write an article advocating for the Aspergers partner and emphasizing the NT’s need to understand and support their Aspie partner.
Here are some hyperlinks to articles on my blog to help you with topics of diagnosis, Aspergers support groups, and books to read.
Aspergers in Women
Here’s a link to my article, Girls and Autism: Empowered.