Welcome to Asperger’s Syndrome 101. Today, which is, unfortunately, the only day the class is available, will be completely about this form of autism and nothing else. I hope you leave today with more knowledge than you’ve ever had before about this mental condition, and that you can find the right questions to ask and the right topics to bring up if you ever do meet someone in real life with this disorder.
To start off, I hope you read the pre-class assignment that I published entitled ’10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Asperger’s’. If not, you won’t be missing out on much, but it is important to the topics we will be discussing today.
So, what do we know about Asperger’s? According to Autism Spectrum Education Network, Asperger’s is ‘a neurobiological disorder on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum’. People who have Asperger’s are categorized as autistic, but it’s on a much smaller scale than those with a higher aspect of autism. They typically have an IQ that is average or above average, and normally have a good understanding of how to function in a school setting, but most still require special help inside of school. Individuals with Asperger’s want to fit in and create relationships, but they may find it difficult to create and maintain relationships with others. They may have difficulties reading social cues or the feelings of others and may not even be able to dictate sarcastic comments.
(Side note: I’m not even joking. I’ve experienced many instances where I take something literally that was actually a joke and it didn’t fare well for me or for the person telling the joke. Be cautious.)
Aspies, as they are called in mainstream society, may experience difficulty maintaining a conversation with someone or may even have an inappropriate response-not on purpose, of course. One of the more popular characteristics is an obsession with a particular subject or object, and having trouble coping with change. Aspies may have a fantastic habitual memory and may even have an extensive vocabulary and speak more formally than those their age. Another common characteristic is that they have a sensitivity to the environment, which may be loud noises, textures, odors or even brightness.
Now that we’ve discussed the characteristics of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, I am going to give you examples of a scenario and I’d like you to tell me whether someone with Asperger’s would thrive in that environment or not:
-A social media site dedicated to their favorite musician: YES
-Giving a speech in front of a college class: typically NO
-Living in the same house all of their lives: YES
-Taking a different route to work than usual: NO
-Trying new foods: typically NO
-Taking a class on a new favorite topic: YES
Now, we’re going to move on to what YOU can do, as someone who doesn’t have this disorder. If you know someone who does or have met someone who does, this may come in handy in the future!
If you want to create a friendship with someone who has Asperger’s, just be yourself. Be open and kind and slowly ask them questions about themselves. You can build up their trust over time if you tell the truth. Don’t pick on them jokingly or use sarcasm in a way that they could see as degrading. Use eye contact with them and they eventually will in return. Check up on them every once in a while. Most people with Asperger’s hate starting conversations as they could be seen as annoying, so text or call them first. Let them know that you care! Invite them to spend time with you. Introduce them to your own friends and usher them into your own circle if you so choose.
If you’re interested in starting a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s, the same guidelines apply. But one of the most important things is to be honest. Be open about your feelings with them. Explain to them what you see that you like in them and ask if they have feelings in return. Get to know them. Don’t push them if it’s hard for them to talk to you. They might just feel the same way but are unsure of how to express those feelings. They might even be afraid of letting you down or pushing you away if they explain their heart. Be open, and be caring, and treat them as you would want to be treated. If it’s hard for them to change their routine but they force themselves to for you, be honored! They’re breaking down their own walls to reach out to you. Don’t take advantage of them. Use that to help your relationship grow, and maybe even flourish into something they couldn’t even imagine.
If you’re experiencing difficulty in a relationship with an Aspie or have found that they’ve insulted you, maybe not even on purpose, be honest. Confront them about it directly. Don’t gossip or spread rumors or talk to someone else about it. Go directly to the source. Don’t dodge the subject and try to bring something else up. Look them in the eyes, say their name, and talk about what hurts you or what bothers you. Ask for their side of the story. If they don’t understand that they did something wrong, explain the whole situation! If they still aren’t getting it, find someone else to help. Someone who may be a neutral party and can explain what happened. That more than likely will solve your issue.
If someone with Asperger’s is experiencing mental trauma because change happened too quickly for their liking or because their environmental sensitivity flared up, do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell them to suck it up. DO NOT say that it’s fine and that they’ll be okay eventually and expect that to suffice. It won’t! People with Asperger’s need confirmation, but in a slow and gentle manner. They can’t simply change their mind because someone told them to. They need reassurance that they are okay and that they’re safe and comforted. They need someone to be honest with them, but not in a rude or condescending manner. It takes Aspies time to sort through these issues, and things will go a lot smoother if they have someone to guide them along the way back to recovery.
Now, I know that every Aspie experiences life a little differently, but these are common ways to help you help them. If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please let me know and I will address them if necessary!
I hope that this course educated you on what someone with Asperger’s experiences and how to approach them, and I hope that this can help you in the future!