What Do You Know About Asperger's Syndrome?
You may have heard people talk about Asperger’s syndrome before. Maybe you know someone who has it, or maybe you even have it.
Asperger’s syndrome is a disorder that falls under the autism spectrum. However, it can be clearly distinguished from autism thanks to multiple studies that have been done on the subject. The clearest difference is their ability to be independent in adult life, compared to the typical person with autism.
Asperger’s syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder
Asperger’s syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder with an important genetic basis in which certain brain structures are damaged. But what are neurodevelopmental disorders?
Neurodevelopmental disorders are a mixed group of neurological problems that cause alterations in different processes, such as cognition, communication, behavior, and motor skills. These alterations are caused by atypical brain development.
In other words, the brain of someone with Asperger’s functions differently, in many respects, from the brain of someone who didn’t have any alterations in their neurological development. We’re not saying that it’s good or bad, we’re just talking about differences in functioning when it comes to processing and perceiving information.
People with Asperger’s see the world in a different way
It’s sort of like they have different codes that they use to interpret the world and their environment. These codes cause them to live in a way that seems strange to some people. But who hasn’t met somebody who sometimes acts different than they expected? Even we sometimes perceive reality in a distorted way, which causes us to act in ways that other people consider strange.
Let’s get a little more specific and talk about the most typical characteristics of people with Asperger’s syndrome. The Asperger’s Confederation of Spain points out the following:
Characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome
- Social awkwardness and difficulty interacting with other children and/or adults. They can be naïve and gullible.
- They often aren’t aware of other people’s feelings and intentions and don’t often understand people’s emotional reactions.
- They have great difficulty achieving and maintaining a normal rhythm of conversation. They’re easily upset by transitions and changes in routine.
- They interpret language literally. They don’t understand sarcasm or metaphorical language; to them, it’s literal. For example, they would interpret the sentence “his heart doesn’t fit in his chest” to mean that his heart is so big that it physically doesn’t fit in his chest.
- They’re very sensitive to strong sounds, colors, lights, smells, and tastes.
- They tend to develop a strong interest in or fixation on a subject and become real experts in it. Many children with Asperger’s can look at a landscape for just a few minutes and completely reproduce every detail of it with astounding precision.
- Their psychomotor skills aren’t very good, so they’re not usually very good at sports.
- They often struggle to make and maintain friendships with people their age. This is pretty much because they don’t perceive the world in the same way, and that frustrates them. The same thing happens to any of us when we don’t fit in well with other people because the way we see and experience the world conflicts with theirs.
Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand them
We must be able to see beyond the disorder. People with Asperger’s often feel misunderstood. They feel like strangers in a world that functions according to rules that sometimes clash with theirs. They don’t understand the meaning of many things we do.
Therefore, we have to make an effort to empathize with them and understand that the way they perceive reality is different from ours. And that doesn’t mean it’s good or bad, it’s just different.
We live in a wonderful world where, fortunately, we’re all different and can learn from these differences. Differences that enrich our relationships and help us be more tolerant and cast aside many of the prejudices that we carry with us.