About Asperger/Autism Spectrum:
- It is neurological and affects the way information is processed in the brain.
- It is often an invisible disability. Many people appear very competent, but have difficulties in areas of communication and social interaction.
- It has a genetic and hereditary component and may have additional interactive environmental causes, as yet unknown.
- It is a developmental disability. All individuals have social/emotional delays, but continued growth seems to be life-long.
- The prevalence of autism is 1 in 59 (CDC, 2018).
- Girls and women are under-diagnosed. There are currently four males diagnosed for every one female, but the true ratio may be as high as one female for every two males.
- Average to high intelligence
- Unique sense of humor
- Strong sense of fairness and justice
- Specialized interests
- Feel things deeply
- Detail oriented
- Good memory, especially for facts in their area of interest
- Build friendships through shared interests
- Sensory sensitivities (hypo or hyper) to light, noise, smell, touch, movement, or taste.
- Fight or flight emotional responses that seem extreme for the situation-but are often due to underdeveloped coping skills and an unpredictable or overwhelming environment.
- Social anxiety or anxiety in general.
- Perseveration, perfectionism, or asking for help.
- Stamina for persisting through boring or challenging tasks.
- Flexible thinking and problem solving–seeing the world in black and white.
- Organizing, planning, prioritizing, initiating, persisting (executive function skills).
- Understanding verbal and non-verbal language in social contexts.
- Understanding what others are thinking and feeling (e.g. Theory of Mind or Perspective Taking).
- Missing unwritten rules that aren’t taught explicitly, but others pick up more intuitively.
Additional traits some individuals may have:
- Low muscle tone and difficulty with fine motor skills; although some excel in individual sports or are tremendous artists.
- Co-occurring mental health diagnoses like depression or anxiety. ADD is very common.
- Superior skill in a particular areas such as painting, writing, math, music, history, electronics, or composing.
- Difficulties working in groups.
- Low self-esteem can be an issue for individuals, especially when they don’t see that others around them are experiencing the same challenges that they are.
Asperger/Autism Spectrum Tips:
- Learn about the diagnosis and how it affects you.
- Learn how and when to talk about it to others (disclosure).
- Make time to explore your interests and use your skills–don’t only focus on your challenges.
- Find a supportive community where you can be yourself (like AANE!).
- Work with a coach or therapist to help you identify and plan how to reach your goals.
- Analyze how environment, sensory needs, and social demands impact your energy so that you know which activities and people help you relax and which raise your anxiety or stress.
- Get help with social and communication skills so you will feel less anxious interacting with others.
- Consider medications, with the guidance of a professional.
- Set up routines and prepare for transitions.
- Do not force eye contact–as many people experience it as painful.
- Provide organizational supports (visual supports may be better for some people).