Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that is on the “high-functioning” end of the autism spectrum. Behaviors associated with Asperger’s may include limited or inappropriate social interactions, difficulty with nonverbal communication, inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases, obsession with specific and often unusual topics, one-sided conversations and awkward movements. People with Asperger’s also tend to be hypersensitive and can easily become overstimulated because of their keen sensory perceptions. Overstimulation can result in a meltdown, which is very different from a “temper tantrum.” It occurs when a person’s senses become overloaded and they cannot handle all of the intense stimulation.
There is not a “cure” for Asperger’s syndrome but often cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful in learning social skills and control of emotions, obsessions and behaviors. Some may find medication helpful in treating associated problems such as anxiety, depression or ADHD.
Although people with Asperger’s may learn and perceive the world differently, it is important to clarify they are not intellectually or cognitively impaired in any way. Their brains are hyper-aware of surrounding stimuli and while this may become overwhelming at times, it can also allow them to pick up on things others do not. People with Asperger’s have reported they are often mistaken for “lacking socially competency” without regard to the fact their brains are simply wired differently. Many say it feels like they are “stuck inside their own head,” which can make social interactions, especially nonverbal communication such as eye contact, extremely difficult. Social cues, implications and non-literal phrases may not be their forte, but people with Asperger’s excel in other ways. Many have superior memory skills or an advanced vocabulary.
There are organizations and networks that provide people with autism and Asperger’s a place to connect and share information and resources. Many seek to raise awareness and improve the lives of people with Asperger’s.