“It is almost inevitable that the difficulties experienced with Asperger adults will have a negative effect on a couple or family relationships, particularly when individuals are unaware of AS. Problems such as poor communication, sexual concerns, misunderstandings, and a feeling of not being valued or understood frequently occur. These problems can impact both those individuals with AS and the people living with them.”
|Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder that falls within the autistic spectrum. It is a life-long condition which affects around 1 in 100 people, more commonly men than women. Those with AS are usually of average or above average intelligence, and have a distinct profile of abilities that have been apparent since early childhood. Although Hans Asperger first identified the condition over 50 years ago, it is only now increasing in public awareness.
The profile of abilities include: a lack of social and emotional reciprocity and empathy, failure to build friendships, impaired use of non-verbal behaviour (eye gaze and facial expression), difficulty with conversation skills, impaired imagination, intense absorption in a specialist interest, preference for routine and consistency and often problems with motor co-ordination (e.g. problems with handwriting). The disorder may also include a hypersensitivity to specific auditory and tactile experiences and problems with organisation and time management skills.
It is now known that individuals with AS may exhibit some or all of these characteristics to a greater or lesser degree. Tony Attwood, a Clinical Psychologist and specialist in this field, describes these individuals as having a “different but not defective way of thinking”. Moreover, they often have a strong desire to seek knowledge, learn and problem-solve. As individuals, they may value creativity over being co-operative or meeting the social or emotional needs of others. Children and adolescents with AS often get into trouble at school, exasperate teachers and are the subject of teasing and bullying. As a result, many tend to experience isolation, rejection and a lack of understanding of their everyday lives. This often results is frustration, anger, anxiety, depression and poor self-esteem.
It is almost inevitable that these difficulties will have a negative effect on a couple or family relationships, particularly when individuals are unaware of AS. Problems such as poor communication, sexual concerns, misunderstandings, and a feeling of not being valued or understood frequently occur. These problems can impact both those individuals with AS and the people living with them.
On a brighter note, individuals with AS desire to be part of the group and can often learn to encode social cues intellectually rather than instinctively. Likewise, parents, friends and partners can also learn to work with difference and enjoy the rewards that arise from sharing their lives with these unique individuals. Therapists who are cognisant of the implications of AS are able to provide effective coping strategies and can offer both partners and parents greater understanding of themselves and the other.