Asperger’s Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder. Statistics around the number of people that live with Asperger’s are not specific but over half a million people in the UK are known to have an autism spectrum disorder and that works out to 1 person in every 100. It is a condition more common with men than with women for unknown reasons and can affect anyone regardless of race, religion and social upbringing – specific causes are still being investigated.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Without even thinking, every day most people rely on visual signals (gestures, facial expressions) during interaction with others to communicate effectively and with understanding.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty understanding the nuances of these signals, which cause anxiety and confusion. Asperger’s Syndrome is considered a hidden disability. With no outward signs that suggest that a person may have Asperger’s Syndrome people may be misunderstood until they have a diagnosis which contributes to the difficulties and confusion that they will feel.
People with Asperger’s :
• Often of average or above average intelligence;
• May have specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and epilepsy;
• With the appropriate level of support can live full and independent lives.
Three areas of difficulty
There are three main areas of social difficulty that many people with Asperger’s Syndrome will encounter:
Communication: gestures, tones of voice and facial expressions are not significant, they have a lack of understanding around what to talk about in conversation or when and they tend to have a literal understanding of word usage – all of these combine to cause confusion during social interactions;
Interaction: There is a lack of understanding around conventions such as personal space, they may be withdrawn when confused and may display behaviour that others would deem to be inappropriate due to this lack of understanding;
Imagination: Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t mean that people aren’t imaginative many excel at creative pursuits but instead struggle with is called social imagination. For instance, they may have difficulty with games of pretend, have difficulty predicating what may happen next or understanding the thoughts of feelings of others can be a challenge.
Characteristics of Asperger syndrome
There are three main characteristics that many people with Asperger’s Syndrome will display:
Routines: People with Asperger’s Syndrome will often have rules and routines which help them to make sense of the world and they become anxious if these are disrupted;
Interests: An almost obsessive interest may be developed in a particular hobby or an area of interest. They will learn everything that there is to know about their chosen area and be able to recite it;
Sensory sensitivity: People with Asperger’s Syndrome may experience either over sensitivity or and under sensitivity in sight, smell, sound, touch or taste.
There are a number of different approaches used to address the difficulties of Asperger’s Syndrome. They tend to assist individuals to learn skills that will help them function in a world they find confusing. Some of the treatment options are:
• Behavioural therapy;
• Specialist education;
• Special social skills awareness and education.
Counselling: Counselling is very beneficial for people with Asperger’s where they have the opportunity to talk through the issues that they are experiencing with others and everyday life. A cognitive and behavioural approach to dealing with Asperger’s is very effective with clients being encouraged to explore the relationship between their thoughts, emotions and actions and how they can create changes in their behaviour;
Music therapy: The aim of music therapy is to promote self-awareness as well as an increased awareness of those around and an increased ability to initiate and participate in social interactions;
Speech and language therapy: This treatment helps people with Asperger’s to improve their ability to interpret gestures, eye contact and other non-verbal aspects of communication as well as the verbal.
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