There are many ribbons indicating the bearer’s passion for a specific cause. A yellow ribbon for our soldiers, pink for breast cancer awareness, and red for AIDS awareness are some of the common ribbons that can be seen on the back of many vehicles on the highways. The multi-hued puzzle ribbon indicating autism awareness only tells part of the story.
Asperger’s disorder, sometimes known as Asperger’s Syndrome, falls in the same category as Autism called pervasive developmental disorders, but has some key differences. The most noticeable difference is individuals with Asperger’s disorder have full use of spoken language.
Many people are unaware that somebody may have Asperger’s disorder, though they may notice something seems to be a bit different. Despite having the ability to verbally communicate, people with Asperger’s disorder face several barriers that most people don’t have to endure.
There are several different areas that people with Asperger’s disorder tend to have difficulty with. The first challenge for people with Asperger’s disorder is the tendency to have difficulty with social interaction. In children, this is often seen as having friends that are not at the same developmental level, either significantly younger or significantly older. There is a general lack of social and emotional understanding of others and limited ability to exhibit interactive relationships.
Typically there is limited understanding on non-verbal cues such as eye gaze, facial expressions or body language. They not only have difficulty with reading non-verbal cues, they tend to find little importance to do so. These limitations impair the overall ability to identify social cues and conventions, as well as to effectively interact with others.
As there are deficits in non-verbal communication, people with Asperger’s disorder have difficulty with subtle conversation skills. While there is typically no difficulty with language fluency, there is a distinct tendency to speak and understand verbal communication literally. There are often noticeable differences in the rhythm and have largely monotone speech. People with Asperger’s disorder are often described as seeing things as black and white, with no shades of grey. People with Asperger’s disorder often have a more restrictive interest base. When interests form, there tends to be increased attention to a specific area of focus that is very intense. They often become single minded in their efforts to engage in the area of their interest. There is a strong preference for routine and consistency.
When things occur outside the boundaries of what is expected or understood, people with Asperger’s disorder tend to experience significant discomfort in the form of anxiety. In children, this often is seen as acting out behaviors. Adults tend to withdraw from the situation until they feel that things tend to become “normal” once again. It is estimated that 1% of children have Asperger’s disorder. Though there may be some barriers, it is quite possible to have an incredibly fulfilling life. Some very famous people likely would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder if they were still alive today. Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Michelangelo have all made immense contributions to the world while experiencing difficulties in their everyday activities.
Asperger’s disorder is not able to be treated just through medications. The best way to treat it is through therapy and active involvement in social support groups. The next time you see an autism awareness ribbon; don’t forget to think of those with Asperger’s disorder too.
Jon Williams is a clinical supervisor at Apalachee Center, Inc and earned his Master’s Degree from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. He is working toward his PhD. at Florida State University focusing on PTSD. He has been a clinician for the past 16 years in a variety of settings.
Big Bend 2-1-1 has listings of all area agencies dealing with these issues. Just dial 211 on your phone.
Apalachee Center can be reached at 1-800-342-0774 for Detox, Crisis or inpatient treatment, and 1-866-472-3941 to schedule an outpatient appointment.
by Jon Williams
Clinical Supervisor, Apalachee Center