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Misunderstanding Adults with Aspergers

Aspergers awareness is on the rise. However, there is still a lot of ignorance regarding the abilities and mental status of grown-ups with Aspergers (high-functioning autism)...

Misunderstanding #1: Adults with Aspergers Are Unemotional

Adults with Aspergers DO experience emotions. However, the emotions felt by some Aspies may be less complex than the emotions of typical people. Also, those Aspies who have difficulty with language and social skills may have difficulty expressing emotions in the typical or socially acceptable way. But, this doesn’t mean they don’t have emotions.

Misunderstanding #2: Adults with Aspergers Hate To Be Touched

While it is true that some adults with Aspergers may not enjoy physical contact at times, the issue here is not social, but sensory. Many Aspies have sensory integration issues (i.e., their interpretation of sensory input is abnormal). Some are hyper-sensitive (e.g., bright florescent lights, high-pitched noises, and certain textures against the skin are intolerable).  And some are hypo-sensitive (i.e., it takes a high level of sensory input for them to notice or react). But this doesn’t mean they never want to be touched by anybody – anywhere – at anytime.

Misunderstanding #3: Aspergers Is a Disease

While some adults with Aspergers may have a co-morbid mental health disorder, (e.g., depression or anxiety,) Aspergers itself is not a disease or a mental illness. While the symptoms of Aspergers can often be reduced through cognitive and behavioral therapy, it is a neurobiological disorder for which there is no spontaneous remission or cure. However, many Aspies who were diagnosed as children have lost many of their symptoms as adults.

Misunderstanding #4: If Someone Has Aspergers, He Must Be a Genius

This misunderstanding was popularized by the movie Rain Man, in which the main character had Aspergers and an extraordinary memory. He could memorize a jukebox play list at a glance and greatly enhance his odds at blackjack by counting cards. Someone with Savant Syndrome has ability in one of a range of skills, from an impressive memory in a very specific area to genius-level artistic, musical, or mathematical abilities (despite having profound deficits in other areas). About 50% of people with Savant Syndrome also have Aspergers. However, of everyone diagnosed with Aspergers, it is estimated that only 10% have a savant skill.

While these misunderstandings may be true to some degree, the truth is that Aspergers is such a variable disorder that there are very few assumptions that can be made about any individual just from the diagnosis.

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