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Asperger's Traits That Get Misinterpreted As "Inappropriate" Behavior

There is always some distress, anxiety, or obsession manifested in every “inappropriate” behavior that gets misinterpreted by others:

Misinterpretation #1 - A "low tolerance for boredom" disguised as laziness

Misinterpretation #2 - The inability to "read" others disguised as lack of empathy

Misinterpretation #3 - Poor "emotion regulation" disguised as psychological instability

Misinterpretation #4 - Detachment disguised as narcissism

Misinterpretation #5 - Social skills deficits disguised as abnormality

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Men with Asperger's: Summary of Traits that Affect Relationships

Peculiar people have always been around, but Asperger's (AS) - also called high-functioning autism - isn't always recognized as a possible cause of odd behavior. The symptoms of AS can be mild (causing only somewhat unusual behavior), or severe (causing an inability to function in society without assistance).

For the "neurotypical" (i.e., non-autistic) women out there who are contemplating developing a relationship with a male "Aspie" - or for those who are already in such a relationship - below is a summary of the traits associated with the disorder that may be helpful in understanding your future boyfriend or husband.

Men with Asperger's:

1. have trouble deciphering the normal rules of society, which impacts their home, work and social lives

2. are often unable to understand other people's emotional states

3. often want to "fit in" with their peer group - but don't know how

4. think in "black and white" terms

5. tend to be in their own world

6. appear overly concerned with their own agenda

7. have difficulty managing appropriate social conduct and regulating emotions

8. follow strict routines

9. are highly focused in specific fields of interest often to the exclusion of other pursuits

10. have trouble empathizing and understand other perspectives

11. appear aloof, selfish or uncaring

12. have difficulties in their home life, often demanding little or no change in routines or schedules

13. behave at a younger developmental age in relationships

14. have difficulty understanding humor and may take what's said too literally

15. have obsessive tendencies (e.g., insisting all of their books be lined up in a certain order on the shelf or that the clothes in their closet are categorized by color, style or season)

16. lack the ability to display appropriate non-verbal behaviors, such as eye contact, facial expressions, body postures and gestures

17. have difficulties in initiating and maintaining friendships because of inappropriate social behaviors

18. tend to be literal thinkers

19. have trouble understanding social metaphors, teasing or irony

20. struggle to understand emotions in others

21. miss subtle cues such as facial expression, eye contact and body language

22. often avoid eye contact

23. may be unable to think in abstract ways

24. are preoccupied with something to the extreme level (e.g., if they like football, that is all they will talk about--all the time and with everyone)

25. may talk incessantly, often about topics that others have no interest in

26. are rigid and inflexible, making transitions of any type difficult

27. lack the social or empathetic skills to effectively manage romantic relationships

28. are often of high intelligence and may specialize in one area or interest, which leads to a lack of interest in alternate topics and the unwillingness to listen when others are speaking

29. need routines to help them function

30. experience poor communication skills which can lead to problems finding a job or interacting effectively in a workplace environment

31. are reliant on routine

32. have an obsession with categories and patterns

33. experience rigid thinking patterns that may make predicting outcomes of situations difficult

34. may have anger management problems and may lash out in a social setting without regard to another's feelings

35. may display highly developed vocabulary, often sounding overly formal and stilted

36. experience speech patterns that may have a strange cadence or lack the proper inflections

37. often memorize facts to the smallest detail

38. find the subtleties of courtship difficult

39. experience social and work-related difficulties which can cause anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, obsessive compulsive behaviors, and depression

40. have thought patterns that may be scattered and difficult for the listener to follow

41. are often obsessed with parts of objects

42. are often physically awkward and have a peculiar walk, poor posture, general clumsiness, or difficulty with physical tasks

43. may appear rude or obnoxious to others

44. can be inflexible in their thinking, unable to imagine a different outcome to a given situation than the one they perceive

45. may be reluctant to initiate conversation and may require prodding to talk

46. often choose inappropriate topics to discuss in a group setting or find making small talk difficult or even annoying

47. may demonstrate unusual non-verbal communication, such as limited facial expressions or awkward body posturing

48. develop strict lifestyle routines and experience anxiety and distress if that routine is disrupted

49. often engage in one-sided conversations without regard to whether anyone is listening to them

50. may feel disconnected and distant from the rest of the world, a feeling called "wrong planet" syndrome

51. may flap their hands or fingers, or make complex body movements

52. have difficulty interacting in social groups

53. have trouble with organization and seeing the "big picture," often focusing on one aspect of a project or task

54. may process information more slowly than normal, making it difficult to participate in discussions or activities that require quick thinking

55. may keep extensive written to-do lists or keep a mental checklist of their plans

Some may view the traits above as largely negative. Others may view them as simply a different way of viewing - and interacting with - the world. More on this topic can be found here ==> Aspergers: Disability or Unique Ability?

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Understanding the Mind of Your Aspie Partner

"I'm currently dating a guy who is diagnosed with Asperger’s. I don't know much about this condition. How can I understand the way he thinks? We are definitely not on the same page most of the time. I need to know more about this and how it could affect our relationship."

There are several traits associated with Asperger's (high functioning autism) that can have an effect on how the relationship develops (not all negative, of course). People with the disorder typically have underdeveloped areas in the brain that cause problems in communication, focusing on “the real world” as opposed to becoming absorbed in their own thoughts and obsessions, learning appropriate social skills and responses, and understanding the thoughts and feelings of others.

They are often extremely literal in their interpretation of others’ conversations, and have difficulty recognizing differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of what others’ say (e.g., they may not understand a joke or may take a sarcastic comment literally).

For some "Aspies," learning social skills is like learning a foreign language. They may have difficulty reading non-verbal communication that “typical” people learn without formal instruction (e.g., not understanding the appropriate distance to stand from another person when talking, how to tell when someone does not want to listen any longer, how to interpret facial expressions, etc.).

These individuals are usually highly aware of right and wrong - and will bluntly announce what is wrong. They tend to recognize others’ shortcomings, but not their own. Thus, they may come across as insensitive, selfish, or rude.

They tend to need routine and predictability, which gives them a sense of safety. Change often causes stress, and too much change can lead to a meltdown or shutdown. Changes that are stressful for them may include (a) starting a new routine (e.g., having to go a different route to work due to construction), (b) having a different supervisor at work, (c) having to do things in a different order, or (d) major changes to their environment (e.g., when a wife rearranges the furniture without consulting the Asperger's husband first).

Routines and predictability help them remain calm. Your boyfriend's thinking is likely to be totally focused on only one or two interests, about which he is very knowledgeable. Many people on the autism spectrum are interested in parts of a whole (e.g., space craft, computers, insects, drawing highly detailed scenes, designing houses, astronomy, and so on). Your boyfriend's brain is likely to be obsessed by his interest. Thus, he may talk only about it, even when others are carrying on a conversation on a different topic.

Aspies tend to notice details rather than the “whole” picture. The importance of the detail prevents them from understanding the bigger picture, so instructions may get lost in their focus on a single detail. Also, multiple instructions are extremely difficult for these individuals to retain and follow.

They are not able to access their frontal cortex or prefrontal lobe efficiently, so they must call on social skills from their memories. If a particular social skill has not been taught to them as a child, they won’t have it as an adult. Therefore, imagination, conversation, and other people’s points of view cause them great difficulty. They may be unable to realize consequences outside their way of thinking. Also, they may not be able to recognize when someone is lying to them or trying to take advantage of them.

Frustration and resultant anger often occurs due to over-stimulation of the senses or a change in routine. It is often the only response they know. Difficulty with anger-control can present problems in relationships. They tend to view things in black and white terms, which may result in angry outbursts when they don’t get their way, or when they feel threatened or overwhelmed. Some people with Asperger's bottle-up anger and turn it inward in the form of depression, never revealing where the problem is. Many are perfectionists, reacting with anger when things don’t go the way they had hoped.

One of the most difficult thinking patterns of people with Asperger's is mind-blindness, which is the lack of ability to understand the emotions, feelings, motivations and logic of others. Unfortunately, some of these individuals don't care that they don’t understand! Thus, they may behave without regard to the welfare of others. Many will only change their thinking or behavior if it is in their own interest to do so. Even then, convincing an Aspie to change his mind may be an uphill battle.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples