Most individuals with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism (HFA) are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although frequently far below their actual level of skills and qualification. They are most successful in careers that require focus on details, but have limited social interaction with colleagues (e.g., engineering, computer sciences).
They also do remarkably well in “supported employment,” which is a system of support that allows people to have paid employment within the community, sometimes as part of a mobile crew, or in a job specifically developed for the person on the autism spectrum.
Compared to the general population, fewer individuals with Asperger’s or HFA marry or have children or live in a metropolitan area. This trend is changing as more diagnosed men and women are forming relationships with others on the autism spectrum.
This “autistic culture” is based on an accepting belief that autism is a “unique way of thinking” and not a disorder that needs to be “fixed.” People with Asperger’s and HFA are often attracted to others with the disorder because they share interests or obsessions and the compatibility of personality types.
Diagnosis as an adult can lead to a variety of benefits. One can gain a better understanding of himself or herself. Many people on the spectrum have suffered from mental health problems or have been misdiagnosed as having mental health problems (e.g., schizophrenia). A firm diagnosis can be a relief, because it allows these individuals to learn about their disorder and to understand where and why they have difficulties for the first time.
It is also helpful to meet others within the autism community by learning about their experiences and sharing your own. Support is a good step in seeking treatment and relieving anxieties, helping to maintain a healthier lifestyle while dealing with the disorder.
Most individuals with Asperger’s and HFA are capable of independent living, either entirely on their own, or semi-independently in their own home or apartment with assistance in solving major problems. This assistance can be provided by parents, a professional agency, or another type of provider.
For parents who choose to have their adult child live at home, government funds are available (e.g., Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid waivers). Information about these programs can be found through the Social Security Administration.
Getting a diagnosis for Asperger’s or HFA as a grown-up is not easy. It can be hard to convince a physician that a diagnosis is relevant or even necessary. The typical route for seeking a diagnosis is to visit a physician and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.
When bringing up the topic with a primary care physician, make sure that the appointment is set only for this specific reason, because this is an issue that needs everyone’s full attention. Begin by explaining why Asperger’s or HFA is a concern.
The spectrum is broad, and no two people with the disorder exhibit the same traits or challenges. Also, no one individual will have ALL the traits – but will be affected in some way within three areas: (1) social communication, (2) social understanding, and (3) flexibility of thought. Specific traits may include the following:
- An obsession with rigid routines
- Difficulty in group situations
- Difficulty understanding gestures, body language and facial expressions
- Finding small talk and chatting very difficult
- Having difficulties organizing their life
- Having difficulty choosing topics to talk about
- May choose not to socialize very much
- May not be socially motivated because they find communication difficult
- May not have many friends
- Not choosing appropriate topic to talk about
- Problems making plans for the future
- Problems understanding double meanings
- Problems with sequencing tasks
- Severe distress if routines are disrupted
- Taking what people say very literally
- Unaware of what is socially appropriate
In spite of these challenges, many individuals with Asperger’s and HFA work effectively in mainstream jobs, live independently, and enjoy successful marriages while raising their children.
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