Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise? Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile...

Search This Blog

The Truth About Asperger’s and HFA in Adults

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.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

ASD and Problems with Executive Function

People with ASD [High Functioning Autism] often face challenges related to their ability to interpret certain social cues and skills. They may have difficulty processing large amounts of information and relating to others. One core term relating to these challenges is “executive functioning.” 
Executive function refers to a set of mental skills that are coordinated in the brain's frontal lobe. It includes the ability to curb inappropriate speech or behavior, integrate past experience with present action, manage time and attention, plan and organize, remember details, and switch focus. 

When executive function breaks down, behavior becomes poorly controlled. This can affect the individual's ability to function independently, maintain appropriate social relationships, work, and academic pursuits.

Executive function can be divided into two categories: (1) regulation, which involves taking stock of the environment and changing behavior in response to it, and (2) organization, which involves gathering information and structuring it for evaluation.

Research has identified a number of specific executive functions, which include the following:
  • ABSTRACT THINKING: Being able to understand non-literal language (e.g., sarcasm, jokes, and metaphors) and non-verbal communication (e.g., the way we get our message across apart from the words we use, tone of voice, body language, facial gestures, etc.).
  • EMOTIONAL CONTROL: The ability to control escalating emotions in order to complete a task and keep emotions to a level that is appropriate.
  • INHIBITION: The ability to “contain” the desire to do something in order to stay on task until it is finished (e.g., staying focused long enough to complete a task, thinking through problem solving, staying on a topic and avoiding going off on tangents when telling a story, etc.).
  • INITIATING: Getting started on a task (e.g., knowing where to start and what to do next, writing tasks, etc.).
  • MULTITASKING: The ability to carry out more than one cognitive process at a time (e.g., being able to perform a task while talking).
  • PLANNING AND ORGANIZING: The ability to plan and organize time, information and procedures efficiently (e.g., carrying out instructions accurately, completing tasks on time and correctly, etc.).
  • SELF-MONITORING: Being mindful, recognizing when a change is needed, and noticing when an error occurs (e.g., staying on a topic when talking, noticing changes of topics in groups, answering questions accurately, noticing when you have made a mistake, being relatively accurate in your judgment of your own and others’ behavior).
  • SHIFTING FOCUS: The ability to shift attention if something changes (e.g., being able to change how something is being done when asked, being able to see multiple possible solutions to a problem, etc.).
  • WORKING MEMORY: The ability to hold onto information in order to process it (e.g., being able to identify the main point, take all information into account, tell a cohesive story in a logical sequence, reading comprehension, and following instructions).

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Warning signs that you may be having difficulty with executive function include: (a) trouble in estimating how much time a project will take to complete, (b) initiating activities or tasks, (c) memorizing information, (d) planning projects, (e) retaining information while doing something with it (e.g., remembering a phone number while dialing), and (f) telling stories (verbally or in writing).

Executive function involves a set of interrelated skills. Thus, there's no single test to identify a problem. Instead, therapists rely on different tests to measure specific skills. Problems identified by individual tests can't predict how well people will function in complex, real-world situations. Sometimes, careful observation and trial teaching are more valuable ways of identifying and improving weak executive function.

Adults with ASD often show impairment in three main areas of executive functioning:
  1. Flexibility: Poor mental flexibility is characterized by perseverative, stereotyped behavior, and deficits in both the regulation and modulation of motor acts. Some research has suggested that people with Asperger’s experience a sort of “stuck-in-set” perseveration that is specific to the disorder, rather than a more global perseveration tendency. These deficits have been exhibited in cross-cultural samples and have been shown to persist over time.
  2. Fluency: Fluency refers to the ability to generate novel ideas and responses. Although grown-ups on the autism spectrum are largely under-represented in this area of research, findings have suggested that kids on the spectrum generate fewer novel words and ideas and produce less complex responses than matched controls.
  3. Planning: Planning refers to a complex, dynamic process in which a sequence of planned actions must be developed, monitored, re-evaluated and updated. Adults on the spectrum demonstrate impairment on tasks requiring planning abilities relative to typically functioning controls, with this impairment maintained over time.

Generally speaking, adults with ASD show relatively enhanced performance on tasks that do not require “mentalizing” (e.g., use of desire and emotion words, sequencing behavioral pictures, the recognition of basic facial emotional expressions, etc.). In contrast, these adults typically demonstrate impaired performance on tasks that do require mentalizing (e.g., false beliefs, use of belief and idea words, sequencing mentalistic pictures, recognizing complex emotions, etc.).

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism  

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder


Yes. I was scrolling down for a reply to state that one cannot talk about EF issues in this population without also discussing the same symptoms on ADHD. Based on EF symptoms alone, is there any particular symptom that can distinguish between ASD and ADHD? It’s okay if there isn’t; they obviously share genes, and so some expressions could manifest similarly, but I found it helpful to see a distinction between social issues experienced by autists (developmental issue with no self awareness of social errors) and ADHDers (better understanding of rules but difficulty controlling impulses, feeling bad about screwing a social interaction and trying to make a repair). Something like that would be useful here.

Of course, where it gets really confusing is when someone can identify with both (doing okay socially in some respects, like finding a way to be interested enough to get to know a person that you can conjure up questions to ask them as a way of continuing the conversation instead of monologue get, albeit with effort, but still hate small talk and fakeness, be blunt, only come to life when a pet topic comes up, and so on. Like, some sort of strange hybrid where you can be aware that you might have run afoul of a social rule, even if only because you have learned to recognize a particular response as negative, and know that a repair is required, but then dig yourself a deeper hole with a clueless repair. If your energy is good, you may even feel proficient in conversation and feel like it went well, only to wonder why those people have ghosted you later.

It’s maddening not to be able to tease this out and, even if it is comorbid, all the more maddening because it would seem to complicate improving at this. I suppose if ADHD meds are successful, then this might improve those aspects of social issues, leaving more apparent that which is more directly a result of ASD.

Popular Posts

Chat for Adults with HFA and Aspergers