When we meet somebody, we are unknowingly interpreting their social gestures including their non-verbal communication, their facial expressions and their voice, so that we can react appropriately. Individuals with Asperger syndrome can sometimes find it difficult to assess social situations that others may find easy. Some people describe this as not having the natural capacity to comprehend and react to expressive gestures, resulting in social awkwardness.
Asperger’s is a genetic variance in the hard wiring of the brain, leading to seeing the world uniquely, in contrast to the way others do. Individuals with more severe Asperger attributes tend to find it harder to relate to, and connect with, others, which without help may lead to social nervousness and isolation.
Individuals who have Asperger’s syndrome have a normal, or better than expected, IQ. Some people with severe Asperger syndrome characteristics don’t see themselves as having autism, nor consider themselves to have special needs. Asperger’s is generally a “concealed” condition, as it may not be evident to others.
The personality traits identified with Asperger’s are varied but usually include several of the following characteristics: social difficulties, intense focus on particular interests, a high need for routines, speech and language quirks, clumsiness and sensory sensitivity.
Individuals with Asperger’s commonly find it difficult to express themselves emotionally and socially. Small talk is more of a challenge, knowing what to talk about or how to start and end a conversation. Due to their average to higher than average IQ, they may use complex words and phrases, but come across as socially awkward due to their lack of physical gestures or facial expressions with minimal eye contact. Aspies may find it difficult to understand other people’s emotions and thoughts, so they may stand too close or choose an inappropriate conversation topic.
Specific characteristics are:
Independent, unique thinking – People with Asperger’s tend to work better as an individual, and allowing time for a balance between group activity and individual work is appreciated. Teamwork is often a challenge, and peer pressure may not be as influential. As Tony Attwood says “The person usually has a strong desire to seek knowledge, truth, and perfection, with a different set of priorities than would be expected with other people…the person values being creative rather than cooperative”.
Visual, three-dimensional thinking – Some are visual masterminds, which suits valuable and inventive applications, yet auditory data may not be retained, so the information in visual form is useful.
Rational versus feeling – A sensible way to deal with critical thinking is a quality, however tackling an issue can be the overriding priority rather than satisfying the social or emotional needs of others. Direction might be required when expressing feelings, which occasionally can overwhelm and cause anxiety.
The significance of schedules and principles – To attempt to make the world less confusing and unpleasant, and to limit change, individuals with Asperger’s may take to specific standards, customs, and timetables. Consequently, they can be extremely faithful and have a strong sense of justice. However, any change in schedules may cause distrust and anxiety. Advanced notice with concrete and concise explanations of the need for changes are helpful.
Solid specific interests – People with Asperger’s may have an extreme enthusiasm for a topic, hobby, or collection, which can evolve or remain fixed. Aspies can be incredibly educated on key topics of interest, to their significant advantage. These interests and aptitudes can develop into a course of study or work in their specialised topic. For example, many of the greatest musicians have had Asperger traits.
Focus and determination – The Aspies capacity to concentrate on tasks for long stretches without interference are highly valued. They may have the ability to focus on a particular assignment, for example, a game or music. However, this concentration can be a diversion, so strategies for refocusing on different needs might be required.
Attention to detail – Some individuals see or recall mistakes or points of interest at a glance, so quality control is a strength. However, this approach can be viewed as pedantic, and without updates the “master plan” can end up noticeably lost.
Memory – Some individuals have an incredible memory, although short-term memory may not be good. For instance, the memory of correct points of interest, particularly for visual material or within a select specific field, might be unusually high. However, people’s names may be forgotten, objects such as car keys may be misplaced, or when solving problems, reminders may be needed of relevant facts.
Higher adaptive insight – Some individuals have greater adaptive insight, that is, the capacity to discover significance in disarray and take care of new issues, to draw derivations and comprehend the connections between different ideas. Individuals with Asperger’s have an average or higher than average IQ.
Trustworthiness and unwavering loyalty – People with Asperger personalities tend to demonstrate these values and qualities to a high degree. But they can also be very blunt and speak their minds even when inappropriate. They are also very literal thinkers so they may have difficulty initially understanding jokes, metaphors, and sarcasm.
Political strength – People with severe Asperger qualities appreciate being separated from everyone else, and tend not to be influenced by peer pressure to change their perspectives. They are likely to be social manipulators.
Sensory sensitivity – Some people with Asperger’s have extreme sensory sensitivities. These can occur in one or all of the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, body awareness (proprioception) and balance (vestibular), People with SPD may experience periods of hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) and hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to sensory stimulation. Individuals with SPD who are hypersensitive to stimuli may avoid certain experiences such as loud places, whereas individuals with SPD who are hyposensitive may seek out sensory experiences such as making loud noises. These sensitivities may also assist and hone their creative talents, for example in music with perfect pitch. Using earplugs or sunglasses can help avoid sensory overload (sound and sight, respectively).
Managing Asperger’s syndrome with JettProof
The JettProof range of products aids those with Asperger’s syndrome to live a more fulfilling life in a variety of ways, such as increased body awareness by providing proprioceptive feedback from the muscles throughout the body to the brain.
A neurotypical person can move a part of their body, such as a hand or foot, and without looking can know what that part is doing and where it is in space. Proprioception makes this easy to do. Without proprioception, the brain cannot recognise what the body part is doing, and the process must be carried out in more conscious and calculated steps, using vision to compensate for the lost feedback. A recent example was a woman with autism who needed to look at her feet to navigate stairs, not just to see the stairs, but because she did not have the proprioceptive feedback to know the position of her feet.
JettProof aids the nervous system by providing sensory input to the skin commonly referred to as “deep pressure” which is good for concentration as it unjumbles thought processes that are happening in the brain, which in turn means clearer thinking and a higher self-awareness is achieved. Deep pressure also allows deeper active listening and provides a release of stress to avoid meltdowns commonly found in people with Asperger’s syndrome.
Tips for improved communication
These tips help to ensure clear communication and realistic expectations and avoid sensory overload:
- Give immediate positive feedback, for example, say ‘well done’ or ‘thanks for doing ……’
- Use concrete, specific terms
- Discuss one topic at a time, ask for one task at a time
- Provide visual material when sharing information
- Be aware that a person may need to take a break away from noise, conversation or other sensory stimulation
- Use lists and systems as reminders, don’t mistake inaction for laziness or lack of interest
- Recognise when you can’t do something and say so
- Stay calm, take a break when frustrated or anxious, and seek help and advice when needed
- Think positively, don’t take offence at inappropriate words, body language or tone of voice
- Check what is meant by the other person to maintain clear communication, don’t think the worst, don’t mistake frustration or anxiety in others for them being angry with you
The communication tips listed above can be useful in any situation, with anyone, irrespective of Asperger personality traits.