Patients with Asperger's syndrome can have difficult lives, typically with difficulties in understanding and processing language. People may find out they have Asperger's as a child, or during later life, but in either case, sufferers frequently report feeling overwhelmed by the world. Other people, it seems, intuitively know how to hold conversations, but people with Asperger's syndrome struggle to build a rapport. As such, this article will provide some advice on how to help people live comfortably with Asperger's.
What is Asperger's syndrome?
Asperger's syndrome is a type of autism, diagnosed towards the higher end of the autism spectrum. Asperger's differs from autism, in that Asperger's sufferers don’t have the same learning disabilities as people with autism.
Rather, they have specific learning difficulties and tend to have trouble with conversations. This comes in the form of having difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.
Very often they will take everything literally and believe people to mean precisely what they say. They sometimes struggle to understand jokes or sarcasm, have difficulty dealing with abstract concepts, can misinterpret tones of voice or vagueness, and misread facial expressions.
This is not to say, however, that a person with Asperger's syndrome has poor language skills or intelligence - they often have above-average intelligence. Frequently, though, they will suffer from echolalia, feeling the need to repeat what they heard the person, they are talking to, just say.
Poor coordination can cause undue stress during play for people with Asperger's syndrome.
Patients with Asperger's - dealing with emotions
People with Asperger's typically don’t easily understand others’ intentions or feelings, and often can’t properly expect their emotions. Often, they appear socially insensitive, isolate themselves from others due to feeling overloaded, or behave ‘strangely’ (in ways deemed socially inappropriate).
These difficulties can often lead to loneliness when victims of Asperger's have a genuine desire to make friends but do not understand how to go about doing so. Likewise, they often find it difficult to function outside of pre-determined routines, since these can provide a sense of normalcy and a structure they can understand. They may feel uncomfortable going to work or school via a different route, eating different food for a particular meal, or being told to do something in a way they haven’t been taught is ‘right’.
Frequently, patients with Asperger's develop highly focused, high-intensity interests in specific things, such as trains or art. With help, this is often channelled into productive work/study or volunteering, which people with Asperger's then consider to be a vital part of their mental well-being.
Supporting patients with Asperger's
Asperger's is not a curable condition - those who have it will live with it all their lives. Because of this, it is important to have methods of supporting them in their day-to-day activities.
The most important thing to remember when interacting with a person with Asperger's is to present information as clearly as possible. Talking clearly and giving them time to process what you have said properly is key.
In terms of information presentation, patients with Asperger's often find it easier to process things visually. Related to this, the way in which the minds of people with Asperger's process information, results in them taking a long time to make, what we would consider, simple decisions such as what to eat for lunch (their brain, does not automatically register a lot of information as unimportant). To help with this, restricting the options people have to choose from and creating routines that leave as little decision making as possible can be beneficial.
Helping patients with Asperger's at work
One of the main difficulties regarding work, for people with Asperger's, is that if they learn to do something a certain way it is near impossible for them to do it any other way. As such, if they learn an inefficient or faulty method for doing something, they will continue doing it that way even when they recognise that it doesn't work.
Sitting down with them and guiding them through the correct way of doing things is the best way of helping them break out of the loop of doing things a certain way.
Helping patients with Asperger's play
Particularly important with children, who are encouraged to play games and be active, is that people with Asperger's often have poor coordination skills. This can cause undue stress when playing games or doing tasks that require coordinated physical effort. Having an awareness of this can help reduce stress if you use it to come up with alternative activities.
At Flexebee, we offer a range of courses covering all aspects of the autism spectrum. In our Autism Awareness e-learning course, we discuss in depth what Asperger's syndrome is and how to identify common characteristics. We offer management methods and practical support for care workers that look after or live with patients suffering from the condition. Discover more courses like Autism Awareness on our Care Skills training page.