Asperger’s syndrome is one of a group of conditions known as pervasive developmental disorders, or PDDs. Autism is also a PDD, albeit a more severe manifestation than Asperger’s. Until recently, adults living with Asperger’s (AS) had received very little attention or support.
Slowly, that is starting to change. More research is being done and as we better understand the symptoms of Asperger’s we are becoming more adept at diagnosis. Our doctors and therapists have developed tests to differentiate Asperger’s from other PDDs and related psychological disorders.
Asperger’s was first described in 1944 by Austrian pediatrician Dr. Hans Asperger. He noticed that some of his young patients seemed withdrawn and uncommunicative. They displayed average or above average intelligence, in some cases showing exceptional talent in one specific area. Clearly, there were strengths and weaknesses associated with the condition. Dr. Asperger wrote extensively about his observations, but his work received scant attention from his peers.
It wasn’t until the 1980s when an English doctor published a series of case studies that AS was given further attention. In 1994, Asperger’s was officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) It has only been in the last decade or so that diagnostic norms and standardized testing have been developed.
What Is Asperger’s In AdultsDo you have a developmental disorder, or are you just different? “Act normally” we are told growing up. But who defines “normal”? What is considered acceptable behavior in one part of the world may be taboo in other cultures. The language, customs and social norms a hundred years ago are very different from those we are used to today.
What it is safe to say, is that while the ways that adults communicate with one another may vary, there is always communication. Relations between people may differ based on gender, age, class and so on. However, people want and need to relate to each other. We strive to find our place in the social structure of our community, regardless of what culture or time period we live in.
There are some individuals who don’t want to (or are unable to) be a part of the human hive. They may lack the necessary social skills to interact with members of their community or even with their own family. In social settings, they feel out of place and awkward. To others, these individuals may come across as strange, selfish or even rude.
This behavior is symptomatic of Asperger’s syndrome. Some of these adults with aspergers, or adult “Aspies” may never have been diagnosed with AS but have lived with it all their lives. They are often of above average intelligence, and may show exceptional talent in their field of expertise. They may find two-way conversations impossible, preferring to ramble on at length about something they themselves find especially fascinating.
Social situations make them uncomfortable and they often act awkwardly or even inappropriately. This often interferes with their ability to form lasting friendships, and even maintain relations with close family members. Physical manifestations of Asperger’s Syndrome include an unwillingness to make eye contact with other people and an inability to understand non-verbal cues. A nudge and a wink or rolling your eyes at someone with Asperger’s is unlikely to elicit any response.
More extreme symptoms are highly ritualized or repetitive patterns of behavior. Pulling at one’s hair or wringing one’s hands can be compulsive activities that may help a doctor diagnose adult Asperger’s. Schedules are very important to those with AS. Any disruption to their daily routine can cause extreme anxiety.
How To Diagnose Asperger’s in Adults?There are a variety of methods that doctors and therapists use to assist them in their diagnosis of AS. These will involve interviews and questions about a person’s past and current relationships. Any previous psychological evaluations will be taken into account. Sometimes a family member may be invited to sit in on the session to give feedback as well.
Naturally, the therapist will carefully observe the reactions and behavior of the patient during their time together. It is critical that the therapist have experience with other adults that have been diagnosed with Asperger’s. A child or teenager will exhibit somewhat different symptoms from an adult with AS. The longer an individual has lived with the syndrome, the more likely they are to have altered their behavior and routine to accommodate the condition.
Self-diagnosis is now fairly common in individuals with Asperger’s. It has only recently reemerged as a developmental disorder that is receiving research funding and media attention. People are reading about AS and seeing the symptoms in themselves. An immense array of information and opinion can be found on the internet. Individuals who think they may have AS will often find checklists, online tests and so forth.
It is not uncommon for a spouse or family member to recognize signs of Asperger’s syndrome in a loved one. They may suggest that the person speak with a family doctor about arranging for a professional diagnosis and formal AS testing.
Adult Asperger’s TestFormal tests for Asperger’s syndrome involves finding a specially-trained therapist or neurologist with first-hand experience treating adults with Asperger’s. Your own doctor is unlikely to be able to conduct tests for Asperger’s but may be able to recommend a specialist that you are comfortable with. If not, a local autism support center should be able to provide a referral.
Asperger’s syndrome was only recognized and listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) in 1994. Hence, there are relatively few experienced therapists and standardized tests available for suspected AS cases. The criteria that are included in the DSM IV are particularly concerned with “qualitative impairment in social interaction”.
Examples of these behaviors would include an inability to comprehend and utilize common nonverbal cues like a smile, a wink, or a pat on the shoulder. Individuals who look away during conversation or make inappropriate (or no) facial expressions are displaying possible signs of Asperger’s disorder.
Body posture is also carefully observed when testing for adult AS. Does the patient seem hunched over? Are his arms crossed and his legs tucked under the chair? A therapist who is conducting a test for adult Asperger’s will be watching a patient’s body language while listening to their spoken language.
Short of a diagnosis by a medical professional, there are ways to get a quick and dirty assessment of where a subject might fall on the spectrum. Online tests for Asperger’s in adults have helped many thousands of people seeking immediate (albeit preliminary and qualified) answers. One of the most popular of these is our very own Adult Asperger’s Test. While these tests should never be taken as anything more than educational or informative, they can help with a certain amount of guidance in determining if a subject may be an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome. Our Asperger’s test for adults, thorough and well-respected, can be found here.
There will also be tests that focus on intelligence, pencil and paper and computer-based exercises incorporated into the testing program. As we learn more about the condition, the tests and diagnostic tools that are available to doctors will surely improve.
The set of ten questions is way too simple to determine anything exactly. Q1-I find it easier to make a stare eye contact Q2 I am 62 yrs old, leave alone in Austria, my sister and mom in Slovenia, daughter in Germany, so how can I rely on family for social contact? Nr 3 should be a multiple choice (five choices) Q4 Do you think that every time somebody will tell you, that you were rude? As an old Aspi you learn to watch for reactions (hard to read), but the quota gets better with experience.And some of us certainly have some spectrum of “feeling” but not about everything. Hate is probably the strongest of them, because we think that people make our life harder on purpose. I really don’t have any real good friends, just a some friends (4-7) Question about being organized- Yes- except when we are talking about horses- absolute order there, especially in training. The question about math and puzzles is an obvious one- as are some other ones – so if I want to “prove” that I am Aspi- that’s easy People described me as eccentric years back, now I know how to behave “normal”, so it does not happen anymore. Anxious (again an obvious question!) that depends on when, where and situation. People don’t complain about monopolizing the conversation, but some walk away, with an excuse, so even Aspi noticed it was to much this time. Question about rule- how am I suppose to know what rules the others have? Every Aspi has a routine, ritual or such, not just gestures- I try not to walk on lines on pavement, and count strides — good is if the nr of strides is divisible by 9 or 11, in worst case only with 3. Trouble with sleep I don’t have at all, but I do wake up (on purpose!) early in the morning- so this question -are two questions. I hear bad, so I am not sensitive to loud noise, but my eyes are sensitive to light.- No question for that as alternative!? Not every Aspi is poor at sports- I make money as professional sportsman. It came out I have a 38% (first time47%) to be an Aspi. I think you should put more thought into this- the matter is pretty complex., to be answered with yes, no and maybe Regards Mitja
I completely agree with Mitja:
since about 8 years I have diagnosed myself (being a medical professional, a specialist of course) as an Aspi, with at present a score on the “general” 50 question Asperger quiz, of 35.
(8 years ago this was 42! So improvement is possible especially after the age of circa fifty.)
Moreover, I had the luck as a child and teenager of having a one year older “normal” brother whom I could blindly follow and copy, noticing that he seemed to be aware of all sorts of things, I did not have a clue about.
The fact that his son (at 28 years) continued displaying the same sort of for me very familiar symptoms (without improving, probably because he did not have an example like I had) set me on the way to AS and was therefore able to point out to my brother what the problem could be. Indeed some five years ago, after a period of denial he was diagnosed as a clearcut Aspi. Fortunately he now has a coach, which seems to be helpful.)
What I would like to point out is that the present Adult Asperger test is way too simple and uninformative, especially since few people do have a (much) younger family member with AS and have had the possibility (like me) to partly train in psychology during their studies.
This may be of help towards improving your adult quiz.
P.S. by the way, like Mitja, these days I can pass as rather normal, even fooling strangers to the point that they do not believe that I could be an Asperger. My inner feelings however as well as my easily irritated senses have still not really changed, so it may be just a matter of behavioural adaption and acquiring as much experience as possible.
My wife and my mother believe I have this disorder. I know something is wrong, but I am in denial.What should I do.
Hi I’m worried about my husband I think he has some type of disorder he talks to himself he plays with his finger tips and when concentrating on something he doesn’t realise what he is doing like skipping on the spot and repeats. Himself 3 times and it drivin me crazy
My therapist says that I am a textbook Aspi. However, at age 40, I have never been diagnosed. She is going to send me for the testing but she is sure and so am I. I can take over conversations about topics that I love and I am one sided with my verbosity. In social situations, I am awkward and quiet, yet I excel at business presentations about subjects that I like or am versed. My former employer called me rigid and my staff hated me and said that I acted like a robot. My children felt unloved because I enacted strict rules on them like not walking hard on the floor or slamming down the toilet lid, letting cabinet doors slam, etc. I can’t bear loud noises or bright lights. I am a recluse. I try to make friends but if they don’t like my subject of reading Stephen King or talking about grammar, I really don’t feel like talking to them. I am not spontaneous and prefer to stay inside versus going out trying new things. Routine and order are my best friends and allies. My biggest issue is that I don’t use social cues when dealing with people. Someone may smile at me when walking by and while I forget to smile on the outside at them, I am smiling on the inside. I get labeled as mean and distant but what is sad is I am a very feeling person and am very sensitive. I have such severe social anxiety that I don’t go out much and have a fear of most social interactions; especially unfamiliar situations. I am on a schedule and do not like changing my rituals. I am a strict rule follower and I can not understand why people choose not to follow simple rules like not wearing their seatbelts or picking up their dog poo or putting their dogs on a leash. Either I talk too much or not at all. I can not keep steady relationships or jobs and have just given up on both because they always end disastrous. My former employer seems to understand me and she contracts me out to write policy, grants, etc. for the non-profit agency that she oversees. However, she no longer asks me to work in the office because I seem aloof and distant to people and seem to make them just as uncomfortable as they make me. I have a medical support dog who is my constant companion and he soothes my anxieties and keeps me from being lonely and depressed. I am sad that I did not get diagnosed as a child and I am sad that I have lived as an misunderstood Aspie for soo long. I am happy that there is more attention and help for adults like me.