7 Signs Someone May Have Asperger's According to Experts
About 1 in 44 children has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the CDC, although health professionals say the number could be much higher if early symptoms are missed. "A lot of adults with autism feel lost," says Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente. "It'd be great if physicians had some more general training and awareness. Just like with any other condition, they really have to take into account that particular person in their office and adjust what they're doing to meet the needs of that patient." Here are seven signs of Asperger's, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Social awkwardness and difficulty understanding social cues could be a sign of Aspergers, experts say. "With autism, social skills are impaired because of communication; the individual does not know the right things to say," says Mariela Tapia Hernandez, MEd, RBT. "It causes challenges with interpreting social cues, facial expressions, and tone of voice. They might not understand personal space and stand too close or talk too loud. These traits differ from someone with social anxiety."
Anxiety is a common symptom of Aspergers. "Most people can experience frustration, stress, or anxiety in everyday life situations," says Kim Davis, MS. "There are people who learn how to cope so well that stress or anxiety has little impact on them. But for others, including individuals with ASD, stress and anxiety can cripple them to varying degrees. Remember, situations that create anxiety in one individual may not for another."
Repetitive motor behaviors (for example twirling or hand flapping) could be a sign of Asperger's. Known as "stimming," some doctors believe these behaviors help people with Asperger's to calm themselves and cope with overwhelming emotions. "There's been a changing in thought about repetitive behaviors," says Benjamin Yerys, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. "I am a personal believer that the more research we would do on it, I think we would find that there is a lot of positive valence and emotion associated with repetitive behaviors."
Hypersensitivity To Noise
"Sensory issues can be triggered almost any time or anywhere on a daily basis," says Davis. "Whether the individual is experiencing an anxious moment or not, sensory integration challenges can overpower a person's ability to control him or herself."
Research from the University of Chicago Medical Center shows that abnormal connections between neurons could be responsible for Asperger's-related motor coordination issues. "We have identified synaptic abnormalities that may play a role in motor problems typically seen in children with autism," says Christian Hansel, PhD, professor of neurobiology at the University of Chicago. "Autism is sometimes described as intense world syndrome — too many, too strong excitatory connections that lead to enhanced sensory input. The results of our study might shed light on this phenomenon."
Hyperfocus is a sign of Asperger's, sometimes referred to as an autism "superpower." "Our study confirms our hypothesis that people with autism have higher perceptual capacity compared to the typical population," says Professor Nilli Lavie, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL. "This can only be seen once the task becomes more demanding, with more information to process. In the more challenging task conditions, people with autism are able to perceive significantly more information than the typical adult… There are clearly careers, such as in IT, that can benefit from employing people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders."
People with Asperger's may experience difficulty having conversations, experts say. "Clinicians interacting with individuals who have Asperger syndrome could not have failed to notice that their expressive and receptive language is almost always far from typical," say David Skuse, professor of behavioral and brain sciences at University College London, and William Mandy, lecturer in the university's department of clinical psychology. "Many individuals with excellent formal verbal abilities and high verbal intelligence quotients struggle to set a context for the subject matter of a conversation. They overuse figures of speech; they lack the ability to discuss subjects with coherence, so their conversations tend to run off in unexpected directions; they make overly literal interpretations of idioms and — especially in those who also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — they struggle to initiate or sustain conversations."