Did you know that quite a few of our famous creators and academics are said to have had Asperger’s Syndrome, such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Vincent van Gogh, even Michael Jackson … and many others?
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Once upon a time Asperger’s Syndrome was considered a disorder all on its own. However in 2013 the condition found its way into the category of the Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Nevertheless, many people continue to isolate it as its very own disorder, perhaps because it is at the mild end of the spectrum.
It’s actually a social communication disorder, where an older child or teenager may experience some, but not all, of the following characteristics.
What does Asperger’s in Teenagers Look Like?
Firstly, while most teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome would like to be friendly and sociable with others, they lack the intuitive ability to understand the unwritten and ever-changing rules that govern human behaviour, and in comprehending other people’s non-verbal signals, such as facial expressions, body language and tone of voice.
Because of these difficulties, it can be a problem for them to form and maintain social relationships with others who may be unaware of their challenges. They may not “get it” when an adult is angry with them.
Children and teenagers with Asperger’s also tend to express very few emotions on their faces, and may use few gestures to express themselves. Because of the lack of emotional expression, they tend to be seen as emotionally robotic.
Regarding their verbal communication, such teenagers tend to have trouble taking turns in conversations, and, for example, may want to do all the talking without appearing interested in what anyone else is saying.
Your teenager with Asperger’s may struggle to notice the reaction of people listening to them. They are often fixated on a special topic, interest, or object, and want to talk about that, but have difficulty talking about a range of topics. They appear to be focused only on their own needs.
They do take things literally, hence may not understand when someone is joking with them, or being sarcastic, or teasing them. Consequently, they tend to be confused by language.
Nevertheless, teenagers with Asperger’s may learn some of the rules of social interaction and appear to socialise quite well at times, but watching and keeping to the rules all the time may be exhausting for them. They improve with age though, assuming they learn skills and methods of understanding and coping.
Resistant to Change
Asperger’s children and teenagers are resistant to any type of change.
They like to follow routines and to know what they are doing day after day, including where they are doing it and with whom. They have difficulty in adjusting to any new situation and react badly or withdraw into themselves when conditions are changed without any form of transition.
Because of their ongoing challenges in social communication situations, the child with Asperger’s tends to get easily upset, frustrated and overwhelmed. On occasions due to their sensory sensitivities, they can display sudden aggressive behaviour.
As they grow older, and enter their teenage years, they may become aware of their differences, and experience ongoing anxiety which also may lead to feelings of depression.
Asperger’s in teenagers can lead to eating disorders. Your teenager may be very fussy and only eat a certain kind of food, a certain colour of food, and in a certain way.
Helping Teenagers with Asperger’s
Each person who is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD) experiences different symptoms and therefore the treatment is different for each individual person. Medication is rarely given for Asperger’s itself, but may be used for any underlying disorder such as ADHD, anxiety, or depression.
While there is no known prevention or cure for Asperger’s syndrome, there are a number of ways to help your teenager. Such assistance may include helping them to cope with change, helping them manage their anger and frustration, and helping them build social communication skills.
Additionally, parents, in particular, may find it very helpful to understand the symptoms that their child displays, to learn to cope with meltdowns, and to implement specific strategies that will support their teenager.
Support is at hand, so if you and your teenager are having difficulty in coping, please make an appointment to see me. I have seen wonderful positive changes in children as they grow into young adults and useful and accepted members of the community, capable of leading constructive lives.
Author: Dr Jan Philamon, PhD, BA (Hons) Psychology, C Teach, JP (Qual) Qld, MAPS.
As a registered teacher and psychologist, Dr Jan Philamon has a wealth of experience with children, however she enjoys helping individuals and couples at any stage of life. Jan aims to help people to be the best they can be and find success: improved wellbeing, gaining a sense of empowerment that allows them to actively problem solve and manage obstacles constructively, as well as positively plan and achieve their personal and career goals.
To make an appointment with psychologist and hypnotherapist Dr Jan Philamon, try Online Booking – Loganholme or Online Booking – Mt Gravatt. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129, or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.