Inside Asperger’s World: A Closer Look at Special Interests

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Uncover the intricate aspects of Asperger’s syndrome, delving into the distinct social challenges and communication nuances. Explore the defining features of an individual with Asperger’s syndrome. Explore the unique world of special interests and navigate the fine line between Aspergers and Autism. Join me on a journey through the traits that characterize individuals on the autism spectrum.

If you have Asperger’s syndrome, there are specific characteristics and challenges in behavior and social interactions. Today, no one receives the diagnosis of Asperger’s anymore; instead, they are categorized under the broader term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), encompassing a wider range of symptoms and severity levels. Aspies, as individuals with Asperger’s are often called, were once considered to have a milder form of autism. But what defining features of an individual with Asperger’s syndrome, an Aspie? I’ll try to clarify that today.

Difficulties in social interaction. An Aspie may struggle in social situations, interactions, and understanding social rules and norms. Initiating and maintaining conversations can be problematic. Understanding non-verbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions, may be challenging. Aspies may have difficulty grasping irony and other implied aspects of language. For Aspies, interpreting subtle signals is challenging, often leading to misunderstandings. Building and maintaining friendships can be incredibly difficult. Understanding social norms and rules is tough, making it challenging to initiate and participate constructively in a conversation. Many Aspies may prefer to be more introverted or simply enjoy solitude. I suspect that many Aspies welcomed the idea of isolating a bit during the Covid-19 pandemic. Theory of mind refers to the ability to understand that others have their own thoughts, feelings, intentions, and perspectives that may differ from one’s own. Aspies may have a limited ability to understand and predict others’ behaviors and motivations, making it challenging to empathize with others. They may also experience discomfort and overstimulation in social situations, which can be overwhelming and stressful.

Limited interests and repetitive behavior patterns. Developing intense interests in specific subjects and dedicating much time and energy to them is common among Aspies. This could be because engaging in familiar activities provides predictability and routine, reducing life stress and creating a sense of calm.

Focus on details. Aspies often have the ability to notice and remember details in a way others do not. They may have a meticulous and in-depth understanding of specific subjects or areas. This can be a strength, as they often notice things that others overlook. However, difficulty letting go of details and becoming stuck in thought patterns can occur. This may lead to missing the overall purpose or goal of an activity or task.

Communication difficulties. This is essentially an extension of the challenges faced in social situations. Many Aspies struggle to understand and use non-literal or abstract language expressions. Humor, metaphors, and irony are examples of such challenges. They may also have an unusual or formal way of speaking, with some sounding a bit robotic as they struggle to use the subtle nuances of everyday communication.

Sensory sensitivities. Aspies may be oversensitive to sensory stimuli such as sound, light, touch, smell, and taste. Personally, I find certain sounds, like the hum of fluorescent lights, fans, or pumps, disturbing. Even a simple back rub from my wife can be incredibly uncomfortable and unpleasant, sometimes even painful. For some, maintaining good hygiene can be challenging due to aversions like toothpaste being the most disgusting thing on earth or shower droplets feeling like a thousand needles. (Regarding showers, I have two tips that might help if you have such issues: 1. If you have a low-flow nozzle, replace it, or try removing the nozzle and spraying with just the hose. 2. If possible, try a ceiling shower that provides ‘tropical rain’; these have larger droplets than all low-flow options and feel completely different.)

So, what sets an Aspie apart from someone with Autism? They are overlapping diagnoses, and as mentioned, no one receives an Asperger’s diagnosis anymore. However, a couple of key differences are commonly discussed: Differences in language ability – an Aspie typically has normal or above-average language skills and often develops an advanced vocabulary. People with autism may have varying levels of language difficulties, ranging from a lack of speech to limited ability to use language in social situations. Intelligence level – Aspies usually have a normal to high intelligence level, while autism can occur across the entire spectrum of intelligence.

If I had received my diagnosis ten years earlier, I probably would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Today, equating Asperger’s with Autism seems obvious to me. Essentially, they have the same challenges in social situations, and the similarities are striking. They usually share the same basic needs for assistance in daily life, even though the spectrum is broad. Of course, not all Aspies need special housing, but for some, especially when young and inexperienced, it might have been entirely right.


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