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The Challenges of Being an Adult with Asperger's

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 5/12/2011

Living life as an adult who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome is accompanied by a unique set of challenges. Read on to find out how to deal with problems that may arise in daily life.

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    Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Problems in Adults

    Adults with Asperger’s syndrome normally experience a number of problems in their social lives. While they may desire to be friendly and take part of social events, they are often clumsy in their attempts to mix with others. Social challenges include the following:

    • Asperger’s adults generally lack social skills and find it difficult to understand body language. This means they may not understand when a person needs to move on or is bored with a topic of conversation. They also misinterpret personal space and may stand too close for comfort.
    • Facial expression does not come naturally and they may appear bored or uninterested. Eye contact is avoided.
    • Speech is often overly formal and may sound stilted or monotonous.
    • Language is interpreted literally, and figures of speech are not understood.

    It is possible for adults to learn social skills, and with therapy, practice and assistance they can learn to hold a two-way conversation. Women often find it easier to learn social skills and often do this by mimicking those around them. While socializing may never be an intuitive exercise, they can approach it academically and achieve enough success to function in society. Family members can help with social training by holding practice sessions and showing the person how to stand and what expressions to put on their face.

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    Asperger’s Syndrome and Domestic Problems in Adults

    Some adults with Asperger’s syndrome marry while others live alone or in a group home. Whatever their living circumstances, there are potential challenges that may include these problems:

    • People with Asperger’s often eat a limited range of foods which may become restrictive in a family or marriage setting. They dislike certain textures or tastes and have little inclination to try new foods.
    • Affection does not come easily, and the person may come across as aloof and cold.
    • Routine is important to Asperger’s adults and any deviation can cause an emotional meltdown.
    • They may seem to have little motivation to perform household chores and manage the tasks that accompany daily life.

    Recognizing the domestic problems is part of the solution. Depending on individual circumstances, those involved with the Asperger’s person can help by actively working on problem areas with them. This may involve setting up menus or going shopping for some different foods that are similar to those that are liked. Affection is an ongoing issue in many Asperger’s people, especially men. It can be helpful to tell them when to offer a hug or hold a spouse’s hand. Because routine is important, introducing daily household chores such as emptying the trash can be a good way to get positive results.

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    Asperger’s Syndrome and Employment Problems in Adults

    Many Asperger’s adults are highly intelligent and can offer much to an employer. However, there are a number of pitfalls that may result in workplace problems. Here are some of the challenges to be aware of:

    • Adults with Asperger’s syndrome do not function well in an open-office environment. The chatter and noise of ringing phones can be extremely distracting.
    • Some Asperger’s people are not teachable and may become angry if their work methods are questioned.
    • Routine is preferred and a job that changes daily may not be suitable.
    • A person with Asperger’s may be unpopular with work colleagues due to their poor social skills.

    People with Asperger’s syndrome can learn to fit into a working environment. If an employer is aware of their condition and the accompanying strengths and weaknesses, they may be happy to accommodate them as far as possible. This can include providing them with a quiet, isolated work space and giving them a daily routine and repetitive work. Social skills can be improved as mentioned above, and this will help an Asperger’s adult fit in better.

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    References

    The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007

    Pretending to be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999