Adults with Asperger's: Challenges Faced by Families
written by: Debbie Roome
• edited by: Linda Richter
• updated: 5/28/2011
Families of adults with Asperger’s may be surprised at the problems that stem from the condition. There is help available and people can learn to cope with the situation.
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Asperger’s syndrome is a form of high-functioning autism that is accompanied by a number of signs and symptoms. While these are often manageable in children, they can be problematic in adults. Potential difficulties may arise in the following areas:
Social skills are weak and an Asperger’s adult may become isolated and friendless. This in turn can lead to depression and lowered mood levels that may overflow and cause stress to other family members.
Selfishness is a common sign of Asperger’s and can cause friction among families.
Males with Asperger’s are prone to aggression and outbursts of anger. If this is not brought under control, parents and siblings may be physically harmed.
Adults with Asperger’s often look to another person to manage their lives. This includes taking control of appointments, arranging job interviews and maintaining their living space.
If the adult has not received an appropriate sex education they may become addicted to pornography. This can cause embarrassment to their families especially if they engage in inappropriate behavior.
Special interests may lead to criminal activity in extreme cases. The person’s obsession with a certain interest can drive them to steal objects that are connected with the interest.
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Help for Families of an Asperger’s Adult
If an adult has only recently been diagnosed as having Asperger’s it is important for family members to familiarize themselves with the condition. Understanding the signs and symptoms can reduce anger and stress levels caused by their unusual or inappropriate behavior. If the adult was diagnosed as a child, there may be a network of health professionals already in place to draw on. Here are some suggestions of how families can cope with a member who has Asperger’s:
Doctors and therapists are able to help in problem areas such as speech, motor skills, social skills and sex education. The training they give needs to be backed up by family members, and helping the Asperger’s person practice new skills can be beneficial for the whole family. Improved social and speech skills can open up the way for new friendships.
Family members can train a person with Asperger’s to live as independently as possible. This can include practical teaching such as how to catch a bus, how to prepare for a job interview, and how to maintain a garden and home. Never do for an Asperger’s adult what they are capable of doing for themselves.
It is important that an Asperger’s person, particularly a male, knows that anger and aggression are not acceptable. Family members need to take an authoritative stance and not buckle to their demands during an angry outburst.
Online support groups and forums have proved invaluable to many families with an Asperger’s adult. They provide a place to ask for advice, compare experiences and source help.
There are dozens of books on the market that relate to Asperger’s. Some of them are focused at particular groups such as adults with Asperger’s or teens with Asperger’s. Family members can find it helpful to read a couple of relevant books in order to gain insight into the Asperger’s person and the way they think and behave.
Don’t allow a special interest to rule the person’s life. Allow time for it as a trade-off for household chores and partaking in family activities.
It is important for families of adults with Asperger’s to focus their efforts when dealing with their loved one. There are a number of ways that they can learn to cope with potential problems and challenges, and being proactive will generally benefit all those concerned.
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Autism-Help.org. Autism Spectrum Disorders Fact Sheet, retrieved at http://www.autism-help.org/aspergers-syndrome-adults.htm
Marschack, Kathy J (Blog). Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Families of Adults with ASD Find Support Online, retrieved at http://www.kmarshack.com/_blog/Kathy_Marshack_News/post/Asperger_Syndrome_Partners_Family_of_Adults_with_ASD_Find_Support_Online/
FAAAS.org. (Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome), retrieved at http://www.faaas.org/