Asperger's and Social Interaction
What is Asperger’s?
Asperger’s syndrome is part of the autism spectrum disorder. It is considered a mild form of the disorder. In some circles it is used synonymously with high functioning autism. However others make a distinction between Asperger’s and high functioning autism. Usually persons labeled Asperger’s:
- have normal to above average intelligence
- had no speech or verbal delays as children
- and can live and work independently
Yet like most autistic people, they struggle to make and keep friends.
Asperger’s and Social Interaction
Many Asperger’s individuals struggle to make friends and/or enter into romantic relationships because they are unaware of or have not learned appropriate social behaviors.
Below are some autistic traits that can make it problematic for Asperger’s individuals to have normal interpersonal relationships.
Lack of Eye Contact
Most people with autism have difficulty making eye contact. In social situations, it is considered rude and a sign of disinterest, when someone doesn’t look at the person they’re talking to. Some Asperger’s individuals say that establishing eye contact makes them uncomfortable. They find it disorienting to talk and look at a person at the same time. Unfortunately, most people then misinterpret this behavior as disinterest or rudeness.
Obsessive or Limited Interest in a Single Topic
A trait found in some autistic people is the fascination with a particular subject to the exclusion of everything else. An autistic person can spend hours talking about the tiniest of details of their favorite subject. Unfortunately, few people want to hear about a single topic for hours on end. The autistic person is blissfully unaware he or she is probably boring the listener and not truly engaging in conversation.
Although people with Asperger’s have normal speech or even above average vocabularies, many don’t know how to hold normal conversations. They can dominate an entire conversation by not allowing others to interject, or they talk about things only they are interested in. Also, they may fail to answer questions that are asked of them or ignore attempts to change the conversation.
Most people know that when someone frowns or their voice rises during a conversation, something has made them upset or angry. An Asperger’s individual usually will not notice these nonverbal cues. He or she isn’t aware that these are signals most people use to alert the speaker that they were bothered by or disagreed with something that they said. The inability to identify these nonverbal cues unfortunately gives the impression that the Asperger’s person is indifferent or insensitive to the feelings of others.
Asperger’s and Social Interaction: Friendship Difficulties
Many people with Asperger’s are isolated and have very few friends. Their inability to recognize or adapt to societal norms makes it hard for them to form relationships. Although they may be able to live and work independently, finding typical individuals who are able to deal with their disability can be hard.
As more is learned about autism; researchers, teachers, caregivers, and parents, will be better able to help people with Asperger’s create and maintain lasting relationships.
"Asperger’s Syndome make Social Interaction Challenging", Neahring, Betsy M.D May 11, 2009, Evansville Courier & Press. www.courierexpress.com
“Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) January 2005. www.ninds.nih.gov