What is Asperger’s Syndrome? – The “Triad of Impairments”

Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism. Some people refer to it as a “mild” form of autism, but it can be crippling. It is most often defined with reference to the “Triad of Impairments”, which detail three areas where aspies (people with Asperger’s syndrome) have particular difficulty. They are: communication, (social) interaction, and (social) imagination. Many aspies find it hard to relate to the Triad’s medical language, so here we present the formal definitions on the left, with what this means to us on a day-to-day level.

We have also put together a page of more realistic symptoms, again from the aspie perspective, and a page of tips if you Think You Might Have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Formal Definition What This Means in Real Life
1. Communication – Those with Asperger’s syndrome…
…have difficulty understanding gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice

Leigh (42, female, web-developer) writes:
I don’t always know what a particular expression means, or I don’t hear the tone in someone’s voice that shows, for example, that what’s being said is a joke, or I misinterpret (or just don’t see) body language. As people communicate so much with these visual clues, I frequently miss the full meaning of what they are saying. These things can be learned, but are infinitely subtle, and (even after twenty years of studying them) I still miss details, or have to ask what is really meant.

Jo (36, female, teacher) writes:
I know that I have trouble reading facial expression and body language because I have undertaken ‘tests’ devised by the Cambridge Autism Research Centre, I would not otherwise have been aware of this. However, I am often aware that I am ‘missing something’.

Pete (49, male, semi-retired) writes:
I have been described as displaying limited non-verbal communication. I find it difficult working out an understanding of what people are trying to say, and can’t deal with interpreting gestures, expressions and tones of voice as well! I don’t tend to multi-task well.

…have difficulty knowing when to start or end a conversation and choosing topics to talk about

Leigh writes: I often find myself interrupting others, because I a) misjudge the ‘right’ time to speak – perhaps because I am missing some of the visual clues, see above, and/or b) because I find it hard to listen to what’s being said at the same time as making sense of it (regardless of how interested I might be), all at the same time as thinking up suitable responses. Conversation is complicated!

Jo writes: I frequently interrupt others’ in conversation, or cannot seem to find a ‘way in’ to say what I want to say. More often than not I choose to talk about an ‘inappropriate’ topic – too ‘heavy’, ‘real’, ‘intense’.

Pete writes: Yes, I don’t pick up the cues that a verbal conversation or email exchange is winding down, or if it would be appropriate to initiate an exchange. I don’t see the value in small talk as people generally aren’t truthful as such: “how are you?” “fine thanks” (no not really). But saying otherwise just tends to accelerate a conversation that is difficult to control, when all I really need is to be left alone, but saying so is considered rude.

…can be very literal in what they say and can have difficulty understanding jokes, metaphor and sarcasm. For example, a person with Asperger’s syndrome might be confused by the phrase “that’s cool” when people use it to mean something is “good”.

Leigh writes: I take things very literally – often misunderstanding when someone uses idioms or other figures of speech. This might well be linked to missing out on the facial expressions, etc.: I can’t always tell, for example, when someone is being sarcastic, because I will hear the words, but not the tone of voice.

Jo writes: I have learned (the hard way) to recognise and remember jokes, metaphor and idiom in other people’s language. On the rare occasion that I may use this type of language myself, it always feels like an immense achievement. I can misunderstand entire conversations and feel intense panic if I realise this type of language is being used in a social circle.

Pete writes: I tend to be exact in speech, and find it hard to be a bit vague, I also do take things very literally often. When my Solicitor sent me a draft copy of my will and invited me to make any changes I wanted before signing I did make changes, but to the spelling and grammar in the document, not the content of the will itself. I only realised this after I had posted it… I could write a book on misunderstandings like this.

…use complex words and phrases, but might not fully understand what they mean.

Leigh writes: I have always been interested in language. With English having such an enormous lexicon, there is usually an exact word to precisely explain my meaning – but find I often confuse (and/or repel) those who are not familiar with a wider vocabulary.

Jo writes: I can find myself writing eloquently, using complex language without knowing or understanding how I am able to.
Pete writes: I sometimes find it difficult to describe events or situations so I might use a word that vaguely fits, in the hope that the listener won’t understand the correct meaning either. This can end a conversation quickly, which is my intention because this avoids the anxiety for me of making a full description.

…struggle to make and maintain friendships

Leigh writes: I don’t get a long well with the majority of people – it seems they find me too odd for their liking; but I have close friendships amongst folk who love me precisely because I am unusual, not despite it.

Jo writes: I have many acquaintances but few friends and only a couple who know the ‘real’ me. I used to covet others friendships and as a result believed that I was lonely, I am beginning to realise that this is the way I like it. I am a very intense person and crave intellectual conversation, analysis and discussion. Operating on a ‘superficial’ level is draining; I have little interest in popular culture, small talk and ‘socialising’.

Pete writes: I have a small circle of good friends. I don’t get along with the majority of NT (neuro-typical, i.e. non-autistic) people, I much prefer social interactions to be one-to-one or at most small groups, even then I frequently need to spend a few minutes on my own. I don’t enjoy a lot of the events that most people enjoy; crowded pubs and parties are too sensorily overwhelming.

2. Interaction – Those with Asperger’s syndrome…
…do not understand the unwritten ‘social rules’ that most of us pick up without thinking. For example, they may stand too close to other people, or start an inappropriate topic of conversation, or behave in what might seem an inappropriate manner.

Leigh writes: I do not instinctively observe and interpret normal social cues; I have to work them out for every individual situation (which I am not always able to do if I am tired and/or stressed). I am often thought to behave in ways considered socially unacceptable. An example is: I always take off my shoes if I don’t need them on, but it doesn’t occur to me that someone else might find that objectionable. I have to remember to think about the situation.

Jo writes: I am aware of social expectations and ‘norms’ however I can find it difficult to apply these instinctively. The hierarchy of businesses and consequential behavioural expectations are confusing to me. In social gatherings I become physically uncomfortable and very aware of my own body; I do not know how to stand or where to put my arms.

Pete writes: I don’t like standing in close proximity to other people; but yes, I don’t seem to have any natural intuition about how to behave “properly”. I also need to consciously apply “quality control” to topics of conversation that I wish to raise. A lot of this is due to taking things literally, e.g. to me, the concept of something called a “Disability Discrimination Act” means making it legal, and therefore effectively compulsory, to discriminate against people with disabilities!

…find other people unpredictable and confusing

Leigh writes: “Normal” behaviour often doesn’t make sense to me: it seems pointless to ask “how are you?” if all that’s meant is “Hi!”; I don’t understand teasing – it seems cruel to me; and the concept of a “rule made to be broken” is illogical!

Jo writes: when working alongside someone I often find that there is a lot ‘unsaid’ in conversation, leaving me unsure whether I have understood the intended communication. This is especially apparent when being asked to do things for/with someone else, when small steps of a task are often assumed by the other person and not properly communicated.

Pete writes: Yes, I find it frustrating that most people don’t usually say what they mean, and change their minds or don’t act in a way that they say. I need to have a greater degree of predictability and order, and when plans change I really appreciate being told rather than going with the flow. I always book restaurants and cinema tickets in advance.

…become withdrawn and seem uninterested in other people, appearing almost aloof.

Leigh writes: Sometimes people think I’m being standoffish. In fact, I’m just tired; it costs me a lot of mental (and, ultimately, physical) energy to keep up with all those looks, nuances, intonations, etc., in addition to the actual conversation. Once I’ve had some time on my own (from a few minutes to a few weeks, depending on how tired I am), I can re-engage.

Jo writes: I need frequent breaks from social interaction during the day. During extended periods of social interaction (a party, meeting, meal out) I become physically agitated, mentally tired and cannot concentrate on conversation. My first reaction to this exhaustion is to become mute, as a result I can appear disinterested.

Pete writes: We do need to withdraw often to gather thoughts, and to work things out. A lot of social situations are just too sensorily overwhelming to cope with for long periods of time. If I need to concentrate on something complex, I need to go into “autistic mode” and talking about a problem with others really doesn’t help. I need to perceive of a sequence of events that led to the situation that needs resolving. So our behaviour seems aloof sometimes, and when I am in “autistic mode” I definitely not interested in other people. During these times it’s best to just leave me alone. I used to tell people, “sorry I need to go into autistic mode for that one, just leave it with me”. I don’t bother now as this starts another distracting social exchange!

3. Imagination – Those with Asperger’s syndrome…
…have trouble understanding or interpreting other people’s thoughts, feelings or actions. The subtle messages that are put across by facial expression and body language are often missed.

Leigh writes: I do not lack empathy (in the usual sense of the word), but I don’t instinctively see someone else’s point of view without thinking about it first. For example, I might not see that what I’m doing (e.g. taking off my shoes) would embarrass the person I’m with. As soon as it’s pointed out, I can see why.

Jo writes: I have always been interested in other people’s motivations and can often see many viewpoints; however I am unable to appreciate how people commit to one feeling or action, when there are so many other valid ways of looking at something. In relation to my own feelings, I can find these difficult to see and if I am stuck identifying my own emotion I have trouble interpreting someone else’s.

Pete writes: Yes. I rely on a catalogue in my head of facial expressions and body language and thoughts/feelings associated with them. I’m also alexythemic (a problem with understanding, processing, or describing emotions), so have enough trouble identifying feelings and thoughts in myself. I don’t naturally understand subtle messages expressed with non-verbal language.

…have a limited range of imaginative activities, which might be pursued rigidly and repetitively, e.g. lining up toys or collecting and organising things related to his or her interest.

Leigh writes: It’s true I like to stick to doing things the same way (be it loading the dishwasher, or following a route up and down the supermarket aisles). It doesn’t mean I can’t do it a different way, but I find life very, very much easier if I don’t have to constantly adapt to new methods or situations. It’s as though I have a map in my head, and I get lost if something changes.

Jo writes: My ‘imagination’ needs to be triggered by another person’s ideas. I find it very uncomfortable to ‘pretend’ play with my toddler and almost experience a feeling of panic when being asked to do this. I find it hard to imagine how to tackle a new problem and I will use existing taught methods rather than develop new ideas. I would describe myself as creative, but not imaginative.

Pete writes As a child playing with Lego, I used to make geometric shapes rather than buildings/vehicles, etc. I like to have my stuff in order, and always do the washing up in the same order, I used to spend countless hours memorising statistics about motorcycles.

…have difficulty imagining alternative outcomes to situations, and find it hard to predict what will happen next.

Leigh writes: As a child (before the term “Asperger’s syndrome” existed), my parents despaired at my ‘lack of common sense’. This was merely my inability to anticipate the future, or work out the myriad of possible outcomes stemming from any given situation. It got me into a lot of trouble. As an adult, I hated being caught out by not seeing things coming, and I have swung to the opposite extreme. I now have to work through every permutation, and be prepared for all possible eventualities, before I can embark on anything. This is tiring and restricting, but not as bad as having to deal with the unexpected.

Jo writes: I would have to agree. This manifests itself as a strong need for structure and routine in my day to day life. However as I am aware that this structure and routine is not always possible or realistic, I find it very difficult to organise for myself and get distressed over the fact that there can be so many different possibilities and outcomes. To me the expanse of possibility is uncontrollable and frightening.

Pete writes: Yes, but I’m okay with having alternative outcomes as long as they are predictable, even a list of options. I have problems though with outcomes that are completely unexpected, my thought processes here are very systematic and I need to perceive of all possible outcomes.

For more experiences of what life’s really like with Asperger’s syndrome, see the blog!

Related content:
» Think you might have Asperger’s syndrome?”
»
Asperger’s in Women
» It’s Okay to Want a Diagnosis!”
» Symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome (from an aspie perspective)
» Diagnosis Stories
» Online Tests


28 Responses to What is Asperger’s Syndrome? – The “Triad of Impairments”

  1. Diego says:

    Many people are worried on taking a self-diagnosis mostly due the fact they may just be trying to find an “excuse” for their social failures. It’s my situation and I found others like me at this site, I have found comments that seemed to being written by me (and I’m aware about Forer effect). I always think about this effect when reading and comparing the symptoms and characteristics of AS to me. When I think that some symptoms don’t match with me and then I read more details and realize that I fit perfectly to these. There’s also the Tendency to Confirmation to consider. PS: I don’t speak english pretty well and I can’t write so well as I can read.

  2. belle says:

    I’ve been different since I was little, I had and have had no real friends my entire life. I’ve spent my life, comparing my behavior, thought processes etc. to “normal people” around me trying to fix me. As a girl, my teacher’s thought I should be in special education classes, until a 5th grade teacher took the time with me and found out I was advanced, doctors called me hyper. My family treated me more like an oddity not knowing why, I would roll myself in a ball and roll room to room or hop around on 1 leg. I realized in grade school after reading an article about careers that I didn’t look people in the eyes, it said people wouldn’t trust you so I practiced until I could do it. I still find it odd though and I’m not sure where I should look or how long. I have a tendency to start looking at their nose or something if we’re talking a long time.

    As I’ve grown up, I found out that when people ask you “how are you”, they don’t really want to know. I have a compulsion to over share with people and I am very detail oriented. As this post shows, I find it difficult to just give highlights, I have to give the entire story. I found out around 36, that the anxiety I felt when things changed wasn’t normal or I should say the level of anxiety. I would get defensive, over react, to the point of a near tantrum at work. I would then feel foolish and angry at myself because I lost control. I have now added to my list of controls/coping mechanisms to try to keep from doing that. Example, they decide to move us to different desks on the same floor again. This sent me into major anxiety attacks, for the entire month and a half before the move. I have to have the same chair, I’ve even written my name on the arm. I also wanted the same monitors. I was suppose to be on vacation when we moved but went to work at 6am that Monday to put my stuff on my desk, and ensure my chair wasn’t taken. Sure enough, my chair wasn’t with my desk. My heart rate increased, and I looked all over the area till I found it. I also ended up getting my monitors because the other one bothered me visually. I know its silly but trying not think about the move or wait sent me into a tail spin of anxiety. At my jobs, I have also experience other issues. When I start a job I’m told how awesome I am but the longer I’m there the worse my reviews get. I don’t see where my work quality or effort has declined. I am discovering that its my behavior that I don’t realize or if I do realize can’t always control causing the issues. I can’t read body language or facial expressions, so I am always worried that people are angry with me, or that something they said was a slight when it probably wasn’t. I get angry or defensive or I beat myself up mentally because I failed to control myself. Also not knowing when to shut up, really does not endear you to a lot of people. Especially when they now more than they ever wanted about you. I haven’t been diagnosised with anything yet, but realizing that maybe its not just me failing to be normal but maybe its something biological that I’m dealing with does give me some comfort. I’m so tired of trying to read people, trying to control the behaviors people don’t like, its so exhausting. Its much easier if people realize you’re not trying to be rude, or narcisitic, etc. Thanks for listening. I apologize for the rambling and the oversharing.

  3. Hanna says:

    I have just caught on to the fact that I might be an Aspie after going on a parenting course for Autism ( my son has ASD), and realising that a fair bit of what was discussed applied to me also. I am currently waiting for an appointment and possible diagnosis, and this is pretty much all I can think about. I am (obsessively) reading books and online articles, but as has been pointed out already, this is making me analyse all of my behaviour in case I am deliberately acting like I have AS because of my research…

    On the one hand, I identify with so many things written about AS, and feel that it may be a reason behind issues I have been having for a few years – so instead of being a selfish, antisocial control freak with OCD tendancies, moodiness and an anger management problem…….maybe I have AS?
    On the other hand, am I just trying to find an excuse for my behaviour?

    I veer between being convinced that I am an Aspie, and feeling like a fraud who has read a lot of books. One problem I have is that at 37, I think that I have pretty much perfected the art of appearing (at first glance, and so long as you don’t delve too deep) friendly, chatty and sociable. I also understand humour and sarcasm (my husband would probably tell you I can be extremely sacrcastic myself) and am not so gullible to believe that if you said (for eg) “it’s raining cats and dogs”, that poodles would be falling out of the sky. I also think I can pick up on peoples expressions and body language ok.

    I also had a period in my life when I had a lot of friends surrounding me (each and every one of them weird or eccentric in their own way!) and when I thrived on being around them and meeting others like them. The years before and after this were very different – and I was (and am) very much a loner. Can you have periods when AS behaviour is suppressed for some reason? I suspect that this period came about precisely because all of these people were outside of the norm themselves, and therefore very accepting of anybody elses quirks. I am very grateful to all of the friends I had then, although I do wish I had made more effort to stay properly in touch.

    Thankyou for a very informative and down to earth website x

    I don’t know how much of the person I am could be considered to be a ‘performance’ and how much is genuinely me – confusing!

  4. Leigh says:

    I suspect that my mother has had Asperger’s all her life , and this has negatively impacted all of her relationships and her employability. She is now in a seniors’ nursing home and her condition is compounded by some degree of dementia, so she will never receive a clear diagnosis at this point. I have informed the staff about my suspicions of Asperger’s, however, so that they can better understand her quirks. It seems tragic to me that she has missed out on strategies that could have helped her lead a more contented life and be a more connected parent. What also may be tragic is that I have a highly intelligent sister who rarely communicates with the family who probably also has it, who is hostile to the idea of even considering it or reading up on it. When undiagnosed Aspies sometimes have a problem with the very feedback that it takes to work towards a diagnosis that could help them, it is a very difficult thing indeed for those who care for them and/or must work with them in some way. When no honest communication is really possible with someone who does not understand that others’ perspectives are important and valuable, the only solution is distance, and the eventual loss of the relationship. Any wisdom on this topic is greatly appreciated.

  5. Leah says:

    A have a friend that I tend to have difficulty with. She has the tendency to complain about things a lot and It tends to affect me more than any of my other friends. I also have the tendency to get annoyed when people use bad grammar and pronounce things wrong. I have another friend who I used to obsess over. We talked day and night and when she didn’t call I’d get upset. She started distancing herself from me and after a few long years of an unstable friendship, I learned to let go. We are very close once again, even though she moved away and we talk regularly though a lot less than we used to. I seem to have difficulty making friends and I believe it’s mostly because I don’t know how to carry a conversation properly. Intellectual discussions I can handle, just not your average socialization. In fact, I found that I tremendously enjoy individuals with an atitude for knowledge and learning.

  6. Kristi (2) says:

    Wow. Someone had suggested that my daughter (DD) could be Asperger’s and I was like, no. Nope, no way. My son has moderate to severe CP, universe isn’t doing that to me. But I searched. Like every good info-seeker (AS?) does. By the way, I am a chemist by trade… very analytical (AS?). Apparently though, there is a child/parent connection!! So, eye contact. No, hate it (AS?). DD does too. Creative? Yes! Both of us!! BUT, within certain “rules” (AS?). I now develop drug purification schemes, but I do it well because it is usually within certain “acceptable parameters”. I am not sensory in many ways but I am a runner and dang, get me in a group of too many runners and I bolt out! Why? I hate being around too many people (AS?)!! My DD is now having issues in school making friends (in a Gifted and Talented program no less). I look back and blame my social shortcomings on a small, “rural” schooling. But really, I just wasn’t good at it either. I think we both have some evaluating to do…

    Anyway, thank you for the insight on how it can manifest in different ways. I may look into diagnosis for her, (not me, I’m a lost cause LOL). But it helped me understand. Thank you.

  7. Rob Record says:

    It seems like a lot of these “symptoms” are just normal traits of introverts. How silly to label and judge it as negative.

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      Hi Rob, thanks for your comment! Labelling can be useful for some people (me included), but you’re right, it is silly to use them to negatively judge people, and I do object to the use of the word “impairments”, as though we’re a defective version of a perfect norm!

  8. Polly Anne Wetherill says:

    I’m so glad I have found this website! I mentioned to my psychologist that I thought I had aspergers and all she said was ‘you couldn’t have aspergers because you study art, you are creative, people with aspergers aren’t creative’ and this mad me really angry! I couldn’t even explain myself because that’s one of my problems, my communication is terrible and getting what’s in my brain out my mouth is almost impossible, it’s like there is some sort of wall blocking everything. She seemed to focused on my other illnesses. Planning on going to my GP about this. It’s great to have found other people like me! I don’t feel like such an oddball now!:)

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      “People with asperger’s aren’t creative”?! What utter tosh!
      (I’m going to add that to my list of ridiculous dismissals…)
      Welcome to the real world!!

  9. David says:

    To me being expected to respond to body language is emotional black mail.
    It is illogical psychological hateful manipulation. Just say what is meant, instead of holding your body and face in some mysterious way.
    forcing me to learn a myriad of mystical positions of body is just mental torture.

  10. R says:

    Hey, thanks for the great article! I initially became aware of some symptoms of AS when I was reading The Big Short, in which it describes the quirks of a hedge fund manager with AS. I was surprised by how much I could relate to the symptoms described and can really relate to much of the quotes posted here.

    The thing that I’m worried about is that I feel like I might just be trying to find an excuse for being terrible at socializing and having little common sense. I don’t tend to have too many issues understanding sarcasm/body language, but I often find any kind of socializing very difficult because I spend so much effort worrying about how I will keep the conversation going that I don’t really listen. I don’t typically have much of a desire to keep conversations going with people that I don’t really know, but I also don’t want to end conversations on an awkward note. In one-on-one conversation, I can usually tell myself to look people in the eye but it doesn’t feel natural (except with close friends/family). The hard thing for me is where to look when walking down hallways/other crowded venues, because I try to avoid eye contact with everyone, which is awkward for the people who actually know me because it seems like I am purposefully ignoring them. It’s very difficult for me to join any group conversation and I never initiate small-talk because I don’t see any point to it. I have always maintained a small group of friends, but still with most of those friends – I struggle with one-on-one conversations and don’t generally talk much when everyone is in a group. What’s strange is that with a select few people, I feel completely comfortable in discussions and interactions. I also tend to do fine with presentations, other than avoiding eye contact with anyone watching.

    I definitely have difficulty focusing on what one person is saying when there are other distracting noises. It’s not that the speaker is too quiet or the noise is too loud, I just can’t totally make out what the person is saying. I am also considerably clumsy, even with tasks that I have done before. I think what makes it worse is that I am constantly worried about being clumsy and that tends to only make it worse.

    One thing that really resonates with me is the statement about how people with AS tend to become very focused on something that they’re interested in. I have always been obsessed with numbers. For instance, on road trips as a kid, I would always tally up the make of every car that I saw on the road in a notebook – this would keep me interested for hours on end. Whatever it was that I was into at the time, I would spend hours collecting data on it or somehow organizing the data. This semester, I probably spent more time doing this same thing in Excel with sports or financial data than I did doing my homework. I have an internship where I work with a lot of data, but it’s not going well because I have failed to establish meaningful relationships with my coworkers. Also, I had a surprising amount of difficulty in training when someone was telling me what to do as I was using the computer (probably just choking under pressure though) and it caused me to lose confidence going forward.

    I feel like this article describes me pretty well, but not perfectly so that makes me uncertain about actually getting diagnosed. I would just feel silly if I spent the effort/money on a diagnosis just to find out I don’t have AS and I’m just struggling on my own accord. Either way, it was good to find out more about AS

  11. alice says:

    I dont know whether to be happy or upset to have found this site. All that I have been reading makes me think “it all makes so much sense” but at the same time it worries me. I have always had trouble in social situations. If fact I went out with some friends the other night and even though they were all people I knew, the larger the group got the more and more I disappeared. I dont think I spoke at all for the last hour I was with them and even though there were people there that I hadnt seen in so long and was happy to see, I was so relieved to go home.
    I’ve also had this habit of asking people “what does that mean” or “what is that supposed to mean” until my boyfriend explained to me that a lot of people thought that I was being rude. I honestly wasnt, people would say things, I guess joking or being sarcastic or whatever and I didnt understand, so I would ask. I honestly didnt know people thought I would understand.
    And the routines, oh the routines! I cant live without them! They actually help me if I am feeling anxious. I clean always in the same order, I get ready for work in the same order (even if doing things in a different order saves me time), I get dressed ALWAYS in the same order, and even bathe in the same order. I’ve always hated driving because if for some reason there is road construction or whatever and I cant go the same way I always do i get tripped up and freaked out. If ever I have the opportunity to be driven and not drive I take it.
    Eye contact is always something Ive had trouble with too. I have to remind myself (especially at work) that I need to make eye contact. My boyfriend was the one that really brought this to my attention, when we would be talking I would occasionally look at him if at all, and continue to talk while looking at the ground or staring off in another direction and he would tell me to please look at me when I talked.
    Its hard for me to make friends, I’ve never had many. Honestly sometimes I dont know if people are or arent my friends, I dont know how to make friends at all. Im actually baffled at the idea of making new friends. my mind just draws a blank. I have no idea how to initiate contact with people, even those I’ve known for years, usually they have to be the ones to call me.
    I guess I really dont know where to go from here. Should I see a doctor? If so, what kind? Will it help? What will they tell me?
    All I can say is that it has been such a relief to see so many people with similar situations, and at the very least it reminds me that I am not alone and that there are people out there who understand. This site has been a real eye opener

    • Chloel says:

      I have that exsact same issue, I’m in high school and I just can’t say a single word when I’m in a group. The other week I went to a friend party, I hadn’t seen her for years and you wouldn’t if even seen me there, I just dissapered more as the party went on.

  12. Kristi says:

    This page is amazing! For the first time in my life, I’ve found people who share the same little quirks as I do, and describe things in ways I can understand! I seriously thought I was going crazy. I’ve actually recently been told I’m bipolar, possibly borderline personality as well. I said no way. Yes, I have abuse in my past, but my “issues” and “quirks” have always been a part of me. Yes, my depression and anxiety had recently become intense due to the stress of recently being diagnosed with two autoimmune thyroid disorders (Graves Disease AND Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), losing the only job I’ve ever managed to keep for more than a year or two and actually enjoy (data entry, worked from home for a dog rescue, maintained databases of donations, names and addresses- they had never seen it so organized!), and being the stay at home mom of a very bright, happy, and active baby boy. Anyway, I’ve been noticing certain behaviors in my son, particularly his obsession for Thomas the Tank Engine, and I’ve had growing concerns about his lack of words as he approaches 2 1/2 years. Now, I try not to focus too hard on “milestones”, but since he had a bad reaction to being vaccinated (we stopped at 6 months), I guess I’m hyper-paranoid about Autism. I never was able to come to a definite conclusion on that subject. I do know I was sensitive to my shots as well. Anyway, while reading all this info out there, I found myself reading about AS and realized it sounded an awful lot like ME! I mentioned this to my mom, and that is when she casually informs me that when I was 13 my guidance counselor and a school psychologist called her and my dad in for a meeting and told them they believed I was autistic and needed extra attention. My mom said my dad became so angry, he jumped up and told them it’s the school’s fault, they don’t know what they’re doing, and that while I may have Cerebral Palsy (very mild) I am NOT retarded! And yes, those were his horrible words! Needless to say, it was never brought up again. This was in 1989-90. My school years were hell. Did not fit in, was made fun of because of my brace and shoe lift and inability to simply connect with my peers. I always felt like I was looking at everyone from the other side of thick glass. So close, but not breaking through. Sometimes their words just sounded like noise and jumbled together in my ears, making it even harder to communicate. This still happens to me today, drives my boyfriend to sullen silence, probably lost me some friends, jobs. I suck at multitasking. I have zero people skills. I can appear sociable and friendly, however, to those I feel are just like me or those who might be able to understand me on some level at least or have otherwise somehow earned my trust, Those people are few and far between. I was also a very precocious reader, memorizing whole story books like the Pokey Little Puppy when I was less than 3, and I was reading on a college level by the 6th grade, I was also very naive and left myself open to some nasty bullying and sexual assault. I had one or two friends throughout childhood that I actually considered “friends” because they enjoyed just hanging out with me without saying a word. We’d read, usually. I was awful with imagination play. Still can’t visualize what’s going on in a book! The words are my pictures. And don’t even get me started on my obsessions with times and dates, rabbits and spiders, and the intense need to learn everything I can about how everything I touch that interests me works, or what species it is, or if it’s poisonous, or how and why certain peoples live a certain way, and I just don’t get why people don’t just say what they mean and why they get so jealous and angry…it’s endless! So anyway, in researching my son’s behavior, I think I may have finally found myself, and YES, there is RELIEF! No wonder I suck at being normal! I’m NOT!!! Sounds so simple and silly, but there it is! I’m not crazy, I’m just an Aspie! Early Intervention will be evaluating my son next week. I’m still not entirely sure if he’s on the spectrum or not. I hope he’s not. I want life to be easier for him than it was for me. But you know what? Even if he is just like me, at least I’ll be able to understand him and communicate with him in the way he needs most, which was something I was definitely never afforded! So, to get to my point, the BPD thing never seemed to fit me. I don’t do the push-pull thing for one. I GENUINELY WANT TO BE ALONE! A lot. And my boyfriend hates it. :( But this? AS? Reading all these statements and personal stories? It’s like looking inside my brain and finally finding the validation I’ve needed for YEARS that I’M NOT CRAZY! And neither was my cousin. He was the ONLY person to ever understand me. We didn’t even need to talk. It’s been 8 years since he died. I miss him so much. And I’m convinced he was an Aspie too!

    So…I don’t have a diagnosis as an adult on file yet- is it worth pursuing? I heard it can make it easier for the state to remove your child for what would normally be seen as a normal parental mistake, or for the father to claim full custody if the parents split up!!! Is this true??? I may have issues, but I’m a GOOD mom, and how my son interacts with me is proof! That idea terrifies me, and it would destroy him! He’s very attached to me! So yea, I have fears, but I was thinking it would assist with my SSI claim and gain me access to programs that would help me find work. I haven’t worked in nearly 18 months. Mainly by choice, because of my health and because I want to be home with my child, not stick him in some daycare, but he will be starting preschool next year and we want to have the money to save to buy a home, which means I need to work, but I do not handle the interview process well, always a fault, but with the job market the way it is, it’s certain continued joblessness, and if I do manage to fake normal my way through that, it’s hard for me to keep the job. I’ve had 23 in 21 years, and only kept two of those for more than two years, and I worked alone a lot at both of them. I was thinking about training to be a medical transcriptionist. Maybe I can stick with that. I rarely stick with much else. :/

    Sorry for rambling, but thanks for “listening”! Just so good to know I’m not alone. I have maybe five friends as an adult, but only one of them seems to really get me, and she might be an Aspie too. Even so this was the first time I ever felt like someone peeked inside my head…so wild! :)

  13. Jen says:

    I don’t know if I have Asperger’s, but I suspect I do because I have always struggled with most of what is mentioned here. My mom says that when I was a baby, I needed tons of structure, and I repetitively would bang my head back and forth (I still do at age 33), need to rock when I’m tired, and need to constantly hit my foot on the floor. When I was given an evaluation for a job, I was told that I had trouble with ambiguity, although I think I’m an abstract thinker. In kindergarten, I had to repeat the year because of a suspected “vestibular processing disorder” that my mom never followed up on, but I have had problems with dizziness, peripheral vision, heat, and ANY excessive stimulation, to the point of panic, anxiety, and tears. I don’t know why I’m so sensitive. I can relate to being socially inappropriate too. When I started teaching, my principal called my mom to tell her that, though I seem very bright and knowledgeable, he thought I’d have “more common sense” than I’ve shown, because I accidentally left a student outside. It’s just that I didn’t think to go get her because she was with her mom, not that I was being mean. I also was shunned by a school secretary because I was carrying a large load of objects in my arms when she asked if she could take my picture for my employee badge. I said sure, but didn’t put my objects down. She told me I should go put them in my classroom, but I didn’t get the hint, so I said “no, that’s ok.” She said, “NO REALLY. PUT THE OBJECTS DOWN.” I said “Really?” And she gave me a sharp look, so I put the objects on the couch in the school lobby, not really thinking I was blocking people from sitting down. I tend to make stupid mistakes like that. I also didn’t think to clean up rat feces from the counter of my classroom after rats had come in, but I spent hours obsessively sorting books from my classroom library and arranging them by genre, title, etc. I am really embarrassed about all this. I’m not a bad person, but I can do stupid things like that. My sister in law had a huge fight with me because I told her (in front of her friends) that she wasn’t in love with her boyfriend. I said it matter-of-factly, and began to define different definitions of infatuation, love, etc. from others’ perspectives, but she thought I was attacking her and said she was going to kick my —. I didn’t know why she was so upset and became very withdrawn and anxious whenever I had to see her, even when we made up. To this day, my heart still races when I think about making a mistake like that again. But I’m afraid I will. I can relate to the obsessiveness. I often make Excel spreadsheet lists of all the books I have own, read, like, etc. It seems pointless, but I find relief and/or comfort in it. I don’t like small talk or parties and have been told I’m too serious, intense, and stiff. I find myself having to kind of fake reactions but I hate anything fake. I was an intern in a preschool once and hated it because it was way too unstructured. I like tutoring because I can work from an agenda. I can’t spontaneously play with kids. I feel like I can be creative an am good at brainstorming and writing (sometimes), but not very good at imaginative play. I never really liked to play dress up and I don’t like sci-fi, and especially not fantasy. I like things concrete and I don’t handle last minute adjustments. I used to be a substitute teacher and cried almost every day because my anxiety was horrid. I need to know what is going on, I can’t just improvise. I feel like I do understand idioms, but I’m definitely not witty and cannot come up with anything on the spot, like my husband and others. I often seem dull and slow and only think of witty things when I get lucky, usually at inappropriate times or after the fact. I feel like I am empathetic, but not very good at expressing it, and don’t react the way others want me to react. I used to hide from my mom because my reaction to opening my Christmas gifts was unacceptable. I was also turned down as a student teacher in one woman’s class because she said I looked miserable and that’s not what she wanted. But I was just very serious and quiet, and I’m not good at spontaneous stuff. I’m told I need to laugh more. I rarely do laugh, and when I do it’s usually not when others are laughing. I think I do get most jokes, but can’t remember them, retell them, or make up any. I just don’t think most jokes are very funny. They just seem kind of pointless. I do like word play, though. I tend to want to be efficient, but can rant a lot when it comes to talking. I either say too much or not enough. I get anxious when someone uses too many dishes while cooking or too many tables at a social gathering because I feel like they are being “wasted.” I try to use as few things as possible and find bargains when I shop. When people use an un-open tube of toothpaste even though one is already open, I get upset. I’m not sure if that means much, but I don’t feel like things are right with me.

    • Kristi says:

      Oh my goodness, Jen!! I think you might be my long lost twin! I feel like someone finally put into words the reasons and feelings behind 99% of the “crazy” little things I do that drive people mad! I’ve always felt like I don’t belong here, like a visitor from another planet just hanging out and observing these weird humans and their funny socio/sexual rituals that I will never get. So, hi! Good to know I’m not alone out there, and neither are you. :)

    • Rob Record says:

      Thing are perfectly right with you, they are just different from others. There is no “right” way to be, no matter what others might think. You have special abilities and a way of focussing that others do not, and that is to be celebrated.
      I can relate to many of the things you are saying. I think it is a positive thing that we do not naturally go along with the traditional views and customs of many people. Someone needs to shake it all up ;)

  14. Claire says:

    I am just starting out on my journey to getting a formal diagnosis (been trying to pluck up the courage to make a doctors appointment for a year or so now) and finding this page was a real God send. Almost all of the comments struck a real cord with me and I feel certain that Aspergers is responsible for many of my ‘funny little ways’. What I am most concerned with though is that I don’t feel that family and friends will believe me and will indeed think that I am just going through another little ‘fad’. I know that I’m going to have to broach the subject at some point, but live in fear of being laughed at or told to ‘get a grip’.

    • Kate says:

      Hi, Claire. I am post-DX and do live with Asperger Syndrome. I think you are right to consider this in advance. I have been shocked and distressed by some reactions I have experienced to the information. Some of the consequences have been new episodes of bullying, the termination of a lifelong friendship and the pulling away of lesser friends who had been fine with my quirks until they had a name. I just want to say there is no easy “out”. You may well be right that you will experience adverse reactions.

      A good NT friend recently helped me deal with distress over these occurrences by making two very clear observations:
      1. “If you introduce this massive change into your life by embarking on the diagnostic process, it is unrealistic not to expect massive changes flowing from that, not all of which you will be able to control.”
      2. “If you have been living with dysfunction or less-than-optimum function in the past, it follows that past relationships have also, to some extent, accommodated that dysfunction. Some may even depend upon dysfunction to survive – and those will fail once the dysfunction is removed. It is therefore a good sign and a good outcome – and that doesn’t stop its being painful.”

      But actually it eased my pain a great deal. Both of these statements spoke vividly to me, because they perfectly reflect my experience and they appealed to my rational sense. Perhaps it would have been helpful to be forewarned so I could prepare for these events better and that is why I share these ideas with you.

      My future is now much brighter, but make no mistake: DX is not a small thing and there can be many large waves of adjustment to accommodate before a sense of “where to from here” starts to solidify. Good luck with your journey. K x

      • Anne R. Key says:

        The two statements that you noted from your friend are incredibly profound and eloquent; especially the second part. I have been “afraid” of the Autism diagnosis for a long time. When I was 16 I was in a serious car accident and had a bit of amnesia surrounding the weeks leading up to the crash. The symptoms of a brain injury, combined with the rest of the physical injuries I suffered were compounded in the eyes of the judge in the traffic court case (the driver of the semi-truck that caused the accident tried to contest his ticket/culpability for the accident), when I behaved “inappropriately” in the courtroom. The truck driver, when asked to relay the events of the crash, gave a series of factually inaccurate details, but when he said that the only reason why “the little girl” was hurt so badly was due to the fact that she was not wearing her safety belt, I lost my mind. I had been restrained in my vehicle and the seatbelt had cut into me so badly after the impact that I had to get stitches on my left shoulder, on my chest near the sternum, under my right breast and on several areas of my upper thighs/lower belly, 80 stitches total, from the seatbelt cutting into me. I stood up and undid my shirt and showed the judge unequivocal proof that I had been restrained. This lead to court ordered therapy. To make a long story short, the psychologist who saw me for the court administered a battery of tests and interviewed my parents. He officially concluded that my courtroom display was PTSD related. However, he told me and my parents that he wanted to conduct further assessments due to the fact that my parents anticipated my reaction in the courtroom and were not shocked by it. They both declared that I am “quite literal” and “lacking in social graces.” That psychologist was the second doctor to say the word “Autism” to my parents in response to meeting me. My parents were/are not interested in assigning labels that might have held me back in life, so that was the last we saw of him.

        That was 18 years ago. Five years ago my doctor (endo for thyroiditis) also asked me if I had ever been evaluated for Asperger’s. I said no and never mentioned it again. Recently, though, I have been having increasing trouble with social interactions due to increased stress in my life. The stress is making it difficult for me to micro-manage my behaviors and body language and I find myself making so many of the annoying little faux pas that I have been trying to hide from the world for years.

        I don’t know if getting a diagnosis would really make a difference to my life, but I feel like I might be able to find treatment methods to learn better coping mechanisms and communication (verbal and non-verbal) skills if I was properly assessed. Unfortunately, I worry that it could damage me professionally, as I am a mental health worker with a BS in Psychology and an MS in Cognitive Psychology. Don’t worry, though, I am a lab rat. I don’t treat patients!

  15. Claire says:

    I am just starting out on my journey to getting a formal diagnosis (been trying to pluck up the courage to make a doctors appointment for a year or so now) and finding this page was a real God send. Almost all of the comments struck a real cord with me and I feel certain that Aspergers is responsible for many (if not all) of my ‘funny little ways’. What I am most concerned with though is that I don’t feel that family and friends will believe me and will indeed think that I am just going through another little ‘fad’. I know that at some point I’m going to have to broach the subject, at the very least to my husband, but I just don’t know how to go about it and live in fear of being laughed at and told to ‘get a grip’.

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      Hi Claire, I am really glad you have found the site helpful. That’s good to know. Fearing your friends and family will not understand is common, and sadly many of us suffer this reality after diagnosis. In my own case (which included a family member telling me Asperger’s was just my latest obsession), I found the answer was to remember my psychologist knows a lot more about the issues than any lay person, and hers was the only opinion I needed to pay attention to. Also, many people view autism as an illness, and they don’t want you to be “ill”, and they think if they tell you you’re “fine”, you’ll miraculously “get better”. If people laugh at you, just shrug, and trust in your self-knowledge. I know it’s hard, but we’re all here for you too. Good luck!

  16. Chris Mitchell says:

    I have always had great difficulty in my life especially maintaining friendships and interacting with people in a social situation. And I have absolutely no common sense. I don’t think that there is and easier way of doing things until people point out to me that there is another way. Even then I tend to do things my way and can’t instantly switch to doing things a new way. I recently got into a relationship with a new man who has autistic children from a previous marriage and he said that my behaviour was typical of aspergers and he has urged me to get diagnosed. Having read this I now understand why I have had so many problems and have now booked an appointment with my doctor. Hopefully that means I will be able to adjust things accordingly to make life easier so thank you for putting this out there for people like me to see.

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      Hi Chris,
      Sorry for the delay in replying. I hope your appointment with the doctor went well, and I’m glad you have the support of your partner :o) Your comment about having no common sense made me smile, as I am exactly the same :o))

  17. oddone says:

    My son was diagnosed with ASD last year at the ripe age of 18 months. After dealing with the denial I began to research things. What I have come to realize after investigation, I think I have Aspergers… I often wondered what was wrong with me, why I have an inability to have intimacy with my partner, why I get complaints of not being affectionate, why I am such a hermit, why I get anxiety when I am made to be in social settings, why I can’t stand when my life changes and people are now inside my “sanctuary”… Good site thanks for all the info.

  18. Nils Geylen says:

    What I have the biggest problems with are these ‘official’ examples of ‘not being to catch figurative meanings’. I know that “this is cool” doesn’t mean something is cold.

    Want a real example?

    Once, in what turned out to be the most promising and eventually most saddening relationship, very early on we had a small row.

    The woman told me that “well, if you like you can just pack your things now and go.” So I did.

    I was devastated, and I didn’t want to, but I did — because she told me to.

    We patched things up then, but it is was the announcement of a love troubled by misunderstandings and destined to fail.

    Now I know she wasn’t ‘angry’ just disappointed, and that her statement was a hyperbole. To me there was just angry or happy, stay or go.

    That’s what these formal qualifications mean in a real life.

    • roweeee says:

      Hi Nils,
      I felt really sad when I read this. The path to love and ultimately some form of long term relationship is hard for all but having these extra complications takes things to another level.
      I’m a so-called neurotypical but my husband and I have our own confusions. I often half hear what he says and so we end up waiting for each other in different places. Now, we are at least aware of this, which helps.
      Best wishes, Ro

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