Living with Asperger’s syndrome can be challenging not just for the patients but also for their caregivers. However, realistic and effective coping skills and strategies can help parents and partners overcome the struggle and lead a normal life.
Living With Asperger’s Syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or Asperger’s, categorized as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurological developmental disorder. Also identified as high functioning autism (HFA), the condition can cause communication difficulties, motor delay, repetitive behaviors, coordination issues, limited interests, sensory sensitivities, anxiety and social interaction problems. Managing the symptoms of AS can be challenging, whether the patient is a child or an adult. Although most children with Asperger’s tend to have average or above average IQs, they can face challenges in mainstream classrooms as they are unable to accurately infer social cues and situations. Moreover, being in a social setting can also lead to sensory overload. “There is a need to understand the difficulties faced by those with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) in educational settings if one is to manage and help them manage their learning,” states a 2005 study 1 .
Individuals with this syndrome are often unable to understand the mental states of people around them which affects social interactions. However, some autistic adults tend to live high functional lives. They can accurately anticipate other’s state of mind through subtle verbal prompts, even though they may be unable to guess it spontaneously. According to a 2009 study, “Adults with Asperger syndrome can understand mental states such as desires and beliefs (mentalizing) when explicitly prompted to do so, despite having impairments in social communication.”
Regardless, each individual suffering from this disorder will have varying severity in symptoms and unique experiences. This is why it is crucial to seek medical help and consult a doctor for effective treatment. Therapy and medications can help both children and adults with AS to live productive and independent lives. However, certain coping strategies can fasten the recovery process and make social interactions and performance of daily tasks easier.
Impact Of Asperger’s Syndrome
The condition can seriously affect various aspects of life, whether the sufferer is a child or an adult. They often tend to feel lonely and isolated and believe that others are unable to understand them. They may also think that they are not good enough or are incapable of understanding the world around them. Moreover, due to a lack of understanding and awareness about ASD, a sufferer may also feel that they are not socially accepted. It can also lead to the following issues:
1. Education and work
Pursuing education and finding work can be challenging for people with ASD. They can have trouble learning new concepts and skills, may have issues with performance, and teachers & supervisors may have difficulty providing support.
Most sufferers tend to feel overstimulated in social settings due to strong visuals, loud noises or frequent touches, like handshakes.
3. Anxiety & loneliness
Some people with Asperger’s syndrome often have difficulty with communicating and connecting with others. Moreover, they may have trouble relating with their peers leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression.
However, individuals suffering from ASD can become valuable contributing members of the society once they feel accepted and understood. With medical treatment and self-help coping strategies, patients can feel more positive, overcome symptoms and experience a stronger sense of overall well-being.
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Coping With Asperger’s Syndrome
Taking care of someone with ASD or even helping yourself cope with the symptoms can be challenging, at the very least. Here are a few coping strategies that can make recovery more effective:
1. Educate yourself
Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and show a wide range of behaviors. Learning about the condition, it’s symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment can enable you to understand how ASD affects your child, family member or partner. This can empower you to implement strategies that will help them regulate their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
2. Communicate directly
Instead of giving hints, talk to them directly about your needs, whether they are your children or partner. You can communicate either verbally or with written words. But refrain from using excessive emotions as they will be unable to interpret facial expressions. You should also use simple language and avoid long, complicated sentences with complex jargons. Keep communication concise, provide clear instructions and speak slowly to people with Asperger’s.
3. Establish clear rules
Set clear boundaries and rules that your child or partner needs to agree to and follow, which will help make their lives simpler. Let them know what they should do and what they need to avoid. Moreover, you should also establish healthy personal boundaries as well while making sure they feel loved and supported.
4. Teach practical skills
Make sure to help your child learn crucial skills that will enable them to function effectively is social circumstances without triggering any symptoms. Teach them certain communication strategies like how to introduce themselves into a conversation and practice phrases on how to approach people.
5. Encourage them to observe others
Motivate the patient, whether a child or an adult, to observe and learn from their peers. This can be helpful even when they are unaware of how to intuitively respond in such situations. It has been found that adults with Asperger syndrome tend to learn certain skills for socializing by looking at and imitating others in similar situations. Many sufferers find that it is easy to copy the behaviors and mannerisms of others, such as making eye contact, participating in activities, attentively listening etc.
6. Teach eye contact
Help your children with Asperger’s understand the value of making and maintaining eye contact. You can easily teach your child the skill of making eye contact by asking them to model you and practicing it regularly while interacting with family members and friends.
7. Ask about their thoughts & emotions
According to studies 2 , people affected by Asperger syndrome have difficulty with finding terms to express themselves, have difficulty with emotion regulation and experience Alexithymia 3 . This is why it can be helpful to teach your child or partner with ASD to talk about their personal thoughts and feelings. Model discussions and teach them figures of speech and expressions. However, as sufferers can often take common metaphors literally, this can be challenging. So make sure to be calm and patient with them.
8. Help them learn problem solving skills
A person with Asperger’s can be greatly benefitted by learning certain problem solving skills that can enable them to identify and follow social norms. Moreover, it can also help them to better react to social circumstances by accurately recognizing triggers in the present situation. Problem solving skills can help children with ASD to understand about consequences of their actions and how to overcome challenges. Both children and adults with ASD must practice this skill as it will lead to better responses and self-confidence.
9. Focus on nutrition
According to a 2018 study 4 , “There is growing evidence that shows an association between gut dysfunction and dysbiosis and ASD symptoms.” Research 5 has found a probable association between nutrition and autism. It has been found that autistic children tend to have limited diets and food selectivity which affects their food intake patterns and eating routines. As a result, excess or deficiency in nutrition is often noticed in sufferers. It is believed that nutrition and diet can also help with the recovery process. Make sure to develop healthy eating habits and consume nutritious foods involving vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also important to avoid packaged, sugary and fatty foods, dairy and gluten.
10. Seek support
Ask family members, friends and relatives to provide support when caregiving becomes overwhelming for you. You can also join a local support group or an online group for people caring for patients with Asperger syndrome. It is also important to practice self-care and focus on your own needs and desires as well.
Here are some other quick tips for helping someone overcome asperger’s syndrome:
- Provide clear instructions and explanations for desired and expected behaviors
- Focus on managing the situation instead of arguing with or confronting the child or adults with ASD
- Help them develop and follow a daily routine
- Offer positive feedback to them instead of criticizing them
- Encourage creativity, passion and humor whenever possible
- Teach them to be self-aware to manage emotions effectively
- Have a safe word or phrase that they can use for communicating distress or discomfort
- Encourage regular physical activity or exercise and practice good sleep hygiene.
- Help them strengthen relationships with family, friends and peers
Living The Best Possible Life
Being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t necessarily mean that a child or an adult cannot live an independent, productive life. Many autistic individuals can be successful in life and have meaningful relationships. Although it can be challenging to build a career and have social relationships, it can be possible with established routines and structured environments.References:
- Jordan R. Managing autism and Asperger’s syndrome in current educational provision. Pediatr Rehabil. 2005 Apr-Jun;8(2):104-12. doi: 10.1080/13638490500054891. PMID: 16089250.
- Morie, K. P., Jackson, S., Zhai, Z. W., Potenza, M. N., & Dritschel, B. (2019). Mood Disorders in High-Functioning Autism: The Importance of Alexithymia and Emotional Regulation. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 49(7), 2935–2945. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-04020-1
- Poquérusse, J., Pastore, L., Dellantonio, S., & Esposito, G. (2018). Alexithymia and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Complex Relationship. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1196. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01196
- Sanctuary, M. R., Kain, J. N., Angkustsiri, K., & German, J. B. (2018). Dietary Considerations in Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Potential Role of Protein Digestion and Microbial Putrefaction in the Gut-Brain Axis. Frontiers in nutrition, 5, 40. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00040
- Peretti S, Mariano M, Mazzocchetti C, Mazza M, Pino MC, Verrotti Di Pianella A, Valenti M. Diet: the keystone of autism spectrum disorder? Nutr Neurosci. 2019 Dec;22(12):825-839. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2018.1464819. Epub 2018 Apr 19. PMID: 29669486.