Last Updated on January 23, 2023
In English-speaking countries, the understanding of what autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are has gone ten years ahead compared to Germany. However, there is progress in Germany as well. Because of Greta Thunberg, the topic of people with Asperger’s syndrome has risen to the top, and many German articles have appeared explaining what it is and how to live with it. Books are gradually being translated, adequate diagnostics are already available. However, many psychologists and especially educators know about the problem very superficially and approximately.
In this thread: what is Asperger’s Syndrome in a brief form and without outdated clichés and what can you do in Germany.
Table of Contents
- Who is Aspie
- Why do you need to know about the features of Aspies and why does one need diagnostics?
- “No go” in relation to Aspie
- Understand autistic person
Feelings, emotions and their expression: “emotional silence”, empathy, gestures and facial expressions, touch
Speech and Aspie
Aspie and intelligence
What signs in children should alert parents
I/my child has autism – what’s next?
Aspies in Germany – school, diagnostics
“Rainman” is a splendid film, but it did a disservice for the people with autism spectrum disorders. The others think, that all such people like Rainman. They sit under the table, they cry, they swing back and forth, and have special abilities in certain areas. Some people do it really, but the most of them have other problems and you don’t even know that these people are autistic.
Many, under the influence of clichés about autistics, believe that they have insensitivity and lack of empathy, they are robot people, they do not need friends and relatives, they are not able to have a family… These statements are deeply offensive to autistic people.
The first doctor – Hans Asperger – that paid attention to the syndrome, gave also life to these misconceptions. Asperger had a very limited set of such patients and a specific time to work with them (around the Second World War), and in addition, he was on a commission that sent sick children to death camps.
If you come across such statements in a book or article, you can immediately throw it away, the person is either reprinting old data, or simply not in the subject. It’s like saying that all dumb people are idiots because they can’t speak.
I will continue to use the word Aspie as a more convenient and widely used word, referring not only to Asperger’s syndrome, but also related types of autism, for example, high-functioning autism.
Who is Aspie
Aspie as a Rain Man is actually a rare case with extreme severity of the syndrome and intelligence (may be a hundred of people all over the world – were written in one article).
Asperger’s on average is mild autism. And not all doctors consider it a disease, rather a feature of perception, a feature of the work of the psyche, like an extrovert-introvert, a sanguine-choleric… Actually, very many Aspis are offended by the designation of their features as diseases, since they are not sick and do not consider that they need to be “treated”. After all, we do not call as deseased those “normal” people who mock Aspi.
Let’s make an analogy. Everyone has moles and birthmarks-nevi. But for some people they grow to such an extent that they become noticeable and sometimes so noticeable that other people shy away from a person. The next stage is the degeneration of skin formations into tumors, that is, already a disease.
Returning to Aspies: all so-called normal people have Aspie features, only Aspie has them in such quantity that they become noticeable like large nevus. And in some Aspies, these features are so strong that they cannot live on their own – that is, they have a disease level.
If one very briefly characterize Aspie, they are:
- people overreacting to the environment
- having increased abilities in the field of logical thinking
- which is compensated by very weak abilities in the field of social communication and speech problems associated with the expression of emotions and feelings
There are far more Aspies in the world than have been diagnosed, and if you know one person with the syndrome, you quickly begin to realize who else in your community may have the same problems.
The syndrome is hereditary. The vast majority of Aspies have parents or other relatives with the same traits (and those who don’t are more likely to be unaware of them).
The number of people with autism spectrum disorders has increased because:
– due to the greater tolerance of society, their survival rate has increased
– thanks to the Internet, the possibilities for having children have increased
– due to changing perceptions of what autism spectrum disorders are, the number of diagnosed autists with mild and moderate autism has increased. Previously, they fell into other categories or were simply considered “strange”. Many adults receive this diagnosis after living a lifetime with autism that no one has diagnosed.
Why do you need to know about the features of Aspies and why does one need diagnostics?
You consider yourself a neurotypical person, but there are strange people in your environment
and at the same time you do not belong to those who scoff at Aspie. By understanding the problems of Aspies, you begin to communicate with them in a different way – and benefit from it. You can find a completely different person under the outwardly “strange” or inconspicuous shell – devoted, sensitive, thinking. In a world of lies and virtual reality, Aspies are often the people you can lean on.
You have a “strange” and “difficult” child and you want to understand if he is autistic
Most parents are still trying to play the ostrich and sweep the problem under the rug. I strongly do not recommend doing this. This is bad:
- for you – knowing the problem, you will better neutralize its force
- and especially for a child – he needs to know about the diagnosis in order to live normally
A few of the undiagnosed autists consider themselves the smartest and greatest, but the majority, even if they have a mild form of the syndrome, begin to think that they are abnormal, experience severe suffering from loneliness and constant “secretion” from society. Very many adult Aspies, having diagnosed themselves with the syndrome, feel great relief.
As one article says, life with the syndrome is “life without a filter”, without a social and emotional protective shell, when the physical and social environment attacks, and a person cannot defend himself and does not understand why, in fact, he suffers all the time. But since Aspies also have intelligence, they have every chance of a normal life if they realize
1. what exactly is wrong with them and
2. what they need to learn not through the emotional and intuitive sphere, but through intelligence and memorization, in order to make life easier for yourself in society (in other words, how better to pretend that you are the same as everyone else) and most importantly
3. will want to do it – with regard to any psychological problems, not just Aspies.
Diagnosis will allow the use of numerous described methods of help, reduce anxiety, from which Aspies suffer more than from the syndrome itself.
Aspies get nervous diseases and other medical problems (skin and stomach problems are almost mandatory) as a set of the syndrome, they often have anorexia, and the percentage of suicides is increased. The more you know -> the less stress -> the less side effects.
Diagnostics is a shield and armor, first of all for Aspie himself, and secondly for his parents. But parents should also remember that so many undiagnosed children later blame their parents for their problems, up to and including breaking up relationships. Which is often true: if parents do not understand where the oddities of an autistic person come from, they try to raise their child “the right way”, adding to his suffering and worsening the situation. In this case, for an autistic person, the house becomes another place where he is not understood and tormented, instead of supporting and adapting to later life.
Whether to receive a diagnosis officially depends on the situation in society. With a strong syndrome, you will have no other choice. With a weak one – in Germany I would recommend having a diagnosis, in countries where non-standard people are persecuted, rather not.
You want to know if you are autistic
Since autism is only a disease for a small group of autistic people, adults can perfectly self-diagnose themselves without going to psychiatrists. It’s the same as sexual orientation: in the most cases you don’t need to see a doctor to figure out which side you prefer.
For self-diagnosis, you can use:
- tests. Good test in several languages: link.
- interviews, stories about themself and books of known autists. The important thing here is that you are not reading this as fiction, but as a look inside a person with autism. Therefore, it has always been funny for me to read such phrases as “contrived”, “boring”, “unrealistic”, etc. in the reviews.
- books where the hero is autistic. For example, such a list. Important: do not take each of the books as the only true one. Boys are different from girls (significantly).
“No go” in relation to Aspie
1. Consider that they are all the same and are as written in this or that manual. If you know one autist, you know ONE autist. Just like if you know one aggressive person, you don’t know all the other aggressive people.
2. Autism is NOT a personality trait! It is often said, “he is not autistic, because he is kind / emotional / attentive / … Autism is a property of the nervous system and cognitive abilities that determines the reaction to stimuli and situations, but not the character of a person. Characters of autictic people can be completely different, like in typical people.
3. Estimate the autistic person by external behavior, body language and words. Look inside!
4. For parents – to respond to “whims” and “hysterics” according to standard advice. You can’t pressure, force, ignore, shout – you need to talk a lot, analyze situations and reactions and forget about your impatient, nervous, explosive nature.
Understand autistic person
Attention: None of the features are 100% mandatory! The degree of autism is determined by a set of characteristics and has several gradations: from an extended phenotype of autism – to autism with a small need for help – and, in extreme cases, to autism with a maximum need for help. Also practically from 0 to 100%.
The basic problem in this field is inadequate perception of stimuli. For an autistic person, a bright light bulb can be a spotlight, a strict reprimand – a scream, the smell of a cigarette – torture.
1. Many Aspies avoid direct eye contact as it can overload their emotional state. Direct eye contact causes anxiety and insecurity. They either look at another point of the face, or to the side, or make a cursory glance into the eyes. Sometimes autistic people choose a different tactic – they look inadequately intently with an empty eye to eye gaze.
However, there are Aspies who calmly look into the eyes, usually those who have been taught to do this since childhood.
2. Light, sound, taste, smell, temperature are felt inadequately by Aspie: often too strongly, occasionally, on the contrary, too weakly.
Therefore, they often only eat certain things: an unpleasant taste can shake their inner world to the ground and be remembered for years – it’s easier to avoid the problem by staying with a proven set. They feel the difference between the taste of a nuggets plus pasta on one plate and the taste of pasta separately, nuggets separately.
A non-standard type of familiar food is a signal to refuse it. And it’s not whims. And leaving without dinner is not cured – Aspie will willingly remain without food at all and die of hunger, but will not be able to overcome his inner barrier. Imagine that you have to eat a raw frog – for Aspie, this frog may be an unfamiliar sauce. Many Aspies prefer basic, simple food without any additives, especially fast food.
An unpleasant smell in the room can cause a feeling of panic and leave only one thought – how to get out of here.
Aspies have to learn to tolerate their heightened reactions, as well as learn to concentrate in a group of people, despite the fact that they hear small noises that others do not pay attention to. Typical of an Aspie student is the complaint that the classroom is too noisy all the time.
Tactile sensations (textiles, touch, chemicals) can also cause an overreaction. For example, nail polish causes a feeling of lack of air and a desire to remove it immediately. Or the scarf/collar is choking.
All autists don’t make eye contact
Extreme selectivity in food.
The child covers his ears with his hands.
Overreaction to tactile stimuli
Event and shopping intolerance (too many irritants)
3. Aspies are often clumsy and have poor coordination. Which fully follows from point 2 – the inadequacy of perceptions: they do not really know what to do with their own body, and they do not always correctly evaluate its signals. Autistic people are poorly aware of the boundaries between their body and the world around them.
This does not mean that they should not go in for sports, rather the opposite. But it absolutely means that they should not go to team sports or to groups where achievements are important – cute “normal” kids will gobble them up and not choke. Aspies with team sports are waiting for isolation and accusations of losing.
4. To relieve emotional stress, Aspies resort to repetitive body movements or sounds (“stimming”).
For example, they jump in place or wave their arms like a butterfly. Or swing back and forth. Or they make strange sounds that do not correspond to their age – they make noise like a train or a car.
Older Aspies find more adequate and less noticeable ways – twisting their hair, snapping their fingers, and so on. Stimming is not harmful in any way, but if it is noticeable, then this should be pointed out and gradually transferred to less noticeable options (without pressure and prohibitions).
Autistic people swing all the time
Repetitive motions for calming
Clumsiness – constant collision with furniture, shuffling with feet, objects constantly falling from hands
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5. If the previous points are easy to overlook, if they do not have a strong expression, then this point is the main one by which Aspi is determined.
Aspies do not make social contacts well.
Sometimes “scientists” write – because they are not interested in social contacs, they have enough of themselves. Of course, there are such Aspies, as well as “normal” people with the same attitude – you don’t have to be an Aspie to be selfish and self-sufficient.
Most autistic people need social contacts, and even very much – albeit not in large numbers, but they need a small group of people who understand them like air. Complete loneliness is painful for them. The main problem of autists is different.
Aspies cannot establish social contact for very simple reasons: they do not have a “script” for the simplest social situations. Imagine that you have come to a rehearsal of a play, and you are the only one who does not have a copy of the text.
Aspi is not clear:
how to behave, what to say at the first meeting?
how not to say something odd?
move closer or stand farther?
to give a hand or not to give?
Why and when do people hug and kiss?
what are the unspoken rules?
how to say goodbye?
I see that the person is upset, but what should I say/ask?
Is he serious or joking?
Is he angry with me or not?
All these painful questions are especially painful for Aspi (remember the heightened sensations), but outwardly this manifests itself in timidity, shyness, clumsiness or coldness and indifference.
Aspie must be very interesting for a “normal” subject of communication, so that he would give himself the trouble to get to know this strange person better. It’s like with a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language well – while he babbles and babbles, trying to express himself clearly, the another person who speaks the language well tries to get rid of him as soon as possible so as not to waste his time.
It is clear that most children do not bother themselves, which worsens the situation, making Aspie insecure and further locking him into his inner world. Therefore, at an older age, he may generally abandon the idea of establishing communication or will choose people with similar interests, with whom he will maintain only intellectual, but not emotional communication.
Often, the Aspie child tries to keep to the society of adults, as his intellect is enough to understand “adult” conversations, and emotionally he feels more secure with adults.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome do not need to have friends or family
No friends or only one or two weird friends.
The child does not easily make acquaintances on the playground, does not try to join the game.
Other children avoid or bully the child.
6. Aspies have their own ideas about the rules.
Usually they strictly adhere to the letter of something: laws, written rules, their own rules. Therefore, they often fail to play games with other children: they only want to play by certain rules, while others are categorically unsuitable.
Other kids will build a fantasy blaster model or modify the story as they see fit, and Aspie will say, “But that’s wrong, it was different in the movie/book/rules, it’s not allowed!” It is much more difficult for them to cross this inner conviction “it is necessary this way and not otherwise” than just step aside and not play.
Next – Part 2 – Feelings, emotions, empathy, gestures and facial expressions, touch
Speech and Aspie
Aspie and intelligence
part 3 – What symptoms should alert parents
I/my child has autism – what’s next?
Aspies in Germany – school, diagnostics