The range of children diagnosed as Aspergers syndrome has grown immensely as the diagnosis has become more popular. The diagnosis, treatment and prognosis for a high level Aspergers Syndrome child is very different than those approaching classical autism. This information focuses on higher functioning children who have been diagnosed with Aspergers. These children have problems primarily in their poor skills in social interactions, particularly with peers.
(Note: Aspergers, for search engine purposes, is also here spelled Asbergers.)
One of the most disturbing aspects of Higher Functioning children with Aspergers (HFA) is their clumsy, nerdish social skills. Though they want to be accepted by their peers, they tend to be very hurt and frustrated by their lack of social success.
Their ability to respond is confounded by the negative feedback that these children get from their painful social interactions. This greatly magnifies their social problems. Like any of us, when we get negative feedback, we become unhappy. This further inhibits their social skills, and a vicious circle develops. The worse they perform socially, the more negative feedback they get, so the worse they feel and perform.
As this feedback loop iterates, dealing with social situations for Aspergers children become similar to spending their social life on stage anxiously giving a speech. And, for the same reasons that such speeches come off clumsy, with a mechanical sounding voice, stiff gestures and forgotten lines and a turned off the audience is the same reason HFA kids fumble socially and are rejected. Because of this consistent negative social feedback, many of these children feel depressed, anxious and angry. This just compounds their social difficulties by further paralyzing them in social situations.
Reading social Cues
Though they do not appear to read social situations well, HFA children actually do .
One of my articulate patients put it well.
“I find I'm able to read people really well, but I usually don't respond accordingly.”
Though in real time social situations, HFA's may look and feel as if they do not understand what to do, that is not the real issue. Like the person who practices a speech until they sound like Cicero, but freezes on stage, it is not that they do not have the skills to give the speech. They have clearly demonstrated these skills and knowledge during practice. However, their emotional arousal keeps them from accessing their skills real time. Most Aspergers children can explain what they need to do in social situations, thus demonstrating their knowledge. However, like the public speaker, they cannot demonstrate it in the real situation.
Though my book is focuses ADHD, much of it applies equally well to HFA.