The Importance of Identifying Asperger’s Syndrome / High Functioning Autism in Adults

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“Growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome can be traumatic for many individuals.”

Many adults with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome are usually keenly aware that they do not ‘fit in’, yet are unable to either express or understand exactly what it is that makes them feel differently to others.

For this reason many undiagnosed adults develop negative perceptions of themselves as “weird”, “crazy,” or “broken.”

Despite these negative self-images, many undiagnosed adults are able to hide their difficulties by developing coping mechanisms, such as mirroring or mimicking those around them in social settings.

They are therefore seen as being able to engage in the everyday routines of life such as working, having relationships, getting married and having children.

Yet though they have the ability to apply such coping mechanisms, many individuals with undiagnosed AS, are never able to shake off the underlying awareness of themselves as inherently ‘different’ to those around them.

Ironically, the very skill sets that adults with undiagnosed moderate to mild Asperger’s apply, in order to try and ‘fit in,’ have meant that they have flown “under the diagnostic radar”.

Other individuals with undiagnosed AS, who have not learnt such skill sets, may show greater signs of having social communication difficulties.

This can make them more susceptible to situations such as chronic unemployment and social isolation due to the fact that they may be mistakenly perceived as people who are deliberately anti-social, argumentative, objectionable or aloof loners who crave only their own company.

In reality, these people may be individuals who are displaying the lack of social skills required to communicate and act appropriately, that make up the characteristics or traits commonly described in Asperger’s Syndrome.

It is now well established that individual with AS may display varying degrees of some or all of the following characteristics:

A lack of social skills which manifest in inappropriate social approaches, responses or social awkwardness.

Difficulty recognizing the facial expressions or emotions of others.

Difficulties in considering or understanding others’ viewpoints.

Limited interest in friendships


Difficulties with being able to communicate their ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Difficulties in comprehending and following social reasoning and adhering to the status quo.

Difficulty with transitions and changes.

Hold a strong need for routines.

Narrow range of interests or idiosyncratic special interests.

Be overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells and sights.

Have motor coordination difficulties.

Experience difficulty managing their own negative feelings, especially anxiety, anger and depression

Adults with undiagnosed AS are susceptible to experiencing high degrees of stress, frustration, confusion and anxiety due to their awareness that they do not ]fit in’.

These additional difficulties have often been misinterpreted, misdiagnosed, misunderstood and mistreated, especially when their underlying AS is undiagnosed or not adequately understood.

Some of the most common additional difficulties include:

Angry outbursts (physical or verbal aggression, verbally threatening behavior)

Agitation and restlessness

Increase in obsessive or repetitive activities, thoughts, or speech

Low mood or depression

Apathy and inactivity

Unfortunately many professionals who are unfamiliar with AS often only focus on the surface symptoms and behaviors that an individual with undiagnosed AS may display.

This leaves individuals with undiagnosed AS at risk of being incorrectly diagnosed with conditions such as:

Personality Disorders

Psychosis

Bipolar Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Mood disorder

It is therefore essential, that in order to prevent individuals with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome from being incorrectly diagnosed with conditions, treatment plans and medications that will not help them, that a thorough Autism assessment must be applied to adults who fall within this criteria.

A proper diagnosis of AS can better help adults put their difficulties into perspective and enable them to understand the underlying reasons for their lifelong struggles.

Correct diagnosis and effective treatment can help improve self-esteem, work performance and skills, educational attainment and social competencies.

More importantly a correct diagnosis can trigger both a journey of self-discovery and a healing process for the individuals concerned. 

 

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Asperger’s Syndrome / Autism and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)….Is it a comfortable fit?

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Seeking the opinions and advice of others regarding Pathological Demand Avoidance as it relates to Asperger’s Syndrome has shown me that there is a world of debate out there regarding the  relevance of seeking to apply yet another label to the behaviors of those already defined as being on the Autism Spectrum.

Yet despite this, many now believe that Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a valid diagnosis that is consistent with an Autism diagnosis.

As the mother of a child who has undergone many of the behaviors described within PDA I’m going to admit that my key point of focus here lays in finding any tools that better enable me to best understand the differences that arise between my own experience of Asperger’s Syndrome and my child’s experiences of it.

But…..having said this, I will only accept those explanations that best explain our differences, if they can accurately explain why my daughter’s behavioral needs are so different to my own.

After all we have both been diagnosed with the Asperger’s Syndrome, yet despite this, our behaviors are as different as chalk and cheese.

For example, I’m an extremely peace-loving person.

I am both opinionated and yet at the same time, a quiet person.

I like rules.

I like knowing where the boundaries of any given subject are.

I’m not an aggressive, nor an explosive person.

When I feel overwhelmed, I tend to withdraw into myself.

My child on the other hand can become both explosive and aggressive when she feels overwhelmed.

And the things that make her feel overwhelmed are more often than not, simply being asked to do something.

Now we both feel the need to question everything, but only one of us feels the need to rage aggressively against being asked to do things.

So why is this so?

In my experience, the use of PDA to better define the way in which some of us experience Asperger’s syndrome, and yet others do not,  is both a worthwhile and a valid one.

I acknowledge that I am viewing the whole idea of PDA form many levels.

Not only am I a person with Asperger’s Syndrome myself, but I’m also the mother of a child who also has Asperger’s yet who’s behaviors are at times so completely different from my own that they make me wonder whether or not one of us has been incorrectly diagnosed.

So for me, the idea that PDA may be an additional experience that some with Asperger’s Syndrome experience, makes sense to me because it helps me to understand and acknowledge how two females, both diagnosed with the same form of Autism, can respond to the demands of life so differently.

In our situation, my daughter’s diagnosis of AS alone, still does not provide me with enough of an explanation as to why my child behaves so aggressively at times.

Yes children with AS get overloaded with social stimuli, yes they have meltdowns,  yes they can  be aggressive, yes they like to be in environments that they are both familiar and comfortable with, but on the whole, do they willfully  seek to confront or act physically abusively  toward people, when asked to do something?

At the moment having a diagnosis of AS alongside a diagnosis of PDA provides me with a far clearer picture of what it is that  my child may be experiencing.

As a mother my goal is to try my best to understand and help my daughter.

I’m not trying to right the wrongs of the world in one foul swoop.

Nor argue semantics over whether or not PDA, as  a conceptual diagnosis on the whole, is either correct or valid for every individual with AS, as I suspect indeed, it is not.

And I have found that there are many parents out there who find the explanations that PDA offers a valuable way of helping and understanding their children.

So is PDA, as an explanation for aggressive behavior in children with AS a worthwhile path to go down?

Yes, I think it is, because what I do know is this;

It is better, although be it harder, to be a mother who is trying to help and understand her child, than to be a mother who is not.

It is better to be a mother who seeks information and accurate explanations that better fit her child’s experiences,  rather than being a mother who blindly follows whatever the current bells and whistles and ideas of the day, may be.

Especially when, as an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome, I know that there are too many stark differences to be found between my own and my daughter’s reactions to the world around us, to ever be adequately explained away via the use of just one diagnosis or one singular way of understanding Autism.

So I don’t think I’m wrong to question the value of finding additional diagnostic tools or ways of understanding Asperger’s Syndrome that may help to explain these differences.

Nor do I think that it’s wrong to logically seek to weigh up the pro’s and con’s behind an explanation that seems to fit, yet others find irksome.

I don’t think it’s wrong to ask those who have the privilege of knowing the PDA debate from the inside out, how they feel and what they think about it.

I think it would be wrong of me to do anything  otherwise.