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asperger's syndrome information and features

         

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Social Motivation

Friendships

Social Development

Social Motivation

Having Asperger's syndrome does not necessarily mean you are unfriendly or anti-social. People with Asperger's syndrome are quite capable of enjoying the company of others and like to talk and have fun sometimes just like anybody else. Despite this, attempts to socialise are often unsuccessful. There are lots of reasons for this.

Rejection

Lack of understanding of the social rules, body language and facial expressions, combined with lack of  eye contact etc. Means that people with Asperger's syndrome are sometimes perceived as weird eccentrics or seen as rude and unpleasant. Sometimes this results in active bullying and at other times in passive exclusion.

Stress

When you are aware you have social difficulties and you have trouble understanding and relating to people, socialising can be a very stressful activity. You can be filled with dread at the thought of doing anything that will involve communicating with other people, and may actively choose to avoid social situations.

Neglect

Socialising and making friends is not something that just happens... you do have to make at least a minimal amount of effort with people. Many people with Asperger's syndrome will neglect to do this, sometimes because they do not know they need to or are expected to, and other times because they have higher priorities.

Effort

As people with Asperger's syndrome get older, some of us do learn with time and experience how to act like other people in order to fit in. It can require a lot of effort and concentration though. Sometimes it will be worth it and sometimes it won't, but what you can't control is how much it tires you and how much stress may be associated with it. Of course that can vary from person to person, but most would need regular opportunities to relax or be alone after or between such efforts.

I personally find that while I am very good at keeping myself entertained, this makes it too easy for me to stay at home on my own. I would really like to get out more and do things with other people, but the opportunities do not often present themselves and I am unable to seek them out. When opportunities do come along they often demand more of me than I can cope with. There is sometimes pressure from people, but most of all there is pressure from myself because I don't want to be left behind and I don't want to miss out. I am torn between the need to push people away for their sake and mine... avoiding situations and places I will find difficult or overloading, but wanting to get out and have fun.

Friendships

You must understand, I am not an unfriendly person, and though I often use the word shy as a convenient and easy explanation for my general reluctance with people, really I am not capable of being shy. I will talk to anyone about anything. Over the years I have learnt to be more careful and cautious. There are some things I shouldn't say and some people I shouldn't talk to and not everybody wants to talk to me anyway. Whenever I can I say as little as possible to be on the safe side. The self restraint that holds me back however is but a thin membrane, and I require only a little encouragement to become loud, assertive and outspoken... that is the person I really am, but it is a person that it is dangerous for me to be. I guess I'm just more than most people can take.

I don't really do the whole friendship thing. I've pretty much mastered the whole friendly acquaintance thing though and that is a comfortable level for me. I can cope with the demands of that, and because people's expectations and requirements of me are lower I am far less likely to disappoint.

Sometimes I meet people who I seem to just hit it off with. When I was younger, before I knew about AS, this was always very exciting and would fill me with hope that I was somehow getting better at relating to people. Problem was that after a few days these people with whom I had felt I had got along so well with would just seem to suddenly stop bothering with me, and as if this wasn't hurtful enough, they would seem to be acting offended as if I had been the one who had ditched them.

This scenario played out over and over again and it was all so weird that it was obvious that it had to be something about me... I mean, it was highly improbable I could just be unlucky. After being diagnosed with AS that was part of the explanation, but it still didn't explain to me the dynamics of what was actually going on and why it happened.

Then one day recently things just fell in to place in my head, and I just have to share with you my moment of insight into this ghastly scenario just in case it can help anyone else who might be pondering over the same enigma. It's really so simple I am astonished I couldn't see it before...

The thing is, some people are capable of making more of an effort socially than others. These people can carry someone like me for a day or a even a few days easily. It can seem like we are really hitting it off but that is just because they are making an investment of effort that they hope will pay off when we get to know each other better. They are anticipating that they will soon have to make less effort.

The problem is I'll be the same with them after 10 years as I was the day we first met. I am not capable of reciprocating their efforts, and if me as I am when we first meet is not enough for them then it never will be. I am a totally autonomous unit. I do not function as a group or a pair. The best I have to offer is I can show up on time and I can talk, and if people don't actually specify when and where they want to see me, I won't even do that... and not because I don't want to but because I really can't imagine whether or not they want to spend time with me. I never show up anywhere unless I have been explicitly invited and it is all planned.

I need people to make the effort with me, not just to begin with but everyday forever. I now see that even these most friendly and socially capable people, quite understandably, don't want to keep making that effort long term and they don't want to keep having to carry me socially. For them the very definition of friendship is most probably at least in part a relationship where such social efforts are no longer required. When it dawns on them that the way I was when they first got to know me was not just things being awkward because we didn't know each other well but the way it is going to stay, they assume that we aren't hitting it off... maybe even that I don't like them and am 'not making and effort' or keeping them at a distance deliberately. That is why they act hurt and offended.

Groups are just as bad. At first they go out of their way to include me and make me feel welcome but then after maybe a couple of weeks they just stop and I don't know what to do. I have tried to make an effort under these circumstance but I must be doing it wrong because it always seems to just be met with hostility. I find it is best to just quietly give up and drift away when ti gets like that but then they still seem angry with me. It's like I just can't win. I guess it is for similar but maybe more complex reasons.

I have observed other people's friendships closely but I do not understand them. They are a closed book to me. Superficially however I am not impressed. To me they seem to be very dysfunctional arrangements that involve an unhealthy mutual dependence. I prefer to keep my autonomy and independence.

Social Development

I think the part of the problem for people with Asperger's syndrome is about being deprived of an appropriate developmental experience. I suspect that people with Asperger's Syndrome who have always been accepted despite it are not only more confident and less anxious, thus handling themselves much better in social situations, they also learn how to do most of the things other people do but in their own ways.

Most children are born into a situation where they can rapidly learn how to communicate and conduct themselves, but children with Asperger's syndrome may spend a lot of time alone, either by choice or because of rejection by peers or both. Even when they are with other people, such as in a school environment they may not be engaging with them in a meaningful way. In my case I think I must have been in my teens before I began to appreciate other people to the same degree that I now recognise most pre-school children seem capable of. I don't know if anything could have been done differently to help me make that connection sooner, though I doubt it could have been forced or coerced.

Maybe it is just down to luck. I was lucky that I had an enriching home environment where who I was and how I was never questioned and I learned to be myself. I can't help but wonder though at the wasted years I spent wondering around at school without a clue, developing only neurosis, depression, and post traumatic disorder, instead of the social skills my peers were all taking for granted.

On this page I can describe some of the social problems encountered by people with Asperger's syndrome, but the more I communicate with other people with Asperger's syndrome the more I become convinced that the differences that cause us such problems are not inherently bad, but merely unsuitable for the social environment we find ourselves in. I think our communication skills are often under developed through lack of use because they are different, just like speaking a foreign language and never getting the opportunity to practice it with anyone.

I think it would probably be more efficient and effective to develop a persons existing skills and then work on making them compatible with other people afterwards than it is to just waste those skills and try and teach them to mimic skills they don't even have.

I think this could be one of the reasons why some people meet the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's syndrome but have hardly any problems as a result while others can barely cope. It is possible to be different in the same ways but to have had different experiences that have shaped your development. It is just an idea, and I might be totally wrong. I just wanted to say.

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