One caveat: one cannot assume that a person diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome will have ALL of the most common attributes. For example- my son is very athletic and well-coordinated, which is unusual. It is often said that if you've met one aspie, you've met..... one aspie...:) just like the rest of us... However, they do have many traits that seem to be common challenges.
Asperger's Syndrome is not necessarily a problem (other than frustration) for anyone other than the individual who has Asperger's.
It initially presents itself largely as a social dysfunction whereby the individual does not pick up on the social nuances that assist most of us in everyday communication and common social situations and interactions.
They definitely have a different way of processing information of any form, but especially the spoken word.
Initially, they do not (easily/accurately) read body language, facial expressions, tone of voice (or even volume) the way we do. They do not readily grasp sarcasm and do not easily "read between the lines" or understand "white lies", kidding, or anything other than what is specifically being said. Words they hear are processed much like written words on a flat page - it is what it is. Period. These things can be taught and learned, but it is helpful to have a predictable and honest sphere of influence, as "aspies" are often very trusting of others.
Naivete is common and they endure a lot of teasing. But that too, gets better if they remain engaged in society. My 28 year old son is the sweetest guy you'll ever meet, but his friends sometimes say he is "from another planet"...
Cumulative learning and problem solving is a bit of a problem sometimes. But they follow written instructions to a T - and are very reliable, loyal, and trustworthy.
They believe what they are being told- most of the time- literally- and must ask questions often to fully understand things. It gets better with age, experience, and wisdom earned the hard way.
My son got his feelings hurt often when he was a kid by the things he encountered and what people jokingly said to him. Too many awkward moments. But didn't we all? He just seemed a bit sensitive.
OK- more than a bit.
But he didn't complain, he just got confused easily and I could sense the frustration he was going through- although I didn't know why- yet.
And we always said he took things waaaaaaay too literally---- little did we know...
We had no idea that he had any "condition" that needed treatment, as his grades were A's and B's and he did have friends. But he was quiet and seemed to withdraw rather than engage in an argument or defend himself when he got kidded by his peers - or his merciless, gregarious big brother. There were always a bunch of kids at our house- especially his brother's friends, and he seemed to hang back a lot and mostly observe.
It was his second year in college that seemed to truly overwhelm him. We got help - and the Asperger's diagnosis. I gotta admit- it was spot on, and the process began to "rewind" a lot of things and assist him with his new challenges.
It breaks my heart to see him struggle, and I am horrified to think of the many times when he was a child that I used sarcasm or failed to grasp what was going on in his head.
He has learned MUCH over the years, but he still hits a snag every now and then.
My son has NEVER told a lie that I know of, and I am not a fool, nor easily deceived. I often found this perplexing, and remained skeptical for years. I know no other person like that...
He simply doesn't understand why anyone would want to mislead someone. It just doesn't make sense to him.
How can we deal with anything other than the truth?
Consequently he has made comments that were not always appreciated by others. Kinda funny sometimes...
His boss at work once asked him where everyone was and he stated "they are out back smoking pot". He couldn't understand why that didn't go over too well with the folks that got caught and sent home. He was just answering a question and telling the truth...
You or I might have handled that a bit differently.
He has a heart of gold and wants to help others but "empathy" is different for him. He has to be told what is needed to understand how to respond. This sometimes places him in awkward situations.
For example- several years ago he was driving down the road and saw a man sitting on the curb in front of a local church looking down at the ground. The (small storefront in a tiny, mostly vacant shopping center) church was closed- it was a weekday- and something made him think that the man was in some sort of distress. We had recently been discussing how to "read" similar body language.
He turned the car around, went back- and asked the man what was wrong.
The shabbily dressed man- about 20 years old and of a different race- told him he needed money for some reason (I forgot). My son and the man went in my son's car to the ATM and my son gave him $400!
I freaked out when I heard about it and asked him why the heck he gave him $400. (We are po' folks ourselves!)
His response--- "that was all I had".
That was about two weeks pay for my son- and he had just gotten paid... He even gave the guy his phone number- and sure enough, he called again a few days later.
I talked with the guy, arranged a meeting, and told him he had just met the only person on the planet that would have done that and to consider it a gift from God- but to not call again. He did need the money (don't we all), was actually apologetic and thanked us again. I told him to pass it on. I think my son learned an important lesson, but I'm not sure.. if he had it, he'd probably still give it.
I have many such stories that are kinda funny and kinda sad, but one thing for sure-- I try to keep an eye on my son to protect HIM from other people who would take advantage of his generosity and kindness. He wouldn't hurt a flea, but has suffered at the thoughtless actions of others many times.
My son has learned enough to get him through most situations when he is in his comfort zone-- where he is with friends or family or someone he has been introduced "properly" to. He can talk your ear off if you hit a subject he is passionate about.
(I had to explain that sentence to him the first time I said it)
In many ways he is very mature and responsible- and has always been- but he has not experienced the joys of dating and finding a soul mate. To look at him you would have no idea anything is awry. He is tall, strong, and handsome. But women throw him for a loop! (I can relate...)
I can only hope and pray that there is a special someone out there just right for him.
I don't know if all aspies are just like my son, but from what I have read, the professional assistance we have received, and the people I have met online -- I would say that most are.
He is as close to (resembles) Jesus as anyone I have ever met in my life.
That's a bit spooky sometimes- but still------ I have to smile when I think of it that way.
Please try and understand the challenges people face and do not jump to the conclusion that they are somehow not worthy of trust. Society should assist, rather than confront or ridicule these brave individuals who are trying to cope as best as they can.
By simply Googling "Asperger's Syndrome" you can begin to acquire knowledge on this increasingly pervasive condition.
For additional thoughts on Asperger's Syndrome, which has been mentioned as a possible link to the Newtown Connecticut tragic shootings of innocent children and their courageous and dedicated teachers, read my Journal entry here at Last.fm -- http://www.last.fm/user/johnTMcNeill/journal/2012/12/21/5p90di_asperger%27s_and_the_newtown,_connecticut_tragedy