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Asperger syndrome

Asperger; aspergers; syndrome; school; high; secondary; sibling; brother; sister; marry;

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Asperger syndrome is a disability related to autism. It was first identified by Dr Hans Asperger (a paediatrician in Vienna). Asperger syndrome and autism are both types of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is Asperger Syndrome like?

  • People with Asperger syndrome find it hard to relate to other people.
  • They may talk a lot about their own interests, but have problems getting the message across or giving others the chance to talk.
  • They have trouble understanding the feelings of other people and they do not seem able to read body language. For example, a person with Asperger syndrome may not realise when they have hurt someone's feelings, or realise when someone doesn't want to listen to them.
  • They like everything to be the same, and everything to be in the right place. They can get very upset if something is done 'the wrong way'.
  • The effects of Asperger syndrome can vary from slightly unusual behaviour to quite aggressive and anti-social behaviour.
  • Some people who are said to be eccentric loners may have Asperger syndrome.
  • Many great scientists, writers and artists are thought to have had Asperger syndrome, including many Nobel Prize winners.

It affects people all of their lives but as people get older they get better at social and coping skills.

People with Asperger syndrome can do well when others understand the effects of the syndrome on their behaviour and learning, and provide a supportive environment.

There is a lot more about Asperger syndrome, what causes it and what it is like on the Parenting and Child Health section of our site - Asperger syndrome and Asperger syndrome - more information

Secondary school

  • Secondary school can be very stressful for students with Asperger syndrome because they have a different timetable each day, several different teachers, and have to move between classrooms. These changes can be really stressful for someone who likes everything to be the same.
  • Other students get better at interpersonal relationships as they grow older, but it can become more difficult for a student with Asperger syndrome to be involved in friendship groups. However, they may enjoy groups which follow their special interest (eg science clubs).
  • It can seem as though they are really bright because they know a huge amount about something they are interested in, but they might have trouble keeping up with other subjects.

Teenagers with Asperger Syndrome are usually able to manage stressors better than younger kids, and behaviour problems at school may be less of an issue at secondary school. However a teenager with Asperger syndrome may be so worn out after 'holding it together' all day at school that he or she may 'fall apart' at home.

  • Feeling tired after school is often a problem, and facing up to homework at the end of the day can be very stressful for someone who has already had a stressful day.
  • It may be possible to negotiate with teachers to reduce the amount of homework or extend tasks over a longer time.

A school counsellor can help to work out ways for dealing with problems, which might include a place to work alone if things get too hard sometimes.

Adult life

  • Many people with Asperger syndrome can form strong bonds with a few friends, marry and have children.
  • Their anxieties and difficulties with the subtleties of relationships can be confusing and upsetting to partners and their children.
  • If partners and children are able to learn more about Asperger syndrome, they are often more able to understand the behaviour and live more comfortably with the person who has Asperger syndrome.
  • People with Asperger Syndrome also need to understand relationships better and learn more about how their behaviour and emotions can affect others.
  • Reading Tony Attwood's book on Asperger syndrome can be a useful start for this.
  • Peer support groups can also be helpful for partners and children. Check on the internet to see if there are support groups in your area.

Problems for brothers and sisters

It can be difficult if you have a brother or sister with Asperger syndrome.

  • Their behaviour can be difficult to live with because they don't relate to others well.
  • They may have frequent tantrums when things don't go their way, and this can be embarrassing to you, especially if your friends are around.
  • Parents often have to spend a lot more time with the child who has Asperger Syndrome, so that you can feel you are missing out.
  • You may have to watch out more for your brother or sister to protect them from others, such as protecting them from being bullied.

Understanding more about Asperger syndrome may help you interact more successfully with your brother or sister. The topic Disability - living with someone who has a disabilty may also be helpful.

The books by Tony Attwood and Kate Strohm listed below may also be useful.

Resources

Websites

References and further reading

Attwood Tony, 'The complete guide to Asperger syndrome', Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, 2008 (highly recommended).
http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/book.php/isbn/9781843104957

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) 'Autism Spectrum Disorders'
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/

Bleach Brand F 'Everybody Is Different: A Book for Young People Who Have Brothers or Sisters With Autism'. Autism Asperger's Publishing Company

Davies Julie, 'Able autistic children: Children with Asperger syndrome: A booklet for brothers and sisters', University of Nottingham, Nottingham, 1995.

Strohm K, 'Siblings: brothers and sisters of children with special needs', Wakefield Press 2012. 
http://www.siblingsaustralia.org.au/books_adult.asp  

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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