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Help For People With Asperger’s Syndrome?

Many people who know people with Asperger’s Syndrome, or have someone with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) in their families write me exhausted and exasperated as to what to do to help the person with AS in their lives. Can you help someone with Asperger’s or is the help just perceived as too stressful and too intrusive? Do you feel frustrated and like your every effort to help the person with Asperger’s in your life just makes things worse? As a life coach, it has become apparent to me that this is a common experience for many a neuro-typical (NT).

Neuro-typicals need to understand that they really cannot truly know what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s a good place to start. Sound too simplistic or obvious? It is an important distinction to keep in mind because you might think you are offering someone with Asperger’s help based upon what you would experience as being helpful.

What most neuro-typicals find helpful or recognize as support is, more often than not, not the same for people with Asperger’s. If you approach the person with AS in your life from your own perspective without consideration of the differences in perspective, experience, and interpretation of those with AS the results will often yield more frustration for both parties involved.

It is also important to not put your own expectations upon your loved one or friend with AS. For many people with AS the help, caring, and/or support of others feels intrusive to them. It can be experienced as being a major stressor. It can lead a person with AS to retreat more inside of him or herself as a reaction to the ways they know they are different. The very things you may be stressing in trying to help may in fact leave the person with Asperger’s feeling judged or criticized because they do not have a common reference point with you from which to share in the reality that you care and are trying to help them. 

As someone with Asperger’s who continues to push all my limits in learning and mapping aspects of life and relating where I have a different ability – commonly referred as “disability” by NT’s, I myself, have experienced others trying to help me at times when there wasn’t any help they could really give me. We didn’t have a shared perspective, understanding, or strong enough commonality in our experience for a meeting of the minds that could prove to be beneficial versus frustrating. I have also experienced people trying to help me over the years in ways that were about trying to change who I am and how I function. That doesn’t anger or bother me but I have learned that I have to point out that what I do and how I do it, just because it is different, doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. I’m sure there are easier ways or more organized ways to do many things but they aren’t things that fit the way my mind works – they just don’t jive with how I think and what will work for me.

I’m sure the same could happen in reverse. If i were to try to help out a friend of mine, offering advice let’s say, about something that they do and how they approach it or do it, and gave my NT friend aspie methods of doing things how could I reasonably expect that they would change the way that they think and experience the world to fit my Asperger ways? That would prove frustrating for both me and my friend.

Help and support aren’t the same thing. Support is often met with less stress and anxiety than efforts to help. If you are a neuro-typical and you are thinking about helping the person with AS in your life ask yourself, what your goals are. What are you trying to accomplish and why? Is it for the aspie or more for you? Are you invested, perhaps without realizing it, in having the person with AS in your life be more like a neuro-typical?

This is an example of an unrealistic expectation that will leave you frustrated in trying help and that will leave the person with AS feeling intruded upon and/or stressed out by your efforts to help. Often when you want to help you want to see change from someone else rather than changing the way you approach a person or situation.

Sometimes the best “help” is accepting the person with Asperger’s in your life for who he or she is. NT’s will benefit from education themselves about Asperger’s Syndrome generally. They will also benefit from going one step further in asking the person with AS in their life about him or her specifically because each person with Asperger’s is an individual. We aren’t all the same. We don’t all have every trait or listed manifestation of what Asperger’s is stereotypically described to be and mean.

Differences that aren’t accepted will continue to fuel exhaustion and exasperation. Those feelings are generated in those trying to “help” who are really seeking to change someone into thinking, being, doing, acting like they do – in other words – trying to get someone with Asperger’s to act as if or find a way to be neuro-typical. It just doesn’t work.

©  A.J. Mahari, January 4, 2010 – All rights reserved.

 

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AS - Executive Dysfunction

Executive Dysfuntion is, in my opinion and experience, a different way of functioning.