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Is Self Help Effective For Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association) under the general category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) in 1994. It is named after Hans Asperger, of Vienna, who wrote about this cluster of characteristics as early as 1944. Are self help principles, ideas, and practices effective for people with Asperger’s Syndrome?

  • “Many individuals with Asperger Syndrome exhibit extensive knowledge of a specific interest and therefore are capable of major accomplishments.
  • Although Asperger Syndrome can be first detected in childhood, many individuals are not diagnosed until well into adolescence or adulthood.
  • The cause of Asperger Syndrome is not yet established, but a leading theory at this time points to genetic causes. Many individuals diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome identify similar traits in their family members.” 

             Source: Aspergers Society of Ontario

You might think well, if Asperger’s Syndrome is genetic and on the autism spectrum and since it is a pervasive developmental disorder that that may mean there’s nothing that can be done to help someone.  For those of us diganosed in adulthood there are even more challenges because any chance for early intervention, counselling, psycho-education, social skills training and so forth has been missed. And, once in adulthood there are very few places one can go for this assistance, if you can find anywhere at all that works with adults.  Most of the resources used in treatment and managing Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) are in place only for those under the age of majority. So, are you just stuck with it? How can you change anything when there isn’t a way to actually get rid of it? Mind you, most aspies I know, and I include myself here, would not want to get “rid of it” even if it was possible to do so.

Not everyone diagnosed with Aspergers is the same. Not everyone diagnosed with Aspergers has all the traits or has certain traits as strongly as the next person. It is important, if you are an adult with AS, to look at what your strengths and weaknesses are. For many with AS common strengths include a high intelligence and strong interest in a least one area of narrow focus. While this narrow focus can have its drawbacks it can also be harnessed as quite a strength in many ways. An obvious and quite common so-called weakness for those with AS is social impairment. However, I have come to realize that the way that is defined is very genernalized. Each one of us needs to examine our own abilities and challenges in this area particularily. I say so-called because to the degree to which one is socially impaired or not can depend quite a bit on your own idea of what that means for you as an individual.

One of the major aspects of self help that can be of great assistance to those with AS is learning more about self-acceptance and respecting differences, to the degree that you understand the ways in which you are different from the average NT. Even if NT’s around you don’t understand or respect your differences its important to not take on the judgment or misconceptions of those who cannot understand what its like to have AS. NT’s are often very confused by a lot of the ways in which we think. Just as those with AS find many of the ways that NT’s think a little other-worldly too. It is equally important to realize that a lot of what we do differently, or the ways in which we may think differently, can be positively framed in realizing your capability to function in and through what is a different ability.

I have come to realize in my own life that having AS doesn’t mean, for me in my life, that I am disabled. I am differently abled. I may have many differences in how I function – known as aspie lack of executive dysfunction – which I have found through my own self help efforts can really be transformed into different ways of functioning. Again, the key is changing the way you think about difference and being the one that is different. What NT’s call dysfunction can be turned into your own undersanding of many different ways that you actually do function – this aspie functionality is just not well understood by NT’s and of course is not the same as NT functioning.

You really can create change in your life like anyone else – like your neurotypical (NT) counterparts. Change for some with Asperger’s means personal growth and evolution in understanding and learning for many. For some it might be more about finding productive and workable compensatory strategies. Social strategies are also important to explore and implement. They can take practice. However, if you learn to be kind to yourself and avoid judging yourself you will find that what you practice and what you apply from self help philosophy can and will be very helpful.

As a life coach I have learned to apply self help strategies in  my work with many clients with Asperger’s Syndrome. I have, of course, also learned to apply much of these same self help strategies in my own life. The first step in ensuring that you can make the most out of the self help you can learn much more about is to have an open mind about how much you can empower yourself to find ways to cope and ways to compensate for what isn’t exactly entirely changeable. Adaptation is a key facet of applying self help to your life journey with Asperger’s Syndrome.

 ©  A.J. Mahari, February 5, 2010 – All rights reserved.

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AS - Executive Dysfunction

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