Anyone who has ever watched The Big Bang Theory assumes Sheldon Cooper, the main character on the show, has Asperger’s syndrome.
But the showrunners have dismissed that theory a number of times.
Truth is, Sheldon manifests most if not all of the classic Asperger’s signs and symptoms.
The question most people when they have a partner with Asperger’s syndrome ask is can they feel love?
Can a person with Asperger’s feel love 1?
Aspies knows what they think and feel, but often they are unaware of what others think or feel.
With that in mind, what are the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome?
The main thing you need to understand is that the symptoms vary depending on the age.
For example, a child with Asperger’s manifests different symptoms than an adult with the same syndrome.
Some might also manifest mild symptoms, while others have severe Asperger’s symptoms.
Because of the wide variety of symptoms, no two children are alike.
What is Asperger’s syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism 2.
And like many autism profiles, Asperger’s is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and how they interact with others.
People with the syndrome see, hear, and feel the world differently to other people.
The syndrome is for life.
There are treatments that can help with the Asperger’s syndrome, but it is a lifelong condition.
It cannot be cured.
People with the syndrome feel like it is a fundamental aspect of their identity.
They do not have the learning disabilities that most people with autism have.
However, they have specific learning difficulties.
They do not have problems with speech, but do face challenges and difficulties with understanding and processing language.
Autism, including Asperger’s syndrome, is a more common condition than people think.
According to statistics, there are more than 700,000 autistic people in the UK, and in the world, one in every 100 people has some form of autism 5.
And while the syndrome can affect all nationalities and people with different cultural, religious and social background, it is more common within men than women 6.
As mentioned previously, symptoms vary depending on the age.
With that in mind, we will look at symptoms and signs of Asperger’s syndrome during childhood, during teenage years, and in adulthood 7.
Symptoms during childhood
Asperger’s signs are easiest to notice during childhood 8.
Parents usually notice the symptoms when their child starts preschool and begins to interact with other children.
The interaction with others is what is challenging for people with Asperger’s 9.
Here are some symptoms that children might manifest:
- Appear to lack empathy
- Does not accept any changes in routine
- Does not pick up on social cues
- May lack inborn social skills, such as being able to read other’s body language
- Difficulty starting and maintaining conversation and taking turns talking
- Unable to recognize subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent
- A child with Asperger’s may not understand a joke, or take a sarcastic comment literally
- All of his/hers speech may be fat and hard to understand
- The speech of a child with Asperger’s may lack tone, pitch, and accent
- Has a formal style of speaking that is advanced for a child’s age
- Talks a lot about his/hers favorite subject
- One-sided conversations are common
- Avoids eye contact during talking, or stares at others
- Manifests unusual facial expressions and postures while talking
- Has delayed motor development, and may be late in learning how to use a fork or a spoon, or ride a bike or even catch a ball
- Can become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes
- Be preoccupied with only one or few interests
It is worth noting that a child with just one or two of the symptoms does not necessarily have Asperger’s syndrome.
In order to be diagnosed with Asperger’s, one must have a combination of several symptoms and have trouble with social situations.
And while many think Asperger’s is similar to autism, a person with Asperger’s syndrome has normal language and intellectual development.
Symptoms during teen years
Symptoms that are obvious during childhood, persist through the teen years in most cases.
However, teens with Asperger’s begin to learn some social skills.
But, communication often remains difficult.
Teens with Asperger’s also have trouble and difficulty “reading” other people’s behavior 10.
Teens with the syndrome will want friends, but they might feel shy or intimidated when approaching their peers.
They feel different than others.
For example, while most teens want to look cool, teens with symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome may find it frustrating and emotionally draining to do it and try to fit in.
Therefore, most teens with Asperger’s become withdrawn, distant, and socially isolated.
They might even develop depression or anxiety.
However, it is worth noting that teens with Asperger ’s usually put emphasis on creative thinking and pursuit of original interests and goals.
Therefore, some of their traits work to the benefit of a teenager.
Asperger’s symptoms in adulthood
We mentioned at the beginning that Asperger’s is a lifelong condition.
However, it tends to stabilize over time, and there are often improvements as one is nearing his adulthood.
Adults have a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and are better prepared to control their condition.
They are also ready to learn social skills, and can start reading other’s social cues.
Some traits of Asperger’s, for example, attention to details and focused interests, actually work in their benefit.
They increase the chances of university and career success.
There isn’t any study to confirm it, but most people with Asperger’s are fascinated with technology.
It is worth noting that some very successful people in the history of mankind had Asperger’s syndrome, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, and Marie Curie.
How it is diagnosed?
Once parents notice some of the childhood symptoms, they need to do some tests so a formal diagnosis is in place.
A multi-disciplinary diagnostic team, usually including speech and language therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, and pediatrician are part of the team.
Because the symptoms vary, it can be difficult and challenging to set a clear diagnosis.
A diagnosis of the syndrome carries a number of benefits.
But most importantly, it helps people with the syndrome and their family and friends to understand why they experience certain difficulties, and what can they do about them.
Not only symptoms are different from one patient to another, there are also similar conditions that might get mistaken.
Here are the conditions that can result in similar symptoms as Asperger’s syndrome:
- Anxiety disorder
- Depression in adolescents
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
What is the therapy for Asperger?
As mentioned previously, one of the benefits of diagnosing Asperger’s syndrome is you can better cope with the condition.
However, it is worth noting it is a lifelong condition, and there is no single or best treatment and cure for the syndrome.
Most therapies focus on treating the symptoms.
Most adults diagnosed with the syndrome find cognitive behavioral therapy to be particularly helpful.
It helps them earn social skills, self-control of emotions, as well as how to cope with obsessions and repetitive behaviors.
At young age, educational and social support programs focus on helping children teach social and adaptive skills step by step by using highly structured activities 11.
For children, group programs are also helpful for social skills.
Speech and language therapy helps with conversation skills.
One thing is certain, and most health care experts agree on it: the sooner interventions are started, the better the outcome.
Adults, however, cope great with the condition thanks to counseling.