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Asperger’s Syndrome vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Eh?

As we know it, Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is considered a higher functioning autism spectrum disorder, meaning a person with AS can live more independently, can talk, study, and have a job but still does not function socially well as neurotypicals because of their difficulty in comprehending the social world. This implies that AS people do not know how to interact with people, from approaching acquaintances to keeping friends and lovers and understanding another person’s emotional states (empathy). But AS people do really want to interact with people, they just don’t know how. When approaching people they just blurt out things or tell about themselves right away, which looks like they are rude or self-absorbed, making them look like a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Image courtesy of sodahead.com. Self-absoption of the AS individual could look like Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

To make things clear, let’s define first the following:

Personality

Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.[1] It has to do with individual differences among people in behaviour patterns, cognition and emotion.[2]  Personality can be classified according to introversion-extraversion (quiet vs outgoing), body humours (not jokes, but bodily fluids that can affect personality: sanguine (bubbly), melancholic (gloomy), choleric (grumpy), and phlegmatic (sluggish)), and so on.  So when you refer a friend’s personality, you can say that my friend’s got a bubbly personality for example.

Now, psychologists say that personality influences life experiences and vise versa. A certain personality can take life either lightly or seriously. Also, in order for one person to navigate life well, he or she develops coping mechanisms, the expending conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict.[3][4][5][6][7] Examples of coping mechanisms include denial (not admitting one’s fault), sublimation (substituting an activity for a feeling, ie, watching porn instead of raping), displacement (aggression toward non enemy), etc. If coping mechanisms are too much or too little, or his personality is said to be very difficult, then psychologists call this a personality disorder.

What is a personality disorder?

Personality disorders are mental health conditions that affect how people manage their feelings and how they relate to other people.[8] Those who struggle with a personality disorder have great difficulty dealing with other people. They tend to be inflexible, rigid, and unable to respond to the changes and demands of life. Although they feel that their behavior patterns are “normal” or “right,” people with personality disorders tend to have a narrow view of the world and find it difficult to participate in social activities.[9]

There are 10 personality disorders and are categorized into 3 clusters according to common features. They are developed by the American Psychiatric Association and are listed below[10]:

Cluster A (odd disorders) – often associated with schizophrenia, often described as having a pattern of acute discomfort in close relationships, cognitive or perceptual distortions, and eccentricities of behavior. However, people diagnosed with an odd-eccentric personality disorder tend to have a greater grasp on reality than those diagnosed with schizophrenia. In general, patients suffering from the disorder can be paranoid, have difficulty being understood by others as they have an odd or eccentric manner of speaking and a lack of close relationships.[10]

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders) – self-explanatory, dramatic, too emotional, drama queen or king, or maybe dictator or criminal like personality, also promiscuous people

Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders) –  people with these types of personality disorders are the nervous types, aka, comparable to Hades’s sidekick Panic in the Disney version of Hercules.

(C) Disney. Panic from Disney’s version of Hercules is an archetype of Cluster C Personality Disorders.

Now, back to the Asperger’s vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They say narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder where a person is grandiose, full of himself, and has no empathy with others. You can speculate that this is actually similar to Asperger’s Syndrome. But it’s actually not. They can look quite alike, but still different. Let’s explore more about narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.[11]

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you’re not given the special favors or admiration you believe you deserve. Others may not enjoy being around you, and you may find your relationships unfulfilling.[11]

A person with NPD or narc for short, is generally a self-absorbed person. His or her motto is this: “Me, myself, and I”. And his or her life is always about me, me, me, and nobody else. Way similar to Asperger’s? It can be, but wait…

The Mayo Clinic states that a person with NPD may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious.[12] Also a narc often monopolizes conversations, belittles or looks down on people perceived as inferior, feel a sense of entitlement — and when he or she doesn’t receive special treatment, he or she may become impatient or angry.[12] A narc may look very proud on the outside, but is actually a very big baby that is hypersensitive to criticism (ie when someone criticizes him even how constructive, he or she will explode and get very mad at that person).

Narcs have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, he or she may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make himself or herself appear superior. Or he or she may feel depressed and moody because he or she fall short of perfection.[12]

Why is the name of the disorder Narcissistic?

NPD is based on the Greek mythological character Narcissus, a very handsome young man who fell in love with his own image on a lake, thus the disorder is named after him.

To summarize, the DSM has the following symptoms confirmatory of narcissistic personality disorder

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features[12]:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Image courtesy of PsychCentral. Narcissistic personality disorder.

Maybe some of the symptoms of NPD like self-absorption and no empathy are similar to Asperger’s, but not arrogance or entitlement… Narcs are openly boastful while Aspies (people with AS) are totally clueless and gullible.

Typical narcs and Aspies are opposite poles –  but they still look similar to the unaware person. Both a narc and an Aspie appear rude and self-centered but with opposite reasons.

Why?

People with narcissism appear rude in order to gain recognition and special attention from other people or objects. They feel they are entitled, omnipotent, or perfect that they crave attention, which is called “narcissistic supply.” Narcs are obsessed with the “me, me, me” mantra that they are so full of love to themselves that they leave nothing for other people. Aspies, on the other hand, appear clueless on how the social world operates. It’s like they don’t have the operation manual for socialization that’s why they are also about me, me, me, but actually, they long to connect socially. That’s why they look similar: self-absorbed, no empathy, difficulty in the social arena as well as emotional arena. Also, both AS and NPD can cause severe burnout to any close relationship, be it a romantic partner, parent, child, relative, friend, or employer as they both have struggles in their interaction with other people. Actually, NPD and Asperger’s Syndrome are frequently misdiagnosed (and interchanged).

The reason for this confusion is understandable since some of the symptoms found in people with AS and HFA (high function autism) are also found in those with NPD.[13]

Their similarities are listed below[13]:

  • apparent lack empathy
  • difficulty understanding others’ feelings
  • eccentric personality
  • harsh interpersonal communication
  • inability to view the world from the perspective of others
  • lack of demonstrated non-verbal cues and inability to pick-up on the non-verbal cues of others
  • lack of interest in others
  • lack of psychological awareness
  • narrow range of interests and activities
  • obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
  • preoccupation with their own agenda
  • problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
  • self-centeredness
  • similar eye-to-eye gaze, body stance, and facial expressions
  • tendency to react to social problems/stress with depression
  • underdeveloped conversational skills

Confusing, right? But AS and NPD are totally opposite poles. Here are the differences between AS and NPD[13]:

  1. The Aspergerian (i.e., person with Asperger’s) wants a good and happy life – not just for himself, but for everyone. He would rather “fit-in” with his peer-group (or simply be left alone) rather than be the “boss” or the “leader” – even if he is the brightest student in the class. The Narcissist (i.e., person with NPD), however, wants a good and happy life only for himself (or the individuals he includes in his inner circle). He wants to be in control and doesn’t care who he has to hurt to get control. He will do anything he can to be in charge of the people around them (without being noticed as a “control freak”).

  2. The Aspergerian typically pays little attention to the body language of others – and would have great difficulty reading it even if he tried. The Narcissist pays close attention to others’ body language – looking for signs that they may be weak or vulnerable – and then seizes the opportunity to exploit them for his own gains.

  3. The Aspergerian typically does not have any hidden agenda toward others. But, the Narcissist lives and breathes hidden agenda, as any good con man would.

  4. The Aspergerian simply wants to be treated with normal consideration and respect, but he often receives much less respect than he deserves due to his social skills deficits, quirkiness, and lack of desire to appear “cool” in the eyes of others. On the contrary, the Narcissist typically receives way more respect than he deserves since he is great at presenting himself as the smartest, coolest person on the block. He discards and devalues others in order to make himself look better.

  5. The individual with Asperger’s often appears selfish, uncaring and insensitive due to the fact that he tends to live in his “own little world,” often minding his own business to a fault. The individual with NPD often appears selfish, uncaring and insensitive BECAUSE HE IS.

  6. The Aspergerian is unlikely to obey the hidden rules of conversation (e.g., unable to read or exhibit non-verbal language, may ramble on about a special interest even when the listener has stopped paying attention, may not allow others to speak in turn, interrupts the speaker on a whim, etc.). On the other hand, the Narcissist pays very close attention to the rules of conversation and is highly verbal, using language as a manipulative tool to get his ego fed.

  7. The Aspergerian wants marriage, children, friends and social acceptance, but is fairly clueless about how to go about procuring these things. As a result, he may develop a fear of rejection – and even choose a solitary lifestyle. Conversely, the Narcissist has the ability to switch between social responsiveness and social disengagement. He is not interested in relationships with certain people, because he views them as unworthy or inferior. However, if he can take advantage of someone for his own gains, he will easily and immediately regain his social skills and charm.

  8. Asperger’s individuals don’t exploit Narcissists. However, Narcissists do exploit people with Asperger’s. In fact, the Aspergerian is often the Narcissist favorite target!

  9. The Aspergerian experiences developmental delays, whereas the Narcissist experiences personality flaws.

  10. The Aspergerian is rather naïve and innocent, while the Narcissist is rather cunning and guilty.

Still, AS and NPD can still be misdiagnosed because of their seemingly similar symptoms. Oftentimes, narcs may act innocent to the outside world to boost their inflated self-image and become so mean at home, making immediate family members rather confused. Plus, narcs are considered very good con artists and are expert liars, which Aspies don’t do; instead, Aspies are tactless and too brutally honest, making them also rude too.

But let me tell you that the current DSM description of NPD is only one type of NPD. In fact, psychologists and psychiatrists as well as other experts believe there are many types of narcissistic personality disorder.

The types of narcissists are as follows[14]:

Cerebral Narcissists

Like the word cerebral implies, a cerebral narcissists has a profound belief that they have a superior intellect, that their intelligence far exceeds that of ordinary folk. They have a vast array of knowledge on just about any topic. They tell stories (real or made up) exemplifying their colossal brilliance. They are quick to point out the failings of others, often showing a great amount of disdain for those of lesser intelligence. Their Narcissistic Supply is generated through their intellect. Their audience admires their wit, stories and superior intelligence.

My comment: This type of narcissism is often common among the highly intelligent, including gifted populations, prodigies, and may also be common to people on the autism spectrum. It’s possible that autism and narcissism can co-exist.

Somatic Narcissists

Somatic Narcissists are consumed with their physical beauty and prowess.  You will often find somatics working hard at the gym, or on their appearance in some fashion or another. Somatics derive their Narcissistic supply from the reactions of others to their appearance, or sexual conquests.  You will often find a long list of sexual partners in their repertoire.

My comment: This is your typical narcissist. Always assumes he or she is the fairest of them all, common among celebrities. And she or he isn’t just enough of selfies. This is the real-life Narcissus!

Image courtesy of everydayfeminism.com. Your typical narcissist is more than just someone obsessed with selfies.

Overt Narcissist

When I think of an overt Narcissist I think of the character played by Julia Robert’s husband in Sleeping with the Enemy. This is the type of Narcissism that most people think of when they think of a Narcissist.

The overt Narcissist must always be in control. They are always right. They don’t hide their expectations that everything must always be all about them and done their way. They have massive egos and they aren’t afraid to show it. This type can verbally or physically slice you to ribbons and feel not an ounce of remorse or guilt.  They can be seen as over confident, but it becomes a pathology when the behaviors are way over the top. They are extroverts – their personalities like their sense of entitlement is large, loud, obvious and oppressive.

My comment: This is your still typical narcissist. Unfortunately I am classified as this combined with cerebral type (disclaimer: that’s just my self diagnosis). These are your usual tyrant politician like Hitler, Hussein, Bonaparte, etc…

Covert Narcissist

A Covert Narcissist is a Narcissist who, to the outside world, appears to be kind, altruistic and full of integrity, but they save their rage, extreme selfishness and cruelty for their nearest and dearest. They could be your religious leaders, teachers, counselors, politicians, anyone in a position with some authority or power. Covert Narcissists are very good at pretending. They pretend in order to get what they want, be it power, success, money, fame. They are the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

My comment: Hmm… a very dangerous type… common among clergymen, Filipino politicians (disclaimer: I’m a Filipina (female Filipino) who’s disgusted with Filipino politicians), even romantic partners and friends.

The Parasitic Narcissist

Parasitic Narcissist is a narcissist who exhibits all of the traits of Narcissism as outlined in the DSM-IV, however this type wants to be taken care of. They lead a parasitic lifestyle, feeding off of their host, and anyone that provides them the opportunity.

They don’t want responsibility. They look for strong, intelligent,  successful partners that can run the show, while they don’t contribute and have an, ‘it’s all about me’ party.

Errmm… very self explanatory, reality stars fit into this and business tycoons as well and elites too

The Boomerang Narcissist

Like the name implies the Boomerang Narcissist is one who is constantly popping in and out of your life. They offer very little in the way of believable excuses, but their co-dependent partners keep taking them back. They usually have several other partners they are involved with and bounce from one to the other when it suits them or something is expected of them. These types usually have a harem they can choose from, whom they feed bits and pieces of attention and affection to – just enough to keep them emotionally invested in them.

Okay. There are really self-absorbed and very selfish people. This can’t be the AS person. Right?

Wrong.

Huh???

A narcissist can have ASD and a person with ASD can have narcissism. In these cases, it is very hard to diagnose these as they are seemingly similar. This is particularly true when it comes to the covert and cerebral types, which is quite complicated as they are both similar in terms of self-absorption, low self-esteem, difficulty in socialization and and so on (for the articles of each autism spectrum disorders, click these following links: autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified)

Can’t still believe?

The only sure way to test whether a person can be a narc or an autistic is through formal psychiatric and or neurodevelopmental assessment. Usually, to be diagnosed on the spectrum, he or she must have a neurodevelopmental delay or damage and have global developmental delays. Narcissists, on the other hand, mustn’t have any other developmental disabilities or delays, but psychiatric problems like coming from a dysfunctional family or being either overindulged, abused, or neglected as a child to have the diagnosis of NPD.

Image courtesy of cartoonstock.com. Self-absorption is the hallmark sign of both ASD and NPD.

Nevertheless, both disorders can have a very huge impact on both the person who possesses it and to the family and society itself. It is therefore very important to differentiate these two disorders and give appropriate therapies to lessen the impact of these disorders and so as to help  them reach their true potential.

P.S.

There is a study that NPD can be considered a lighter version of ASD. Click this link here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201406/do-you-think-narcissism-autistic-spectrum-disorder

Accordingly, there is a study that the brains of narcissists are also deficient. They have very thin areas (or sometimes damaged) of the brain concerning with empathy and mirroring (brain activity which mimics other people’s movements and emotions). This could be very good as more light will be shed in human neurodiversity. This way we will be more able to understand people’s behavior in general that are really part of the human brain wiring and not just as is.

Do you suspect yourself to be a narcissist which you thought was Asperger’s or high emotional sensitivity? Click this article: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/23-signs-youe28099re-secretly-a-narcissist-masquerading-as-a-sensitive-introvert/

Hmm… This is the non DSM type of narcissism. Much more common and can be misdiagnosed as an autism spectrum or is a highly sensitive person (HSP). Have a try. This doesn’t automatically make you a psychopath.

References:

  1. http://www.apa.org/topics/personality/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coping_(psychology)
  4. Weiten, W. & Lloyd, M.A. (2008) Psychology Applied to Modern Life (9th ed.). Wadsworth Cengage Learning. ISBN 0-495-55339-5.
  5. Snyder, C.R. (ed.) (1999) Coping: The Psychology of What Works. New York: Oxford University Press.ISBN 0-19-511934-7.
  6. Cummings, E. Mark; Greene, Anita L.; Karraker, Katherine H., eds. (1991). Life-span Developmental Psychology: Perspectives on Stress and Coping. p. 92.
  7. R. S. Lazarus & S. Folkman, Stress, Appraisal, and Coping (1984) p.141.
  8. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/personality-disorder/Pages/Definition.aspx
  9. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/personality-disorder
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_disorder
  11. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/definition/con-20025568
  12. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20025568
  13. http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2015/05/is-it-aspergers-or-narcissism-or-both.html
  14. http://esteemology.com/the-different-faces-of-narcissism-types-and-sub-types/

Useful links:

Misdiagnosing Asperger’s as Narcissistic Personality Disorder: http://samvak.tripod.com/journal72.html

Self-admitting narcissist Sam Vaknin tells that Asperger people are usually misdiagnosed as NPDs. He does believe that narcs are actually extroverted and very good at socializing that he cannot include AS as a type of NPD.

Another differences between NPD and AS: http://www.mindretrofit.com/2013/02/24/aspergers-narcissism-not-the-same-i/

The autism and narcissism spectrum: http://luckyottershaven.com/2014/10/05/the-spectrums-of-autism-and-narcissism/

Very nice article about autism and narcissistic personality disorder spectrum types, written by a person with borderline personality disorder, a victim of a narcissist, and self-confessed covert narcissist too who initially thought that she has Asperger’s but actually covert narcissism.

Famous people with NPD: http://luckyottershaven.com/2014/11/21/famous-people-who-have-npd/

By the same author who has covert narcissism. You’ll be actually surprised that NPD is a very common disorder especially in the entertainment industry. No wonder there are no stable relationships, marriages, and families there. Also common in the business, politics, and religious organizations.

Narcs can have Asperger’s too: http://luckyottershaven.com/2015/04/11/narcissists-with-aspergers/

And this is a bad combination, though.

The typical narcissist vs the vulnerable narcissist: http://www.bpdcentral.com/blog/?Is-Your-Narcissist-the-Vulnerable-or-Grandiose-Type-22

This is a descriptive report on the two kinds of narcissism.

The covert narcissist: http://www1.appstate.edu/~hillrw/Narcissism/shycovertnarcissist.html

The actual description of a covert narcissist, which is usually mistaken as Asperger’s (or maybe similar or can be direct relatives or so…). I’m very guilty of this though, as I have this (self-diagnosis with the help of my mom)

Final word: to be sure whether your loved one, friend, colleague, or yourself have either ASD or NPD, I advise you to please consult a psychiatrist/psychologist/neuropsychiatrist to have a proper assessment. But for penniless like me, Google is the answer, and prayers too (for believers)

Narcissistic perfectionism: http://npatraits.homestead.com/nptype.html

This is under the NPA personality theory (NPA means narcissism, perfectionism, and aggression personalities) where such personality types are genetic in origin and have common subtypes per ethnicity. Narcissistic perfectionism are autistic-cerebral narcissistic in nature and are fairly common to peoples of the northern latitudes with rigid, rule-like perfectionism such as East Asians and Northern Europeans… (and my family’s very much related to this personality type, now I know why we are such narcissists)

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2

Jobs Suitable for Autism Spectrum Disorders

When a person has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), he/she has significant impairment in the social world and chaos. He/she loves routine more and think more linear than the rest of us. This implies that he/she will struggle a lot in the workplace, especially if he/she’s nonverbal. But no worries. With proper assessment and identification of strengths and weaknesses, job hunting will be less difficult for him/her.

Here, I listed some of the more suitable jobs for people with ASDs. Most of them have the characteristic of routine, linear analysis, facts, long-term memory, and less people interaction. Researches from Indiana University suggested the following jobs as ideal for the person on the spectrum.

Best Jobs for Adults with Autism[1]:

  • Computer programmer
  • Engineer
  • Drafter
  • Commercial artist
  • Photographer
  • Graphic designer
  • Web designer
  • Cartoonist
  • Librarian
  • Mechanic
  • Craftsman (jeweler, woodworker, blacksmith)
  • Technical repairman
  • Carpenter
  • Welder
  • Building maintainer
  • Accountant
  • Statistician
  • Journalist
  • Taxi driver
  • Telemarketer
  • Mathematician
  • Clerk
  • Bank teller
  • Physicist

For the nonverbal autistic, certain jobs exist as well, including[1]:

  • Janitor
  • Store restocker
  • Library helper
  • Factory assembly worker
  • Copy shop helper
  • Warehouse helper (grunt work)
  • Landscaper
  • Data entry specialist
  • Office helper
  • Other small jobs with little need for communication

Image courtesy of Queensland University of Technology. Physics is a heavenly job for a person with ASD.

Notice all of these are categorized under physical sciences, computer, music, and art, as well as labor with no or limited need for constant communication – all these jobs are a perfect niche for the ASD person thanks to very strong analytical and linear thinking. In fact, some of these jobs do really prefer ASD folks over neurotypical (NT) people, like in computer sciences.

Now, the following jobs are NOT suitable for ASD people. I typed not all caps because the following jobs listed below demand a LOT of social communication that if an ASD person will work such jobs, he/she will be jeopardized as well as his/her colleagues, superiors, and companies that will only make the ASD person end up laid off or fired leaving him/her devastated and incompetent.

Worst Jobs for Adults with Autism[1]:

  • Cashier
  • Cook
  • Waiter/waitress
  • Casino dealer
  • Anything with oral dictation
  • Taxi dispatcher
  • Ticket agent (airline, circus, etc.)
  • Market Trader
  • Auctioneer
  • Receptionist

Image courtesy of Twitter. Secretarial jobs are hell for the autistic employee.

These jobs DO DEMAND for constant communication, multitasking, working memory and less analytical skills. These are considered hell for the ASD person as he/she cannot easily communicate ideas to other people, making him/her look incompetent, absent-minded, or a liar to other people, risking his/her credibility or professional standing.

I also added some of the bad jobs for autistic people:

  • Teacher – obviously, a teacher speaks to noisy, naughty students. Might cause burnout.
  • Nurse – I’m totally related to this. Lots of communication, from doctors, health personnel, to patients and families, as well as quick common sense and working memory, multitasking. Very bad job and can cause burnout as well as well as risking your license and patients’ lives.
  • Secretary – another bad job. Constant communication (and flirting) with your boss and colleagues involving working memory and multitasking as well. Not good.

Temple Grandin gave also tips on employment when someone is on the spectrum.[2] She stated that ASD people have poorer working (short-term) memory – meaning getting and following verbal instructions right away – than most NTs. On the other hand, ASD people have stronger long-term memory than NTs, making ASD folks very good analysts, researchers, scientists, musicians, and artists.

Here is an excerpt from her article:

Some job tips for people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome:

  • Jobs should have a well-defined goal or endpoint.
  • Sell your work, not your personality. Make a portfolio of your work.
  • The boss must recognize your social limitations.

It is important that high functioning autistics and Asperger’s syndrome people pick a college major in an area where they can get jobs. Computer science is a good choice because it is very likely that many of the best programmers have either Asperger’s syndrome or some of its traits. Other good majors are: accounting, engineering, library science, and art with an emphasis on commercial art and drafting. Majors in history, political science, business, English or pure math should be avoided. However, one could major in library science with a minor in history, but the library science degree makes it easier to get a good job.

Miss Grandin’s right. An ASD person’s work and not speech should be emphasized in order for him/her to have a long-term job. Most of all, the employer should be very well aware of the autism spectrum, including its strengths and weakesses, and the employer must be supportive of his autistic employee (well, I guess it’s not that working well enough in my country…)

With these tips, there will be more hope for people with ASD to find meaning in their lives by their careers.

Reference:

  1. http://www.emaxhealth.com/11406/34-best-and-10-worst-jobs-adults-autism
  2. http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/Choosing-the-Right-Job-for-People-with-Autism-or-Aspergers-Syndrome
2

Little Professors (Asperger Syndrome)

You know this type of person: geeky, tech-savvy, otaku (おたく) or someone who’s die-hard fan of anime, LOVES discussing astronomy (versus astrology) or anything too intellectual, yet is awkward when it comes to social relationships (usually a virgin or with less than 2 partners). You usually call him a “professor” but actually he’s not. He has average to above-average or gifted intelligence, normal cognitive (learning) and language development but is socially blind. These are the characteristics of someone with Asperger Syndrome.

(C) CBS. Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory is your archetype person with Asperger’s Syndrome.

What is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger syndrome (AS) also spelled Asperger’s Syndrome, Asperger Disorder, Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical (peculiar or odd) use of language are frequently reported.[1][2][3] This means normal language and intelligence, but clueless in socialization; “robot-like” or android-like” behavior. Asperger syndrome was named from the Austrian pediatrician  Hans Asperger who, in 1944, studied and described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy.[1][4]  The modern conception of Asperger syndrome came into existence in 1981[1][5] and became an official diagnosis in 1994. The diagnosis of Asperger’s was eliminated in the 2013 fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and replaced by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder on a severity scale.[1][6] Though the DSM-5 doesn’t recognize AS anymore, the ICD-10 still recognizes Asperger syndrome as part of the more general pervasive developmental disorders.[7]

What causes Asperger syndrome?

The exact cause of Asperger’s is unknown. Although research suggests the likelihood of a genetic basis[1][2], there is no known genetic cause[1][8][9] and brain imaging techniques have not identified a clear common pathology.[1][2]

What are the symptoms of AS?

The main symptoms of AS include  poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness.[1][10]. Most children improve as they mature to adulthood, but social and communication difficulties may persist.[1][11]

  • Problems with social skills: Children with Asperger’s syndrome generally have difficulty interacting with others and often are awkward in social situations. They generally do not make friends easily. They have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation.[12]
  • Eccentric or repetitive behaviors: Children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such as hand wringing or finger twisting.[12]
  • Unusual preoccupations or rituals: A child with Asperger’s syndrome may develop rituals that he or she refuses to alter, such as getting dressed in a specific order.[12]
  • Communication difficulties: People with Asperger’s syndrome may not make eye contact when speaking with someone. They may have trouble using facial expressions and gestures, and understanding body language. They also tend to have problems understanding language in context and are very literal in their use of language.[12]
  • Limited range of interests: A child with Asperger’s syndrome may develop an intense, almost obsessive, interest in a few areas, such as sports schedules, weather, or maps.[12]
  • Coordination problems: The movements of children with Asperger’s syndrome may seem clumsy or awkward.[12]
  • Skilled or talented: Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math.[12]

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. A boy with Asperger syndrome (AS) where he has fascination with molecular structure (as opposed to neurotypical boys interest in toy cars or robots).

What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from classic autism are its less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected, and they frequently have good language and cognitive skills. To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a neurotypical child behaving differently.[13] This belief may become a complication once a child with AS is not diagnosed and grows up confused in a “chaotic” neurotypical world.

More specific AS symptoms in children[14]:

  • Not pick up on social cues and may lack inborn social skills, such as being able to read others’ body language, start or maintain a conversation, and take turns talking.
  • Dislike any changes in routines.
  • Appear to lack empathy.
  • Be unable to recognize subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech. So your child may not understand a joke or may take a sarcastic comment literally. And his or her speech may be flat and hard to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent.
  • Have a formal style of speaking that is advanced for his or her age. For example, the child may use the word “beckon” instead of “call” or the word “return” instead of “come back.”
  • Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized.
  • Avoid eye contact or stare at others.
  • Have unusual facial expressions or postures.
  • Be preoccupied with only one or few interests, which he or she may be very knowledgeable about. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are overly interested in parts of a whole or in unusual activities, such as designing houses, drawing highly detailed scenes, or studying astronomy. They may show an unusual interest in certain topics such as snakes, names of stars, or dinosaurs.
  • Have delayed motor development. Your child may be late in learning to use a fork or spoon, ride a bike, or catch a ball. He or she may have an awkward walk. Handwriting is often poor.
  • Have heightened sensitivity and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures. For more information about these symptoms, see sensory processing disorder

Some children with AS can be suspected to have dyspraxia (See my article dyspraxia here for more details) or sensory processing disorder.

Symptoms of AS in teen years:

Most children with AS generally improve when reaching teenage years. However, problems with socialization are becoming more apparent as they are at high risk for social isolation, bullying, and depression due to their obvious differences in behavior and interests. Remember, teens love to conform to anything “cool” stuff (I’m totally related to this struggle though).

A description of AS symptoms in teens is quoted from WebMD[15]:

Most symptoms persist through the teen years. And although teens with Asperger’s can begin to learn those social skills they lack, communication often remains difficult. They will probably continue to have difficulty “reading” others’ behavior. Your teen with Asperger’s syndrome (like other teens) will want friends but may feel shy or intimidated when approaching other teens. He or she may feel “different” from others. Although most teens place emphasis on being and looking “cool,” teens with Asperger’s may find it frustrating and emotionally draining to try to fit in. They may be immature for their age and be naive and too trusting, which can lead to teasing and bullying. All of these difficulties can cause teens with Asperger’s to become withdrawn and socially isolated and to have depression or anxiety.[15][16] But some teens with Asperger’s syndrome are able to make and keep a few close friends through the school years. Some of the classic Asperger’s traits may also work to the benefit of your teen. Teens with Asperger’s are typically uninterested in following social norms, fads, or conventional thinking, allowing creative thinking and the pursuit of original interests and goals. Their preference for rules and honesty may lead them to excel in the classroom and as citizens.

Image courtesy of http://www.myaspergerschild.com. A teen with AS prefers using computers for a whole day rather than playing extreme sports with peers.

Right. AS teens don’t like neurotypical interests like reality shows, showbiz, or pop music (but instead are huge fans of classical music, computers, and encyclopedias like I do). That’s why they are often shunned and bullied by peers, causing social isolation, anxiety, and depression just because they are different from the more common neurotypicals.

AS Symptoms in Adults:

AS adults still do improve a lot be being becoming more aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Here’s an excerpt from WebMD about AS symptoms in adults[15]:

Symptoms in adulthood

Asperger’s syndrome is a lifelong condition, although it tends to stabilize over time, and improvements are often seen. Adults usually have a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. They are able to learn social skills, including how to read others’ social cues. Many people with Asperger’s syndrome marry and have children. Some traits that are typical of Asperger’s syndrome, such as attention to detail and focused interests, can increase chances of university and career success. Many people with Asperger’s seem to be fascinated with technology, and a common career choice is engineering. But scientific careers are by no means the only areas where people with Asperger’s excel. Indeed, many respected historical figures have had symptoms of Asperger’s, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Thomas Jefferson.[15]

Usually, AS adults are comparable to Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper, Dr. Gregory House from “House”, Adam Raki of “Adam” (not the Biblical Adam but the 2009 rom-com movie), and Sherlock Holmes. They are usually described as “intellectually” smart but poor socially (romantically awkward). However, unlike more severe ASD conditions (PDD-NOS, autistic disorder, CDD, Rett syndrome), they are more successful (although will struggle a lot) in finding career and forming relationships and family, if given proper and enough family support.

(C) Fox. Dr House is a classic example of a person with AS.

What happens if AS is not diagnosed or identified?

Much difficulty is faced by an AS individual if he or she is undiagnosed (or is not aware of his or her condition) particularly in career choices and relationships, which can have a drastic effect on his or her well-being. Growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome can be traumatic for many individuals.[17] Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have often developed negative perceptions of themselves and may regard themselves as “weird”, “crazy,” or “broken.”[17]

Adults with AS are also susceptible to having various psychological difficulties. Often these challenges are a result of the individual’s difficulty coping with their AS, as well as the stress, anger, frustration, confusion, anxiety and fear that they feel.[17]

These additional difficulties are often misinterpreted, misdiagnosed, misunderstood and mistreated, especially if the underlying AS is undiagnosed or is not adequately understood. [17]

Some of the most common additional difficulties include[17]:

  • Anger outbursts (physical or verbal aggression, verbally threatening behavior)
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Increase in obsessional or repetitive activities, thoughts, or speech
  • Low mood or depression
  • Apathy and inactivity
  • Onset of uncharacteristic, bizarre behavior or thoughts

It is also common for adults with AS to experience chronic struggles in major life activities such as family, friendships, finances, health, and the workplace. Examples of these struggles include[17]:

  • Difficulty maintaining serious or romantic relationships
  • Partners or spouses complaining of lack of intimacy
  • Children feeling distant from AS parents
  • Friendships end due to lack of attention or invitations
  • Not understanding why friends or partners become frustrated
  • Lack of proactive attention to finances and health, resulting in dangerous neglect
  • Chronically being “underemployed” or unemployed
  • Frequent job changes due to “boredom”, lack of challenge, or interpersonal problems

That’s where psychologists and psychiatrists misdiagnose AS people with mental disorders (mood disorders, psychoses), or other neurological disorders (ADHD), and that’s usually incorrect diagnoses, making undiagnosed AS more complicated.

Common complications of undiagnosed AS[17]:

  • decreasing internal motivation
  • rigid ways of thinking
  • limited distractions from negative/obsessional thoughts
  • limited insight into own difficulties or reasons
  • poor coping strategies
  • low threshold for tolerance of stress, frustration and anger
  • poor self-identity, understanding and esteem

How is AS diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Asperger syndrome is usually made by a paediatrician who works with a team of specialists, such as a psychologist and speech pathologist, to conduct an in-depth assessment of the child’s skills and abilities.[18]

There are several types of assessments, sets of criteria or rating scales that can be used to diagnose Asperger syndrome. The assessment will usually include questions about social and emotional abilities, communication skills, learning abilities, movement skills and special interests.[18]

For adults with suspected AS, some first self-search about AS, others are identified by either their parents, spouse/partner, or friend/colleague. Then, diagnosis goes like this[19]:

  • Many individuals pursue neuropsychological testing with a neuropsychologist (PhD) or a psychiatrist (MD). As a result of this testing, it may be determined that the individual has Asperger Syndrome, something related to AS, or something different. This will give a fairly full picture of strengths and challenges and of how one’s brain processes information.
  • In addition to those with an MD or PhD, any professional with the credentials and expertise to diagnose any other condition may also make a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. Such professionals may be social workers (MSW), master’s level psychologists (MA), or other mental health professionals.
  • Neuropsychological testing is not required to get an “official diagnosis”. To apply for SSI there must be written documentation in the record from an M.D. or PhD. that there is some type of a psychological issue (not necessarily AS). There is no requirement of psych testing. The other issues regarding inability to work may be best described by other clinicians.

Tests include[1]:

It is never too late for an individual to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about Asperger Syndrome gives the individual an explanation, not an excuse, for why his or her life has taken the twists and turns that it has.[19]

How is Asperger Syndrome managed?

There is no cure for Asperger syndrome. Therapies like occupational therapy, language therapy, and social skills training are done to improve AS symptoms.

Management includes[1]:

Vocational training is important to teach job interview etiquette and workplace behavior to older children and adults with AS, and organization software and personal data assistants can improve the work and life management of people with AS.[1][2]

Medications can also be given for comorbid conditions like anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, inattention and aggression.[1][2] The atypical antipsychotic medications risperidone and olanzapine have been shown to reduce the associated symptoms of AS;[2] risperidone can reduce repetitive and self-injurious behaviors, aggressive outbursts and impulsivity, and improve stereotypical patterns of behavior and social relatedness. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, and sertraline have been effective in treating restricted and repetitive interests and behaviors.[1][2][3][29]

What is the prognosis for AS?

The prognosis is somewhat better than other ASDs, although comorbid mental problems appear alongside improvement. There is some evidence that children with AS may see a lessening of symptoms; up to 20% of children may no longer meet the diagnostic criteria as adults, although social and communication difficulties may persist.[1][11]  Individuals with AS appear to have normal life expectancy, but have an increased prevalence of comorbid psychiatric conditions, such as major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder that may significantly affect prognosis.[1][2][11] Although social impairment may be lifelong, the outcome is generally more positive than with individuals with lower functioning autism spectrum disorders.[1][2] 

A quote from Wikipedia is stated below for more of AS prognosis[1]:

Although many attend regular education classes, some children with AS may utilize special education services because of their social and behavioral difficulties.[30] Adolescents with AS may exhibit ongoing difficulty with self care or organization, and disturbances in social and romantic relationships. Despite high cognitive potential, most young adults with AS remain at home, yet some do marry and work independently.[2] The “different-ness” adolescents experience can be traumatic.[31] Anxiety may stem from preoccupation over possible violations of routines and rituals, from being placed in a situation without a clear schedule or expectations, or from concern with failing in social encounters;[2] the resulting stress may manifest as inattention, withdrawal, reliance on obsessions, hyperactivity, or aggressive or oppositional behavior.[26] Depression is often the result of chronic frustration from repeated failure to engage others socially, and mood disorders requiring treatment may develop.[2] Clinical experience suggests the rate of suicide may be higher among those with AS, but this has not been confirmed by systematic empirical studies.[32]

With earlier assessment and intervention of AS, prognosis gets better, though adult assessment can be helpful too and enlightening. Prognosis may be improved by diagnosis at a younger age that allows for early interventions, while interventions in adulthood are valuable but less beneficial.[1][3] There are legal implications for individuals with AS as they run the risk of exploitation by others and may be unable to comprehend the societal implications of their actions.[1][3]

How common is AS?

Asperger syndrome range from 1 in every 250 children to 1 in every 10,000. It is four times more likely to occur in males than in females and usually is first diagnosed in children between ages 2 and 6, when communicative and language skills are emerging and settling.[33] The male-female ratio for AS range from 1.6:1 to 4:1.[1][34] AS is associated with epilepsy, nonverbal learning disorder[1][35],  tics, Tourette syndrome, and bipolar disorder, and the repetitive behaviors of AS have many similarities with the symptoms of obsessive–compulsive disorder and obsessive–compulsive personality disorder.[1][36]

Some people with AS are proud of their disorders and some don’t want to be cured. Does AS have an advantage?

AS is said to be the more common of the ASDs, although not as fully recognized in many parts of the world; most people still view AS as mere eccentricity or immaturity of a person affected with it. Nevertheless, AS has been suspected to a lot of historical figures who contributed to science, technology, and music; hence contributing to civilization as a whole. This is where some AS people advocate AS strengths (great attention to detail, analytical, knowledge-loving as opposed to neurotypical love of status and social superiority). AS, though has social difficulty, has an advantage too.

Temple Grandin’s quote about advantages of having a person with autism gene (AS type). Thanks to AS people, we moved out of caves and spread to the ends of the earth and to space.

In fact, Australia-based English psychologist Tony Attwood presents an opinion about the advantage of children with AS[37]:

From my clinical experience I consider that children and adults with Aspergers Syndrome have a different, not defective, way of thinking.

The person usually has a strong desire to seek knowledge, truth and perfection with a different set of priorities than would be expected with other people. There is also a different perception of situations and sensory experiences. The overriding priority may be to solve a problem rather than satisfy the social or emotional needs of others.

The person values being creative rather than co-operative.

The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the “big picture”.

The person is usually renowned for being direct, speaking their mind and being honest and determined and having a strong sense of social justice.

The person may actively seek and enjoy solitude, be a loyal friend and have a distinct sense of humour.

However, the person with Aspergers Syndrome can have difficulty with the management and expression of emotions.

Children and adults with Aspergers syndrome may have levels of anxiety, sadness or anger that indicate a secondary mood disorder. There may also be problems expressing the degree of love and affection expected by others. Fortunately, we now have successful psychological treatment programs to help manage and express emotions.

Tony Attwood

I agree with him though. Being obsessed with planets isn’t abnormality nor being a die-hard fan of classical music. What needs to be managed is the social difficulties. It’s not that AS people are antisocial; AS has intuitive analytical brain that it just can’t comprehend pragmatic “earthling” world. That’s why in Asperger forums like Wrong Planet, people with AS (also called Aspies) feel like “we are living on a different planet with different language.” In short, AS people/aspies are comparable to aliens that need formal education about earthlings neurotypical or typically developing people in terms of socialization.

Image courtesy of amazon.com. There’s even a book about Aspie’s guide to Earthling (neurotypical) socialization.

That’s why it is very important for all of us to be aware and accept people with Asperger syndrome. What they need is understanding and acceptance, not prejudice.

P.S.

Famous people with AS. Plenty. And contributed a lot in our world. See the list in my autism article here.

Diane Kennedy, an author and advocate for Asperger Syndrome, writes, “They are our visionaries, scientists, diplomats, inventors, chefs, artists, writers and musicians. They are the original thinkers and a driving force in our culture.”[38]

Hans Asperger, the German doctor who discovered the syndrome, would agree with Kennedy’s assessment. He believed that “for success in science or art, a dash of autism is essential. The essential ingredient may be an ability to turn away from the everyday world, from the simply practical and to rethink a subject with originality so as to create in new untrodden ways with all abilities channeled into the one specialty.”[38]

Wow!

Other famous people suspected to have Aspergers:

  • Marie Curie[38]
  • Jane Austen[38]
  • Margaret Mead[38]
  • Pablo Picasso[38]
  • William Shakespeare[38]
  • Aristotle[38]
  • Thomas Jefferson[38]
  • Benjamin Franklin[38]
  • Hans Christian Andersen[39]
  • Lewis Carroll[39]
  • Michelangelo[39]
  • James Joyce[39]
  • Nikola Tesla[39]

Ow? But these people are geniuses… 

There is an ongoing debate about overlapping neurodiversity and giftedness. Maybe I’ll discuss that issue later on.

Image courtesy of autism.wikia.com. AS people love everything factual and with knowledge like clocks.

This is a typical interest of an AS person. Clocks. Interesting topic though.

While neurotypicals are obsessed with…

Image courtesy of Huffington Post. Neurotypicals are more interested in sex than logic compared with Aspies.

sex… okay, that doesn’t mean aspies are asexual beings (though there are a lot claiming to be) or not interested to sex…

Another P.S.

Although AS people are socially awkward, they can be a very loyal friend or lover. Too bad they are prejudiced by the “cool” but promiscuous neurotypicals who did nothing but collect lovers and discriminate AS folks by having them a label “nice guy/girl” who always last. But that’s because…

Yeah…

Reference:

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  10. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) (31 July 2007). “Asperger syndrome fact sheet”. Archived from the original on 21 August 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2007. NIH Publication No. 05-5624.
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  17. http://www.sacramentopsychology.com/index.php/articleslayout/54-aspergers-syndrome/90-why-is-it-important-to-identify-aspergers-syndrome-in-adults.html
  18. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/asperger’s_syndrome
  19. http://www.aane.org/about_asperger_syndrome/asperger_syndrome_diagnosis_adults.html
  20. The CAST has been renamed from the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test to the Childhood Autism Spectrum Test, reflecting the removal of Asperger’s Syndrome from the DSM-5
  21. Campbell JM (2005). “Diagnostic assessment of Asperger’s disorder: a review of five third-party rating scales”. J Autism Dev Disord 35 (1): 25–35.doi:10.1007/s10803-004-1028-4. PMID 15796119.
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  23. Baron-Cohen S, Hoekstra RA, Knickmeyer R, Wheelwright S (2006). “The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ)—adolescent version” (PDF). J Autism Dev Disord 36 (3): 343–50. doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0073-6. PMID 16552625. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
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  37. https://theotherside.wordpress.com/my-ramblings-about-autism-aspergers-syndrome/good-qualities-or-aspie-advantages/
  38. http://www.yourlittleprofessor.com/the-benefits-of-aspergers-syndrome/
  39. http://listverse.com/2011/12/05/top-10-alleged-autistics-in-history/

Further Reading:

AS Teen teaches bullies a life lesson: http://pix11.com/2015/07/06/teen-with-aspergers-syndrome-teaches-bullies-who-beat-him-up-a-life-lesson/

Susan Boyle has Aspergers: http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2013/dec/08/susan-boyle-i-have-aspergers

Why people with Asperger syndrome has difficulty socializing? Here’s the list of reasons: http://ownshrink.com/aspergers/why-aspies-have-problems-socializing-tips/

Advantages of having Asperger syndrome: http://www.yourlittleprofessor.com/the-benefits-of-aspergers-syndrome/