Hello- I have a co-worker who has Asperger's Syndrome and I would like to understand better from an adults prespective.......where can I go to learn more about how to talk to an adult with Asperger's and how to help them?
Great question! It is very considerate of you to care enough about your co-worker to better understand them.
Adults with Asperger's Syndrome demonstrate many of the same challenges that a child with Asperger's faces. That is, individuals with Asperger's have difficulty with social communication and picking up another person's nonverbal cues (e.g., when someone needs to leave a conversation). They often have difficulty with eye contact and often maintain an intense interest in one or two topics (e.g., trains, technology, cars). As you can guess, these difficulties can cause quite a bit of stress and anxiety for the Asperger's individual.
Adults with Asperger's have the advantage of greater "awareness" and ability to learn and work on these skills. They were most likely diagnosed as a child or adolescent and have learned skills and strategies for coping with their challenges. When talking to your co-worker, you can expect that they can keep up with the conversation intellectually (most individuals with Asperger's have an average to above average IQ), but you cannot expect them to understand nonverbal communication and empathize with your experience. Indeed, it is very difficult for individuals with Asperger's to "walk in someone else's shoes." They often cannot imagine how you are feeling. Thus, they may unintentionally hurt your feelings or bother you because of this challenge. Do your best to be patient and understand; you can explain to them later how you felt and why you felt that way. This will be useful "information" for them and they can use it to think through future interactions.
Yes, yes, and yes! Adults with Asperger's Syndrome can attend college, and they can most definitely be successful. The challenge for adults with Asperger's is learning to cope with the difficulties that their condition brings them (e.g., learning to interpret the nonverbal cues of others, developing organization skills, etc). There are strategies and techniques for managing the unique obstacles that each individual with Asperger's experiences, however.
Many adults with Asperger's find certain subject areas and/or careers that are appropriate for their interests and skills. Many experts have posited that Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and many others had/have Asperger's. Of course, they have not been formally diagnosed, but they certainly have many of the typical characteristics common to individuals with Asperger's.
Finally, most adults with Asperger's can go on to marry and have a wonderful family life. Thus, there is a great deal of hope for individuals diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
L. Compian, Ph.D.
Education.com Reference Team