The impact of aspergers syndrome on everyday life

23 Mar 2015

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Aspergers syndrome is known to be an intellectual and developmental disorder that impacts an individual's life. Aspergers is often seen as high functioning autism which is associated with impairments in communication and social interactions, and Aspergers individuals often express patterns of repetitive behaviour (Floyd, 2009). Aspergers syndrome is known to be more prevalent within males than females and it is believed to be a genetic disorder (Seung, 2005). This essay aims to highlight the issues experienced by young Asperger males and how Aspergers impacts their lives. It also intends to contrast and explore the differences that exist between young male and female Asperger individuals and aims to highlight the stigmatisation and discrimination that is experienced by these individuals. Furthermore it will illustrate community development activities that have been created in order to address the health needs of Aspergers individuals, as well as provide future suggestions on how to further enhance these children's quality of life.

One of the major impacts Aspergers has on young individuals is their inability to socially interact. Asperger males lack the cognitive ability to understand emotion and see viewpoints and beliefs of other individuals (Floyd, 2009) and as a result, are often viewed as obsessive and egocentric. Sorenson (2009) contends that this cognitive deficit is the primary cause of social and behavioural impairments exhibited by Aspergers individuals. Furthermore, Aspergers individuals have difficulty understanding the intentions of others and are unaware of other manneristic ways other than their own (Sorenson, 2009). This causes interactive issues with their peers as Asperger males are seen to have a primary focus on themselves and do not take into consideration other individuals. Despite this, male Aspergers have a strong desire to form and maintain friendships (Muller, Schuler & Yates, 2004).

Behavioural issues that are experienced by Asperger males include their inability to express emotion. Due to this, young Aspergers males often become violent and overwhelmed (Koning & Magill-Evans, 2001). This highlights the frustration that can be expressed by an individual due to their inability to sufficiently articulate what they wish. Young Asperger males are also known to often be reclusive, however; some exhibit eccentric and inappropriate behaviour (Floyd, 2009). The most obvious behavioural problem expressed by Aspergers males is repetitive and compulsive behaviours (Macintosh & Dissanayake, 2006). These individuals often become obsessed with specific topics for an extended period of time. Similarly, Aspergers males are also known to be aggressive and arrogant due to their cognitive deficits (Koning & Magill-Evans, 2001).

Due to these social and behavioural problems, oral communication and speech difficulties are also an issue that affects young Asperger males. These individuals are unable to hold conversations with others and due to this, young Asperger males can further find it hard to develop friendships with peers and sustain long term friends (Rao, Beidel, & Murray, 2007).

Although Aspergers males are often highly intelligent, many have learning difficulties. Aspergers males are known to be unable to articulate their thoughts and understandings and often exhibit symptoms of dyslexia (Church, Alinsanski & Amanullah, 2000). These individuals struggle to adequately understand what they are learning and become forgetful of basic letters and numbers. Nevertheless, Aspergers individuals are highly logical and have the ability to retain factual and historical information (Floyd, 2009). Furthermore, due to their inability to comprehend other viewpoints and principles, Asperger individuals have a minimal attention span towards others as well as the inability to focus on tasks (Humphrey & Lewis, 2008). Due to this, many young Asperger males are known to struggle at school and do not adequately meet the learning requirements or extend their capabilities. Nevertheless, Howard & Cohen (2006) highlight that Asperger individuals who have strong friendships with peers are more successful at learning what is required and develop greater personal skills due to regular encouragement and inclusion by their friends.

Aspergers is a personalised condition as each person exhibits unique symptoms. It is found that often young male Asperger individuals all exhibit variant degrees of symptoms and as a result, currently no universal measure exists to diagnose Aspergers. Due to this, diagnosis is often subjective and individuals are regularly misdiagnosed with learning problems or attention deficient disorders (Farrugia, 2006).

Although males have a higher prevalence rate of Aspergers, the condition is also known to affect females (Lord, Scopler & Revicki, 2002). Female Asperger individuals are viewed as highly capable and are known to interact and socialise differently than males (Wilkinson, 2008). Asperger girls are found to have less behavioural variants than boys and have better social abilities (Lemon, Gargaro, Enticott & Rinehart, 2010). It is known that females overall have better coping capabilities than males and as a result, girls with Asperger can conceal symptoms more easily than boys (Lemon, Gargaro, Enticott & Rinehart, 2010). Females that are reclusive are often perceived as shy and timid rather than an individual who potentially has a developmental disorder. This social construction of femininity is often the case many girls are misdiagnosed (Wilkinson, 2008). Girls are often initially diagnosed with anxiety and mental disorders and as a result, obtain a formal Aspergers diagnosis later on in their life (Kopp & Gillberg, 2002). Due to this, females are often excluded because most intervention and studies have been conducted with a primary focus on male individuals. This is detrimental for female Asperger individuals as their condition may get worse and they are unable to obtain the sufficient support required.

Nevertheless, young Asperger females that are diagnosed early in life are seen to perform better overall when compared to males (Kopp & Gillberg, 2002). Many Asperger females thrive academically and are more capable of learning social skills and develop personal capabilities than males. As a result, Asperger females are often viewed as seen as better equipped when compared to males, as they are able to comprehend a diverse range of situations and ideas. They are known to often mimic other children and learn adaptability mechanisms to hide their differences (Lord Scopler & Revicki, 2002).

The most obvious symptom of Aspergers within females in comparison to males is their inability to desire friendships and their regular mood changes (Lemon, Gargaro, Enticott, & Rinehart, 2010). Due to minimal exploration by professionals into female diagnosis, it is believed that females are just as likely as males to be affected, however; these individuals are either misdiagnosed or their symptoms are ignored (Lord, Scopler & Revicki, 2009). As a result, Aspergers is believed to be more common than thought, nevertheless sufficient research into constructing a specific Asperger diagnosis criteria for both genders is required as well as an in depth analysis on female Aspergers individuals is also needed.

Due to their social and behavioural problems, Aspergers individuals are regularly stigmatised. Stigmatisation is the primary form of marginalisation and highlights power differentials that exist between populations (Cook & McCormick, 2006). Marginalisation is known to be a socially constructed concept, in which individuals are excluded from mainstream society and these people are often viewed as powerless (Cook & McCormick, 2006). Individuals suffering with a developmental disorder are seen as unreliable and incompetent due to their inability to comprehend different ideals (Koning & Magill-Evans, 2001). This often further marginalises Asperger individuals as they are seen as inferior to others within the community. Many individuals stigmatise Aspergers people to be the same, and are often unaware that Aspergers symptoms are subjective. This generalised and stereotypical outlook further acts as barriers for Aspergers individuals which increase their chances of being unjustly marginalised and discriminated against (Hughes & Paterson, 1997).

Messiou (2006) highlights that there are various types of marginalisation that are experienced by Aspergers individuals. The most common marginalisation experienced by Asperger males is social ostracism and exclusion by their peers. Other children are known to ostracise and avoid Asperger individuals due to their inability to associate to their behaviours (Howard & Cohen, 2006). Due to this, young Aspergers males often feel the need to conform and try to be similar to their peers (Koning & Magill-Evans, 2001). It was found that Aspergers individuals try not to express who they truly are as an individual and attempt to act how they assume society wants them to be like (Koning & Magill-Evans, 2001). Muller, Schuler, & Yates (2004) expressed that young Asperger males believe that they are limited within rigid societal structures in which they are regularly anxious about.

Asperger boys are seen as abnormal and strange due to their inability to socialise and relate to other individuals (Church, Alinsanski & Amanullah, 2000). Due to this, Asperger males are further ostracised due to societal members viewing their behaviours and attitudes deviant from the mainstream culture. Aspergers individuals prefer that their diagnosis remained unknown because they believe that people treat them differently when they knew of their condition (Muller, Schuler & Yates, 2004). It was found that young Asperger males would rather others view them as extroverted and egocentric rather than an individual who is affected by a developmental disorder due to the possibility of attaching negative assumptions towards them (Muller, Schuler & Yates, 2004).

Furthermore, Aspergers individuals also have perceived marginalisation in which they believe others are regularly mocking or embarrassing them due to their differences (Messiou, 2006). Many young Asperger individuals express that they are aware of their differences and attach self-blame for their inabilities to be socially included and accepted by their peers (Humphrey & Lewis, 2009). This notion of internalisation highlights that psychological manifestation exist within Asperger individuals and that Asperger males have individual identity issues due to feeling inadequate and not being accepted by others (Punshon, Skirrow & Murphy, 2009). This often leads to further isolation and exclusion exhibited by Aspergers males as they further have no desire to associate with others because they are ashamed and lack self worth (Punshon, Skirrow & Murphy, 2009). Asperger individual tends to become a product of their disorder, which minimises individuality and further stigmatises individuals due to additional ostracism and exclusion (Broderick, Caswell, Gregory, Marzolini, & Wilson, 2002). Due to this, alongside negative experiences and societal isolation, it is known that mental health issues such as depression and low self esteem are highly prevalent amongst young Aspergers males (Hedley & Young, 2006).

Aspergers is known to be an intellectual disability and as a result, inequities towards Aspergers individuals currently exist. Disability is the development of the socially constructed view of what is viewed as normal and furthermore, what constitutes abnormal (Swain, French & Cameron, 2003). Currently there is a lack of specific health services that have a strong focus on Aspergers health and wellbeing, and as a result; Aspergers individuals are unable to adequately maintain holistic wellbeing (Rao, Beidel, & Murray, 2007).

Furthermore, many Aspergers individuals attend mainstream schools and as a result; teachers often feel unable to teach these students (Macintosh & Dissanayake, 2006). Mainstream schooling encourages many Aspergers to conform rather than express their individuality which often leads to educational attainment difficulties (Koning & Magill-Evans, 2001). Although many mainstream schools facilitate Aspergers individuals by providing integration aids and speech pathologists, this is often a negative experience for Aspergers individuals because it highlights to the other students their needs (Martinez & Semrud-Clikeman, 2004). As a result, this often stimulates teasing and ridicule by other students which often negatively impacts the Asperger individual.

One of the major reasons these inequities exist for Aspergers individuals, is due to the lack of awareness about the condition (Floyd, 2009). Although over the years, more recognition and analysis about the disorder has been conducted, Aspergers individuals are still being categorised amongst Autism and other mentally handicapped individuals. Due to this, specific needs and requirements of Aspergers individuals are not being addressed and are needed to be tackled in order to successfully allow Aspergers individuals to excel.

Although special needs schools exist, often Aspergers individuals are in the same class as individuals with severely mental impairment disorders. This is often detrimental for the growth and development of the young Asperger individual as they do not have the ability to adequately grow and develop as an individual (Church, Alinsanski & Amanullah, 2000). In comparison to mainstream schooling Martinez & Semrud-Clikeman (2004) found that individuals attending special needs education maintained yearly intellectual growth. Nevertheless, they further highlight that these individuals lacked social and developmental capabilities and were often severely reclusive and did not communicate to others. It is important that specific learning facilities for Aspergers individuals are developed in order for these young people to associate with like minded individuals. If this was created, these individuals would be able to further extend their learning capabilities as well as gain positive friendships with their peers due to similar characteristics (Muller, Schuler & Yates, 2004).

Community development activities that have been successful for Aspergers individuals is the creation of family support groups (Church, Alinsanski & Amanullah, 2000). These groups are run and facilitated by family and friends of Aspergers individuals. This enables community members to gain empowerment and associate with other individuals who are experiencing similar issues. Although these groups provide support and resources to families, they do not necessarily have a specific impact on the Asperger individual. These individuals often do not attend the support meetings and as a result, these groups do not necessarily address their health needs (Church, Alinsanski & Amanullah, 2000).

Similarly, an effective health promotion activity that has been implemented for Aspergers individuals is the creation of a social and behavioural class (Bock, 2007). This specific activity enables Aspergers individuals to learn socially appropriate behaviours and mannerisms (Bock, 2007). Nevertheless, this program has been criticised because it is further requiring these individuals to conform to society, and because the attendees of the classes do not obtain the ability to interact and socialise with other non-Aspergers individuals in order to successfully utilise the skills that they may have learned (Rao, Beidel & Murray, 2007).

Although there is currently an Autism Awareness Day, more recognition and awareness about Aspergers is required. This can be achieved by local fun runs and the development of regular symposiums about Aspergers syndrome that are primarily run and developed by community members (Rao, Beidel & Murray, 2007). This enables parents and community members to advocate on behalf of young Aspergers individuals to help gain equality and access to specific services, as well as expressing to others the diversity that exists within society. Greater awareness will enable a broader understanding of the problem in order to help decrease the marginalisation and discrimination that currently exists towards Aspergers individuals (Hedley & Young, 2006). It will also enable societal members to realise that Aspergers also affects female individuals and will provide them the opportunity to create support and services for this population (Howard & Cohen, 2006; Hedley & Young, 2006).

Furthermore, successful integration within mainstream schools is needed to be achieved. Integrating Aspergers individuals into mainstream education is required in order to minimise the current segregation issues that exist (Broderick, Caswell, Gregory, Marzolini & Wilson, 2002). This can help eradicate discrimination towards these individuals and enable them equitable access to education. If integration attempts are unsuccessful, the development of peer Asperger workshops can also be a successful way of extending personal and intellectual skills of an Asperger individuals. It is important that these meetings are run by other Asperger people in which these individuals can act as mentors for the young Asperger males (Bock, 2007). This will help empower these young individuals as it is important to work with an Aspergers strengths and assets rather than highlighting what is needed to be achieved.

Ultimately, the most important health promotion recommendation for Aspergers syndrome is early diagnosis and intervention. If greater awareness was provided, many parents may be attentive of triggers and behavioural problems whilst their child is young. Early intervention will enable the prevention of Aspergers individuals' symptoms to become worse and will encourage the minimisation of Aspergers effects by being addressed early within their life (Rao, Beidel & Murray, 2007). Furthermore, it will enable the implementation of a holistic approach to address the problem, by addressing the social and emotional wellbeing of an Aspergers individual.

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