Psychotherapy Services in South West London

Asperger’s developmental disorder: social difficulties

The diagnostic criteria of Asperger’s were principally developed to identify the disorder in children with no adjustments to the criteria for the diagnosis of adults. The essential diagnostic features of Asperger’s syndrome are severe and sustained impairments in social skills and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities in the presence of generally age appropriate language acquisition and cognitive function. Of these domains it is the deficit in social relatedness of perspective taking (theory of mind skills) that is the most prominent and defining feature of the condition. Individuals with Asperger’s have difficulty understanding the perspectives of others like inferring and predicting the intensions of others, evaluating other people’s interests and beliefs and conceptualising the thoughts and feelings of others. There are many unwritten rules in society that govern our behaviour. While most of us intuitively understand these rules, individuals with Asperger’s have not automatically learned the conventions and nuances that make up their social environments. These hidden social standards can make the world a confusing place and result in lifelong challenges. For example social expectations and guidelines such as “it is not polite to interrupt others while they are talking” “face the speaker and position yourself in the right direction” “take turns in conversation” and “discuss other topics besides only those you are interested in” are not taught and are assumed to be known and understood. It is our unconscious navigator that allows us to make sense of the unspoken rules in society and adjust to the social demands of our everyday lives. The unwritten rules also include body language and idioms metaphors or slang phrases and meanings that we pick up or learn through observation or subtle cues. Individuals with Asperger’s tend to interpret language literally and may be perplexed by the common everyday expressions used by the typical adult.

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