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Asperger and High-Functioning Autism

Asperger is one of the autism spectrum disorders. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome often experience a number of problems: Appropriately recognising and communicating emotions, starting and maintaining friendships and relationships, finding and keeping a job, joining a network of colleagues and negotiating problems in the family or in relationships. The correct assessment and diagnosis of the condition is important, followed by psychological support and therapy.

How often does some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) occur?

It is commonly believed that the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased in recent years. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 29 percent increase in autism prevalence since 2008 and a 62 percent increase since 2006. According to this study, one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls fall on the autism spectrum.

A recent study by the University of Queensland, however, states that the number of individuals with ASD is neither raising nor falling. This study considered research data from 1990 to 2010. The authors claim that one person in 132 has some form of ASD and that the prevalence has not changed since 1990.

Less controversal is that there are gender differences with regards to the prevalence of Aspergers and ASD: Both Aspergers and ASD are more often observed in men than in women. In particular High-Functioning Autism is more frequently diagnosed in men.

Aspergers in the Media

Adult Asperger is a condition that has received media attention, partially due to very successful TV shows such as "Big Bang Theory" and "Doc Martin". Both shows feature at least one character who is suspected of having Adult Asperger Syndrome in combination with obsessive-compulsive traits. Individuals with Asperger are often very intelligent, well educated and perform at a high level in technical professions. Furthermore, adolescents and adults affected by Asperger often have a high level of awareness of the condition and many have formed strong identities as "Aspies".

While the media has been successful in creating an awareness of social communication problems, many individuals with Aspergers struggle in relationships and sometimes in the professional area as well. The inability to efficiently communicate emotional content (or to perceive emotions accurately) is too much of a challenge. Sometimes, social isolation is felt intensly, on other occasions, close proximity to other people induces stress. In addition, partners struggle as well because of a lack of emotional awareness and sometimes a perceived lack of warmth in the relationship.

Aspergers and DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition)

DSM-5 was introduced in 2013 and states (p.51) that "Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of ... Asperger's disorder ... should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have maked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet the criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder."

Social Communication Disorder points to a language impairment and focuses on the pragmatic aspects of verbal behaviour (thereby moving away from those traits that are autistic). This is all about the social use of language. Please see our page on Social Communication Disorder for more details.

How do we help individuals with Aspergers?

The psychologists at the Psychology Network always look at individual clients in the context of their families and relationships. As psychologists, we try to identify strength and weaknesses and our approach is always to build on strength to overcome areas of weakness. This includes social communication. We look beyond diagnostic categories, focuss on indviduals embedded in a network of social relationships, and we help clients with High-Functioning Autism to use their unique intelligence to overcome challenges and work and in relationships.

The Psychology Network focusses on Adolescent and Adult Asperger Syndrome and is using the latest psychological and computational techniques to arrive at an accurate assessment. The standard assessment process includes (1) an initial consultation, (2) several sessions for psychological testing, and (3) a summary session including a discussion of results and a report (if required).

Cognitive Behavior Therapy has proven useful because it can help people with Asperger to perceive and communicate emotional content efficiently. Cognitive Therapy as well as elements from Psychodrama can teach individuals and couples better communication skills in a personal environment as well as professional life.

Support for employees with high-functioning ASD

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder provide indispensable contributions! Many individuals with ASD succeed in areas that require logical thinking and high reliability. Many organisations are therefore particularly interested in recruting and promoting qualified employees with autistic traits.

Within a team environment there are, of course, also challenges. A lack of interest in social communication, for instance, can result in misunderstandings and conflicts with colleagues, managers or customers. Education about autism spectrum disorders and early intervention can contribute to the well-being of all individuals in a workplace.

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often appreciate a work environment that allows fixed routines and guarantees privacy. The reduction of acustic or visual distractions can also increase the productivity of employees who experience sensory overload as particularly problematic.

As clinical psychologists, we know the daily challenges that individuals with ASD experience and we help in many ways, from the design of the workplace to skill training and conflict resolution.

Management support

The Psychology Network Pty Ltd supports employers and employees in creating a work environment that facilitates productivity and is customized specifically for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and/or ADHD. Our experienced psychologists understand the challenges of adults with neurodevelopmental disorders. We develop social skills, provide communication training and, if necessary, help to resolve conflicts. As experts in depression and anxiety disorders, which are often observed in the context of autism spectrum disorders as well as ADHD, we help organizations and individuals develop coping and management skills to avoid psychological problems and facilitate a healthy work environment.

For information on fees and a first appointment, please email admin@psychologynetwork.org today.