Characteristics of Aspergers

Posted on September 25, 2006

I’ve been noticing a lot of hits to my site from people searching on things like “married to aspie” and sad things like “hate my Aspergers husband”. I feel for the woman that searched on that, because I know a little bit of how she feels. However, I don’t hate my husband. I hate his behavior sometimes, but never him. I love him more than words can express.

The behaviors common for Aspergers can be quite frustrating and taxing for whoever has to deal with them the most. It’s a complex disorder that many people don’t understand. I think it’s also more common than people realize…

I was reading the Aspen website about some of the common behaviors when I decided to blog about it and share my take on the different aspects of Aspergers. By no means is this a complete account, but I hope that others can learn a little bit more about Aspergers by reading this. You may also want to use this as a reference guide when you see me complaining about my husband. 😉

1. Literal interpretation of language.

This one frustrates me the most of all because I am quite vague. People with Aspergers are almost completely incapable of comprehending implied meanings. I’ll say table when I mean counter. I will say bath when I mean shower. Things always come out wrong for some reason… As you can just imagine, this gets quite complicated when being married to an “aspie”. I’ll say, “Want a tuna sandwich?” and he’ll say no because he thinks I am only offering him ONE (1) tuna sandwich and he usually wants at least 2 sandwiches. Stuff like this happens ALL the time and has tried my patience like you wouldn’t believe!

2. Difficulty understanding others’ feelings.

I think this is why other spouses of people with Aspergers come to hate them. It’s hard to remember that it’s not their fault they are like this. It’s even harder to learn how to accept this cold behavior and yet not take it personally. I notice that my husband has trouble understanding why I am crying. He thinks about everything “logically”. If there is no logical reason, in his mind, why I should be crying, he gets very confused. More over, he almost always has no idea how to respond to this. This was one of the hardest things to get used to in our first year of marriage. He is slowly learning, but he has a long way to go. It’s like learning how to walk, for him.

3. Socially and emotionally inappropriate responses.

When you see someone crying, you immediately feel a wave of compassion in your heart, right? You see a little toddler fall down and scrape their knee, and you automatically feel badly for them and want to help them because you know how their little hearts must feel. People with Aspergers don’t have this auto response. This very thing is why “normal” people think that those with Aspergers have cold hearts of stone. It’s hard to step back and realize, it’s not that they don’t care, they just don’t have that auto response that the rest of us have. And this is just one example… I could go on for pages on JUST THIS behavior alone…

4. Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors.

Things such as eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction are pretty much missing in people with Aspergers. This isn’t a huge problem with my husband, but it has showed up at very inopportune times. I notice this mostly when he’s talking to people he’s just met or people he isn’t comfortable around. You can just tell he doesn’t act….normal. It’s a little hard to explain.

5. Difficulty judging personal space, motor clumsiness.

This is one that annoyed me while we were dating, before I knew anything about Aspergers. He would constantly do things like accidentally hit me upside the head when moving his arm, put his arm around me and pull half of my hair out, stepping on my feet, etc Not that this has changed much, it’s just that now I watch out for him more! It’s an odd kind of clumsiness. He’s rough and really intense sometimes. Because of this, whenever he does anything that requires using tools, he often hurts himself. I have to remind him to do things like slow down, lighten up, and be gentle. This is a constant struggle for him as he doesn’t want to hurt me or hurt himself, or break things… He just can’t help it.

6. Preoccupation with a particular subject to the exclusion of all others.

I think that this one was especially hard during the courtship period in our relationship. He would talk about things that interested him with no regard to whether I actually wanted to hear about it, or was interested in the subject myself. And we’re not talking once in while… This was something that was constant until I finally told him that I couldn’t handle listening to him talk about science another second! He still does, but he knows that I’m probably not listening. You have to think about this one in extremes. He wasn’t just talking about it once in while… Science was ALL he talked about. And it’s almost like he wants to teach me all about it. (see #7) He now realizes that he’s a little narrow minded and is willing to broaden his horizons a bit. It’s one of the things we are working on.

7. Pedantic, formal style of speaking; often called “ little professor”, verbose.

My husband talks like a professor and he’s always informing people. His conversation style tends to lean towards teaching the other person. He is inclined to make conversations informative rather than just “shooting the breeze”. He doesn’t understand the concept of shooting the breeze and small talk. Now some people really don’t like this… like me. I’m quite resistant to advice and someone telling me that what I’m doing is wrong and I should do it such and such way. One of the reasons I am so resistant to it, is because of my past experiences. Another reason, is my husband. People with Aspergers tend to be like insane geniuses. They thirst for information and are constantly filling their minds with little facts, trivia, and information about anything they are interested in. With my husband it’s computers, science, maps, and the news. (see #6)

8. Fascination with maps, globes, and routes.

Another annoying and weird aspect of Aspergers Syndrome is their fixation with maps. My husband loves Google Earth. His father carries around a Magellan GPS tracking/mapping device. We all went for a walk the other day and he had his little Magellan out and was telling us our elevation and how many miles we walked. (It was 2 miles btw).

I don’t yet understand why people with Aspergers have this odd fascination with maps and things, but I think it’s weird. I find it annoying, but it’s such a harmless thing, I rarely complain about it. I have to convince myself to look at it like it’s a hobby instead of an obsession.

9. Extreme difficulty in developing age-appropriate peer relationships.

(e.g. AS children may be more comfortable with adults than with other children). This might shock some of you and other won’t be surprised at all, but my husband has *no* friends. Not one. He doesn’t keep in touch with anyone he went to school with. He never made friends the whole 5 years he was at college. Aspergers is like extreme shyness…squared. It’s a miracle in itself that we are even together considering his level of shyness. I notice this in his brother as well. Once you know them and they are comfortable with you, they open up like little flowers. But ask them to make a phone call, or ask someone they don’t know a question, and they just will-not-do-it. I find this to be a very sad thing for them because I can’t imagine being physically incapable of approaching another person. You would think they would be very lonely… and they are. It’s just not enough to make them overcome the acute resistance to human interaction.

10. Inflexible adherence to routines and perseveration.

Perseveration: a continuation of something (as repetition of a word) usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point. There should be a picture of my husband next to this word, in the dictionary. The two things he says ALL the time, that get quite annoying and repetitious are: “Two seconds flat” and “That doesn’t make any logical sense”. Doesn’t seem too annoying, right? Well, imagine having a 5 minute conversation with someone and hearing one, if not both of those phrases at least twice. Now are you annoyed? Yeah, I thought so.

Is he inflexible? Yes. Very much so. He is comfortable where he is at and he likes things to stay the same. I was just talking to my friend Cindi about this the other day… I’m very ambitious and I have the motivation to back it up. People with Aspergers….don’t. Some are ambitious, but none of them have an once of motivation. I’m lucky because my husband at least has a half an once of motivation. If he didn’t, he never would have gone to college, graduated, got married, etc. The inflexibility is not something that bothers me a great deal now, but I can see it as being a huge problem in the future. I’m just hoping it’s something we can work on now, so that it doesn’t have to be a problem in the future.

11. Sensitivity to the environment, loud noises, food textures, etc.

Some of you may understand this one, especially if you are or have been pregnant. I have a problem with paper towels, napkins, and Styrofoam. I have a really hard time touching them. They are dry and the feeling of them on my fingers is like nails down a chalkboard. My husband gets the same thing, but it’s not just one things that goes up his back. He is sensitive to people laughing loudly, he hates touching food, and he doesn’t like being around a lot of people if he feels like he’s expected to interact with them. And most importantly, the sound of people chewing drives him insane!! All of those things are like nails down a chalkboard for him. I have found this to be true in his father and brother as well. His brother is quite sensitive to certain smells like chemicals.

12. Difficulty with “give and take” of conversation.

People with Aspergers have odd conversation styles. I’m getting so used to it that it’s hard for me to even pick out what exactly is wrong with it. I believe it is quite obvious to others though. They don’t interact in a normal fashion. At first, it’s almost awkward to have a conversation with them… You’re thinking, “What is wrong with them?!” as you are listening to them respond. I find myself asking my husband things like “Did you hear what I said?” because sometimes it’s like they aren’t even having the same conversation you are. It’s difficult to get them ‘on the same page’ so to speak. Interacting with an aspie is an art form to be perfected over a long period of time. It requires patience and an understanding of the disorder.

13. Extreme difficulty reading and/or interpreting social cues.

My husband has no problem reading social cues, but acting on them is hard because they are not “overt” or clear enough to him. He sees that they are there, but he doesn’t want to act on them in fear of responding to something that doesn’t necessarily call for a response. People with Aspergers have a very hard time not taking things literally. Vague implications don’t sit well with him. (see #1) He explains it as getting “canceling emotions” that prevent him from doing anything. It almost like he “clams up” when he falls upon something that doesn’t make “logical sense”. I find this to be difficult in our relationship, because things like body language evade him. If I want something, I have to come right out an say it. If I’m sad, I can’t just sit slump around with a sour face and expect him to know what’s wrong. I actually have to tell him “I’m sad” in order for him to act on it.

14. Speech and language skills impaired.

I find this true especially in the area of semantics, pragmatics, and prosody (volume, intonation, inflection, and rhythm). Sometimes they talk in a monotone manner. My husband doesn’t have a problem with volume, but his father does. His dad is always talking much too loud for human ears to handle.

I find this to be a subtle behavior with Aspergers. It doesn’t bother me and it usually doesn’t hurt my feelings, so I tend to ignore it. I’m getting used to it. It’s more of an odd personality trait then an actual ailment or real issue.

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Like I said before, I could go on and on, but I wanted to at least spend a few minutes explaining some of my daily struggles with Asperger behaviors. This is not intended to be a husband bashing fest, as one person mentioned. I am merely trying to share my experiences and opinions on this disorder in the hopes that I might be able to help others.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts on the subject.

Filed under: Asperger Syndrome





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