Adults with Aspergers Seem 'Normal' to Me



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melanieeee
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21 Apr 2012, 5:38 am

I have meet a few people with aspergers and I have watched numerous videos of adults with aspergers and they seem don't really seem 'abnormal' to me...



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21 Apr 2012, 5:42 am

Well, what do you expect--a great big flashing neon sign? We've practiced our whole lives to communicate with NTs, and it'd be ridiculous if we didn't have anything to show for it!

That's why they call it an "invisible disability". We can often tell, when we watch each other. But not everybody can tell right away. The comment "you seem normal to me" is something we all seem to get occasionally, even when in our daily lives we're teetering on the edge of independence, or even unable to live on our own at all.

It's easier to hide a disability when everybody thinks that it has to be obvious to exist. It doesn't, of course. Plenty of them can't be detected at first glance. Autism goes all the way from glaringly obvious to very subtle. Naturally, Aspies are some of the people for whom it's more subtle, because we're missing the speech delay that's among the most obvious symptoms.


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21 Apr 2012, 5:53 am

Callista wrote:
Well, what do you expect--a great big flashing neon sign? We've practiced our whole lives to communicate with NTs, and it'd be ridiculous if we didn't have anything to show for it!

That's why they call it an "invisible disability". We can often tell, when we watch each other. But not everybody can tell right away. The comment "you seem normal to me" is something we all seem to get occasionally, even when in our daily lives we're teetering on the edge of independence, or even unable to live on our own at all.

It's easier to hide a disability when everybody thinks that it has to be obvious to exist. It doesn't, of course. Plenty of them can't be detected at first glance. Autism goes all the way from glaringly obvious to very subtle. Naturally, Aspies are some of the people for whom it's more subtle, because we're missing the speech delay that's among the most obvious symptoms.


If people with asperger's have practice communicating with NT's to the point that their type of communication is indistinguishable from that of a normal person, is it really a 'disability' then?

Maybe asperger's is a disorder which is predominate in childhood (like separation anxiety and bed wetting which may also occur in adulthood but to a smaller degree)?



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21 Apr 2012, 5:53 am

I'm an adult with mild AS and I come across as ''normal'' aswell, and if it weren't for some people on here objecting to the term ''normal'' in Aspies, I would quite contently consider myself normal.
Like I said in other threads, I have normal self-awareness to the extent of NTs, and I don't like feeling humiliated, rejected, or different from other people, I try to fit in as much as possible. And (not sure if other Aspies feel like this) but part of me wanting to blend in is natural to me, so I do it without making too much effort but making a bit more effort than the average NT, if you know what I mean.

Sometimes I let it slip in public, but these mistakes are very few and far between, they are not frequent, so I wouldn't really call it a habit of mine, and when I do make a social mistake out in public, it's not big. I think the biggest humiliation I have caused for myself was when I was 18, when my bus-driver (who I fancied) was being really rude to me (won't explain the whole story why), and I got upset and I stormed off the bus and started crying and threatening to have a go at him but not knowing what to say, and everyone in the bus-station was looking at me. I was with my friend who was trying to calm me down, and he did, but now when I look back I do frown upon how I behaved and feel really silly. But it wasn't that big, I was only crying and whining, I wasn't stomping around screaming madly or anything. So it could've been worse, and thanks for my self-awareness, I was aware that I was humiliating myself in front of lots of people and I wouldn't do it again. Like they say, we've all done stupid things when we were teenagers.

But yer, otherwise, I can appear normal and I haven't had anyone suspect AS yet. People have suspected anxiety with me, and I've even been asked if I suffered with depression before, but nobody has suspected AS. I'm good at covering it up, even when I was a child I was. When I was 8 my class was filmed in a Christmas play, and I was watching the video the other day, and I noticed I didn't stand out from any of the other children at all. I just sat still, sung when they sung, and just looked neutral like everyone else. You wouldn't point me out and go ''that child's got AS, I know it!'' I even said a couple of lines, and sounded OK. So if I could blend in with other children as a small child, I definately can blend in now as a young adult.


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Last edited by Joe90 on 21 Apr 2012, 5:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

Callista
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21 Apr 2012, 5:58 am

melanieeee wrote:
If people with asperger's have practice communicating with NT's to the point that their type of communication is indistinguishable from that of a normal person, is it really a 'disability' then?

Maybe asperger's is a disorder which is predominate in childhood (like separation anxiety and bed wetting which may also occur in adulthood but to a smaller degree)?
No, because there's more to autism than socializing, and because normal-seeming socializing is not the same as functional socializing.

Autism also involves things like sensory overload, cognitive differences including transition problems, extremely detail-oriented thinking, and the need to think in very concrete terms. It also involves problems with understanding non-verbal communication--there's a difference between faking it and using it successfully. You also need to be able to understand how to maintain a relationship; and for that matter, how to maintain a conversation.

Also, remember that when you see those vidoes, that's a person talking to a camera--not a person talking to another person. That's a much simpler thing to do. You don't have to worry about what the other person will say in response. You don't have to try to plan what you'll say while still listening to the other person. You don't have to try to detect the subtle shifts that tell you when it's your turn to talk. What they're doing on video is simply giving a speech. That's about ten times easier than having a conversation.

Sometimes you can even have situations where you can seem more normal, but only at the expense of communicating less effectively. If I make eye contact, I get distracted. If I try to make small talk, I don't communicate anything useful and may even confabulate because I am just following conversational patterns instead of actually communicating.

By the way, it really does depend on the viewer. I have had people tell me "You seem normal." I've also had them guess autism after a five-minute conversation, or assume that I am intellectually disabled. Just because you see somebody and they seem normal doesn't mean they'll seem normal to another person, or to you on another day.


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melanieeee
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21 Apr 2012, 6:12 am

Callista wrote:
melanieeee wrote:
If people with asperger's have practice communicating with NT's to the point that their type of communication is indistinguishable from that of a normal person, is it really a 'disability' then?

Maybe asperger's is a disorder which is predominate in childhood (like separation anxiety and bed wetting which may also occur in adulthood but to a smaller degree)?
No, because there's more to autism than socializing, and because normal-seeming socializing is not the same as functional socializing.

Autism also involves things like sensory overload, cognitive differences including transition problems, extremely detail-oriented thinking, and the need to think in very concrete terms. It also involves problems with understanding non-verbal communication--there's a difference between faking it and using it successfully. You also need to be able to understand how to maintain a relationship; and for that matter, how to maintain a conversation.

Also, remember that when you see those vidoes, that's a person talking to a camera--not a person talking to another person. That's a much simpler thing to do. You don't have to worry about what the other person will say in response. You don't have to try to plan what you'll say while still listening to the other person. You don't have to try to detect the subtle shifts that tell you when it's your turn to talk. What they're doing on video is simply giving a speech. That's about ten times easier than having a conversation.


When I say they appear to be normal I don't just mean in terms of social. I haven't notice any adult aspies with with sensory overload with my time being with them.

Also I see that you study psychology. I study psychology too and I know that the DSM is only applied to those who actually display the characteristics to the point where it intervenes their lives and causes dysfunction. Normal seeming social behavior is not differentiated from actually being able to socialize.

Also there is a difference between normal psychological phenomia and abnormal psychological phenomia. The difference that you mentioned in terms of cognition does not sound as if it brings dysfunction to the individual - I would even ague that it is more acceptable to view it as normal individual differences.

In regards to your camera point, I've watched those videos made by Alex (creator of this site) interview heaps of people -again All still normal to me.



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21 Apr 2012, 6:39 am

What's normal?

People with Down's Syndrome appear normal to me, other than looking a little different physically.

You need to look at, "what can and can't do" and "how it affects the person".



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21 Apr 2012, 6:46 am

Why would you notice sensory overload? We don't exactly freak out immediately upon getting exposed to sensory overload. We just kind of get more and more uncomfortable, more and more stressed. The fallout doesn't happen right away. It happens later on, when we just don't have any more energy left and have to crawl under our blankets and curl up and try to collect our scattered wits.

"Normal-seeming behavior" is not truly normal if it is not functional. If you can fake normal but only at the expense of impaired communication and impaired relationships, then that is clinically significant. If you can fake normal but are only able to do it for very short times and only when you are at your absolute best, that is also clinically significant.

Those cognitive differences most certainly do cause impairment. For example, the tendency toward extreme detail-oriented thinking is part of why I get extra time on tests: I over-analyze everything, to the point that I am unable to estimate, do things "well enough" rather than perfectly, take a "best guess", or do anything without a specific procedure in mind. I am unable to improvise on the fly. I tend to perseverate on the same problem-solving strategy even after I know it doesn't work. I have a very hard time switching mental tracks. I tend to focus on one thing exclusively, and let everything else fall by the wayside. I am not just unable to multi-task on the scale of doing more than one thing simultaneously, but also in the sense of starting another task without either finishing or completely abandoning all other tasks. I have trouble with transitions to the point that I am constantly late or absent to things I want to and need to go to, including going to bed, which makes my sleep cycle so erratic that it has very little constancy at all. Taken together, these traits--though they have their positive aspects, and can often be used to my advantage--create a significant disability.

I think you should research invisible disabilities. Asperger's is sometimes invisible, sometimes visible, sometimes partly so. But I think perhaps you've fallen to the myth that if you can't see a disability, it isn't there.


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21 Apr 2012, 6:51 am

melanieeee wrote:
Callista wrote:
Well, what do you expect--a great big flashing neon sign? We've practiced our whole lives to communicate with NTs, and it'd be ridiculous if we didn't have anything to show for it!

That's why they call it an "invisible disability". We can often tell, when we watch each other. But not everybody can tell right away. The comment "you seem normal to me" is something we all seem to get occasionally, even when in our daily lives we're teetering on the edge of independence, or even unable to live on our own at all.

It's easier to hide a disability when everybody thinks that it has to be obvious to exist. It doesn't, of course. Plenty of them can't be detected at first glance. Autism goes all the way from glaringly obvious to very subtle. Naturally, Aspies are some of the people for whom it's more subtle, because we're missing the speech delay that's among the most obvious symptoms.


If people with asperger's have practice communicating with NT's to the point that their type of communication is indistinguishable from that of a normal person, is it really a 'disability' then?

Maybe asperger's is a disorder which is predominate in childhood (like separation anxiety and bed wetting which may also occur in adulthood but to a smaller degree)?


It takes a lot of energy to put on an act of "normalcy" and trying to appear to interact properly-it's very exhausting and can cause a meltdown when things become overwhelming.


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melanieeee
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21 Apr 2012, 6:54 am

Dillogic wrote:
What's normal?

People with Down's Syndrome appear normal to me, other than looking a little different physically.

You need to look at, "what can and can't do" and "how it affects the person".


To be considered a 'disorder' under the DSM, diagnostic characteristics has to:

1. deviate from social norm - I am saying the way an adult aspie behaves does not appear (to me) to deviate from social norms.
2. cause dysfunction in an individual - Trait neuroticism is generally considered a 'normal' trait. People with high levels of neuroticism are more likely to feel angry, more anxious etc. However, it is only considered 'abnormal' when it causes dysfunction in a persons life.



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21 Apr 2012, 7:14 am

melanieeee wrote:
1. deviate from social norm - I am saying the way an adult aspie behaves does not appear (to me) to deviate from social norms.
2. cause dysfunction in an individual - Trait neuroticism is generally considered a 'normal' trait. People with high levels of neuroticism are more likely to feel angry, more anxious etc. However, it is only considered 'abnormal' when it causes dysfunction in a persons life.


What criteria are you using to judge that adult Aspies do not deviate from social norms? The ability to fake normal for limited periods of time? Your perception of what normal is? You seem to want to argue that AS is not a disabling condition, but I wonder what actually brings you to this conclusion. Anecdotes are evidence, but they're not statistically significant - this is why the need to perform studies with sufficiently large sample sizes rather than applying selection bias to a small sample size.

I [i[think[/i] I can manage to operate within social norms that I am aware of for a period of time, often impacted by the number of people around. But I also recall going to a party a couple of years ago with a couple of friends and being unable to interact with people in any kind of "normal" sense, which seemed to put people off (they ended their conversations with me fairly quickly, and this was mostly a relief to me because I was really hard-pressed to determine what sort of things I should be saying). The only person I spoke to for more than a few sentences turned out to be on the spectrum as well.

I know I do not function socially like NTs, though. Even when trying to front around NTs - which is exhausting and mind-numbing - I know I am not perceiving the same social world they are and vice versa. At least from tests and from interactions with my therapist, it does seem I have a lot of trouble correctly interpreting body language and facial expressions, and my interpretation of tone of voice is not great (Obvious stuff is easy, more subtle stuff is not - don't even try to hint at me, I probably won't catch it).

I don't see why you would want to argue that an AS diagnosis means that one is not disabled, however. How could you conclude that?



melanieeee
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21 Apr 2012, 7:18 am

Verdandi wrote:
melanieeee wrote:
1. deviate from social norm - I am saying the way an adult aspie behaves does not appear (to me) to deviate from social norms.
2. cause dysfunction in an individual - Trait neuroticism is generally considered a 'normal' trait. People with high levels of neuroticism are more likely to feel angry, more anxious etc. However, it is only considered 'abnormal' when it causes dysfunction in a persons life.


What criteria are you using to judge that adult Aspies do not deviate from social norms? The ability to fake normal for limited periods of time? Your perception of what normal is? You seem to want to argue that AS is not a disabling condition, but I wonder what actually brings you to this conclusion. Anecdotes are evidence, but they're not statistically significant - this is why the need to perform studies with sufficiently large sample sizes rather than applying selection bias to a small sample size.

I [i[think[/i] I can manage to operate within social norms that I am aware of for a period of time, often impacted by the number of people around. But I also recall going to a party a couple of years ago with a couple of friends and being unable to interact with people in any kind of "normal" sense, which seemed to put people off (they ended their conversations with me fairly quickly, and this was mostly a relief to me because I was really hard-pressed to determine what sort of things I should be saying). The only person I spoke to for more than a few sentences turned out to be on the spectrum as well.

I know I do not function socially like NTs, though. Even when trying to front around NTs - which is exhausting and mind-numbing - I know I am not perceiving the same social world they are and vice versa. At least from tests and from interactions with my therapist, it does seem I have a lot of trouble correctly interpreting body language and facial expressions, and my interpretation of tone of voice is not great (Obvious stuff is easy, more subtle stuff is not - don't even try to hint at me, I probably won't catch it).

I don't see why you would want to argue that an AS diagnosis means that one is not disabled, however. How could you conclude that?


criteria: not being able to differentiate between someone with aspergers and NTs

P.S. I am NOT arguing that an AS diagnosis means that one is not disabled, I am saying the majority (if not ALL) of the AS people I've met seem pretty normal to me and considering that AS is defined by social deficits and repetitive behaviours/intense interests, you would expect to be able to notice it quickly.



Last edited by melanieeee on 21 Apr 2012, 7:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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21 Apr 2012, 7:21 am

Looking normal to you on a video doesn't equal looking normal to the people around them. I would probably look normal on a video, except my somewhat monotone voice, poker face and not looking into the camera (that's just as hard as looking into people's eyes, the few times I've been filmed or photographed). On a good day, I also look normal to most people for short conversations like buying something in a store, asking for directions etc. On bad days, I come off as weird immediately.

When people get to know me, however, they notice there's something a bit "off" about me, and if they're meant to do projects with me or anything like that, they definitely start noticing. I don't cope well with changes, I tend to pull people's ideas apart and insist on my own (even when trying not to, because, hey, I'm right, darnit!), and I have no idea when it's my turn to talk. I insist on doing my part alone. I've had projects that were very successful due to that (they told me afterwards they felt like punching me though, but after seeing the results, they forgave me...), and others which fell apart because of complete incompatibility. But no matter the results, I come off as a weirdo. Same goes for friends, I have a harder time getting them since fewer people are compatible with me, and even the ones I have, view me as weird.

As for sensory overload, I may not show it, but I most definitely have it. When it gets to the point of panic, I run off to a dark and/or silent place, instead of having the meltdowns/visible panic attacks I used to have. This is less because of an ability to control myself than because of an ability to predict the situations. 29 years of this teaches you how to see what's coming - I know that I have to start using my sunglasses the moment I leave my apartment if I'm to spend the entire day at university, since the lights are too intensive. I also know that I need earplugs if I have classes in the bigger lecture halls. Worst come to worst, there are silent rooms in the library, but since the day is ruined at that point, I usually just drive home before it gets to that. I do the same thing for airports, cities, public transport, parties, you name it. There's a lot that can be done by buying better tickets (gets you away from families with children on trains, at least), making sure you know where to find silent areas, bringing a headset with music that can block everything out, etc. I usually know beforehand what I'm going to need, thus you won't see me have a breakdown. That doesn't mean I don't have the problem, as it still is disabling. It ruins my days, and significantly lowers my capacity for work. It just doesn't show, except dark glasses, sometimes earplugs, and at worst, irritability.

So not being able to identify someone with AS miles away, doesn't mean that someone's "normal". It means he/she's got better at concealing his/her problems. A therapist would still be more than able to identify them. "Deficits in social communication and interaction" aren't necessarily obvious if you observe someone for just a few minutes (or even hours), it doesn't have to mean "inability for social communication and interaction". If I were to choose, I'd rather be completely unable to interact seemingly normally, than using my current ability to "act normal" with new people. First of all, it exhausts me; I need to constantly analyze people's behavior consciously, since I don't get it intuitively. And worse, I don't have a switch to turn the "body language parser" off. Not even with close friends. So group interaction, no matter how well I know the people I'm with, completely wears me out. Second, it increases people's expectations, since they initially think of me as "normal". Then, when my differences start to manifest, instead of thinking "hey, that guy is an aspie, give him some room", they think I'm just being difficult. Or insensitive. Or arrogant. Or not caring. Or just an idiot. So much for acquired social semi-intelligence...

And lastly, the fact that someone once had an AS diagnosis, per definition means they still have it (unless the original diagnosis was wrong), no matter how well they cope with their problems. It's congenital. I know a guy with schizophrenia, who hasn't been psychotic for ten years. But he still has schizophrenia, since he'll need medication for life. There are no medications for AS (and if one existed, I wouldn't take it), but coping techniques are necessary for the rest of our lives. And no matter how fast one can analyze nonverbal behavior, to the point of not even noticing the conscious process doing it, it's still not intuitive, and hence not "normal".



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21 Apr 2012, 7:22 am

Dillogic wrote:
What's normal?

People with Down's Syndrome appear normal to me, other than looking a little different physically.

You need to look at, "what can and can't do" and "how it affects the person".


I don't know, I've met some adults with Down's Syndrome and they behaved like 5-year-olds and needed to be under supervision all the time and couldn't do things for themselves.

Then I met another girl with Down's Syndrome, she was more grown-up but you could still see she had some problems, mostly with intelligence and she had a lot of speech delays.


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21 Apr 2012, 7:32 am

I agree with the comments about invisible disability. I have depression and also fibromyalgia - two invisible conditions which both affect me significantly and have a big impact on my life. People see me and say, aren't you looking well, you always seem so happy. They don't see what goes on behind the scenes, or guess that I'm pretending to be OK. In some respects, I think we become conditioned by society to behave a certain way, to grin and bear it and present a postive face to the world.

The best description I've read of invisible disabilities is that it's like a swan gliding across the water, apparently effortlessly. However, the swan's feet are working frantically underwater to keep it gliding so elegantly. All that effort remains hidden, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening!



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