Traits by Age

           Although each AS person exhibits the same traits throughout their life, with age and experience, some of the characteristics become more “hidden”.   An AS adult has learned to cope with the challenges of AS, and may  “mask” some of the traits even to the point of “passing for normal” when in public.   This section will give you a brief overview of what identifying personality traits you might expect at each age. It is important to realize that every person is different; every person has different traits, different strengths, and different weaknesses.  Not every person will exhibit all the same personality traits, and in fact there may be some characteristics listed here that are totally missing in the particular ASPIE you are thinking about.   But it is very important that you treat your ASPIE with respect, love, support, as you would any person you meet.  He/she is an individual, and the “label” of AS will not change that.

             In preschool, a child may hesitate talking well beyond the normal age of his/her peers.   Or he/she may begin talking in complete sentences about complex issues well beyond what you would expect. These sentences will seem memorized, and in reality they may be, with the child actually totally oblivious of the meanings of what he/she is saying.  He/she will be observed playing by himself/herself.  Adults often say that the child “is in his own world”.   There may be a tendency for the child to rock, “fidget”, or even “flap” when concentrating. Or the child may have unusual vocalizations (a certain word or words, hum, click, grunt or the sound of a motor) that occur frequently when the child is concentrating. The child may start screaming and “meltdown” in a situation with many people around (like the grocery store, or parades).  He/she is unable to participate in “imaginary” play, but rather seems to review “scripts”—perhaps a movie seen, or a book read previously. He/she may spend hours at a time lining up object or sorting them—not really using them in the method intended.  It has been noted by many parents there is difficulty in toilet training an AS child, and “accidents” will occur at a much older age than might be expected (throughout the elementary school years). Eye contact may be avoided.  He/she may seem to have unusual difficulty in learning to dress himself/herself (many an ASPIE parent has appreciated the invention of Velcro, especially when it was added to shoes). 

             In regular school, the child does not seem able to have conversations with his age-peers—he/she is more inclined to carry on monologues, and prefers being with older or younger individuals  (unless someone really listens to the conversation, teachers and administrators may incorrectly assume that the child is “social” because he/she talks to another child).  Or the child will be a “loner”, and off to one corner of the playground all by himself/herself.  The child may be uncoordinated, and has difficulty with any activity that requires cooperation between both hands simultaneously  (the last one picked for team events).  Fine motor skills are slower in developing.  Handwriting is laborious and awkward. Papers are messy.   The child seems to lack organization—if the homework is done, it is “lost” before it can be turned in.   The extreme spikes of interest are beginning to appear—very knowledgeable about one subject, and absolutely no interest at all in another.  Or they can study forever about one subject, and all the knowledge disappears into an unknown “black-hole” (My son would study all week on his spelling words, writing them, orally saying them, looking at them, but come Friday it would be like he had never heard of these words ever—and week after week he would fail each spelling test). The child may find it very difficult to stay in his/her seat for an extended period of time because it is “uncomfortable”. In fact the child may even stand and walk out of the classroom in the middle of the lesson, causing the teachers, administrators, and parents considerable concern (the child is really trying to leave what they perceive as a stressful situation, and does it the only way he/she knows how—by walking out). The child may become demanding about type of clothing he/she will wear (a certain color, a certain style, or even a certain fabric content).  It might even be necessary to remove all tags from clothing for it to be worn. The child may desire to wear the same thing day after day after day, causing problems in hygiene and in washing his/her clothes.   The child will begin to adopt the loud, high, or monotone voice that is so identifiable with AS. Sleeping or eating problems become identifiable, and cause family stress.  The stress of “holding it together” when at school may cause the child to come home and “meltdown” at home as frequently as daily.  Parents who do not understand AS at this stage will begin to put additional pressure on the child to “conform” to their expectation, are in actuality cause more stress, confusion, and frustration for the child, accentuating the problems.

             As a teenager, the lack of organization and spikes of interest continue.   The ASPIE becomes the brunt of jokes and the victim of bullies.  Since the individual does not learn by watching others, he/she will tend to be immature, and lack many socially required manners  (e.g. Tactile sensitivities might cause them to pick at scabs or scratch their crotch in the classroom during High School). They begin to sense that they are “different” and not accepted, but they have no understanding of why and actually start spiraling into depression. Aspies rarely date in High School because even though the child may begin to see others  “pairing off”; he/she may have no idea how to initiate any social conversation or contact.  He/she wants to be “normal” like everyone else but has no idea how to achieve it.  Homework can become a major stumbling block – the AS student has no idea how to write down the assignments, forgets textbooks necessary for the lesson, doesn’t understand what he/she is supposed to do, or if the homework is actually done, looses it or just does not turn it in. The AS student may tend to be a perfectionist because he/she has been repeatedly criticized —but this means that if there is one math problem that is not understand, the total page will not be turned in. Homework will turn into battles, as the child is so stressed from school, he/she really needs to have some time to “unwind” at home in the evening but the assignments take more and more time, leaving no time to unwind at all.    In addition, he/she is unable to take specific examples from the classroom and generalize them and apply them in everyday life. Analysis types of assignments are almost impossible, as the executive functioning necessary for this type of work is missing in an ASPIE.  Team assignments are guaranteed to drive an AS student crazy—he/she is unable to determine how to cooperate with the others, and is often ostracized when picking teams (ending up with the “goof-offs” and “losers”, and thereby unable to learn any beneficial habits from those who really do know how to do the assignment).  There have lately been several cases where an ASPIE teenager has committed suicide because he/she has become so distraught over life (thankfully none of these cases have been local).

             As an adult, the individual has self-taught mechanisms to protect themselves.   Some aspies may have learned to lie, while other aspies continue to be exceedingly truthful throughout their life.   The ASPIE may have learned to explode in rage, scaring others into submission.  They may have learned to talk in a loud, overbearing monotone, so that others believe that they really know what they are talking about and let them have their way.   They may just spend all their time talking about only their “favorite subject”.   When it comes to jobs, either an AS individual has learned to go into something having to do with their “special subject” (like be a teacher or a consultant), or has found a meaningless job with repetition, and with little social contact.   There are other aspies that have continual difficulty with finding any sort of a job, and end up in the unemployment and disability lines most of their life.  An AS adult is generally very good with objects, such as computers  (a computer only does what it is programmed to do, so it is very predictable).  Some AS adults have successfully gone into business for themselves, especially if there have someone to “help” with their weak areas.   Some extrovert AS adults wish to be around people all the time, but with the social stress they self-medicate and become addicted to alcohol or drugs (either legal or illegal).  The explosive rage of an AS adult, as well as the lack of understanding of others, may lead to doing things they shouldn’t. 

But not everything is negative.  Those with AS can use their special interest to make a financially rewarding career. But the career must be matched to the aspies talents and interests to be successful.   Aspies are unusually creative, and have become known for special talents such as writing music, painting, inventing, and yes, even writing computer programs.  Yes, most AS adults have married and had families and are living independent lives.   There are many books and studies being done currently on AS, resulting in increasing knowledge and understanding. With understanding, it is easier to encourage rather than criticize the AS individual.   The opportunities exist; it is simply necessary to identify them.

What is AS
Official Criteria for Asperger Syndrome
Basic Characteristics
Traits by Age
Truth and AS  
Family and AS
Should You Seek a Diagnosis?

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  "I know of nobody who is purely Autistic or purely neurotypical.  Even God had some Autistic moments, which is why the planets all spin."  ~ Jerry Newport

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"We each have our own way of living in the world, together we are like a symphony.
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It all blends together, we are like a symphony, and each part is crucial.
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...Sondra Williams

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Updated 04/02/2014