Telling someone they have Aspergers Syndrome
Firstly before I begin this post, I would like to say that it has been a difficult decision, to sit down and write. “How to tell some they have Aspergers” is a question, that I get asked a lot on this site and it is always a difficult one to answer.
I usually try to avoid giving specific advice, because I don’t know the individual involved. So rather than this blog post be about the correct answer or the correct things to say, I will try and leave it open and cover the issue from several angles and then leave it open for debate in the comments section.
At the end of the day, I believe we all need to make informed decisions about this subject.
Before I go into this issue, I think its important for us to look inside, about why its important to tell the person they may have Asperger’s. I have seen situations, in relationships where one partner uses the fact that the partner is on the spectrum, to win arguments or to be right and I believe this is totally the wrong motivation.
In many cases the actual diagnosis or awareness of whether a person has Asperger’s Syndrome can be a liberation. Understanding why one behaves and thinks the way they do, can give the person a lot of self acceptance. With that knowledge, an individual can also seek out techniques and therapies that can support them to have a better quality of life. Now this is a good motivation to make someone aware.
But……. It really depends on the individual. Some people are really not open to feedback. They do not invite it and they are really not open to it if it comes unsolicited. So if your loved one is in this bracket you need to be super aware because in trying to help you also run the danger that you push the person away in the process and this is really not what you want. In these cases it can often be better to let the person come to their own conclusions and journey of self discovery. However, if the person is more open and seeks advice, it can be easier.
I had been talking to Renee Salas about this issue and we both agreed it was a loaded but important subject. Renee has an excellent post where she discusses this issue from the point of view a parent. She suggested a number of questions one should ask oneself before going into the issue. I quite like them so I thought I would add them to this post. Try asking yourself these questions as part of the decision process about whether to talk to the person or not:
1.) Do I think this person would want to know?
2.) Do I think this person should know because it’s what I want? Or it’s what he/she would want?
3.) Do I want to tell this person because I think it will make things easier for him/her? (e.g. Are they lost and struggling in areas, confused at their inability to ‘fit in’ or succeed?)
4.) What is this person’s current view of autism? This is a biggee. Autism still has so much negative stigma attached, if the person is not privy to the autism community that we are a part of (i.e. bloggers/FB/Twitter that are working to bring the positives and successes to the forefront from an autistic pt-of-view) their reaction would probably be one of anger. Then possibly fear and denial.
5.) Am I looking at this person as an individual, taking into consideration: Family, Friends, Social Circles, Job/Career.
6.) Is he/she overly-concerned with what others think? Is he/she the type of person who might feel shame and worry over being stigmatized as a ‘person with a disability?’
If the answers above give you insight that you want to talk to the person or make them aware, here are a few ways, I can think to playfully or gently bring ones awareness to the symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome.
Watch movies on Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism
Many times people in the general public are not aware of the symptoms and mannerisms of Aspergers. By watching movies and tv series that portray the character and personality of people with the condition, you can initially raise awareness. Often the person will recognize traits in the characters and it may be a way to very slowly raise awareness to the point where the subject can eventually be broached.
Here is a list of Autism and Aspergers related movies.
Make the taking of a test a playful activity
So, just like any game often people like to partake as a bit of fun. Taking turns to take the Test for Aspergers, can be a playful way to get someone to take an initial screening assessment. You can also send the link to someone and say something like I got a score of x, am curious what you got. The important thing is that it has to be done playfully and you have to feel the person is open to receive the information. It should also not be done in a competitive way that, I am normal and you have something wrong with you.
Highlighting the genius
To many there is a big stigma with having Aspergers, it is deemed as something negative but if you would intentionally mention the positive aspects of people who have Aspergers and suggest that they have similar traits, it may a way to get that person to open up to the possibility
Read this it sounds like you
Well, this isn’t my idea, but I found it on a forum. Some became aware of their nature by someone emailing them a link that said, read this, it sounds like you. Apparently this casual suggestion, left the person free to decide for themselves. It also didn’t cause offense or bring up defenses because the person could see why it sounded like them. you could try a similar thing, giving them a link to a good introduction to an article about Aspergers such as:
Talking directly to the person
This is the more direct approach which involves sitting down and talking to the person directly.
The national autistic society recommend, that you consider who is the right person to broach the subject. For example the subject may be more able to accept the results of the conversation if it comes from a friend or sibling rather than a parent. They encourage one to carefully plan out what will be said in a way that is diplomatic. You can check out this article which has a few good ideas on how to handle the issue. http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/autism-and-asperger-syndrome-an-introduction/what-is-asperger-syndrome/asperger-syndrome-broaching-the-subject.aspx
So as I said at the beginning, this is a very difficult and sensitive issue to talk about. You will need to adopt any of the ideas to the person, but remember they are only ideas. Talking to people and communicating difficult issues, is a fine art. No one can truly teach you this art, its something you need to develop inside of yourself. If you are not confident that what you say or do will be well received perhaps you should not. Respecting that the person will be open to face or acknowledge things in themselves when they are ready.
As ever, I’m curious about your thoughts on the issue. Please leave a comment below with any suggestions you think are appropriate.