Asperger's in Adults: Symptoms & Signs

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Individuals who are born with Asperger's syndrome often have a hard time interpreting and reacting to social cues. In this lesson, we will discuss the signs and symptoms in adults as well as the difficulties caused for adults with Asperger's.


Have you ever heard of 'Brainman'? His real name is Daniel Tammet, and he is a savant, a person who despite having a developmental and/or intellectual disability is endowed with extraordinary capabilities (usually in one area like math, memory, or the arts) that are beyond the human norm. You can, in a way, call him superhuman. He can remember large amounts of information, learn a difficult language in a week, perform vast calculations all in his head, and much more. He also has something called Asperger's syndrome. Let's find out a bit more about this syndrome.

What Is Asperger's Syndrome?

Asperger's is a syndrome that was once classified as a separate disorder. However, it is now grouped, along with autism and others, into something called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). You can think of Asperger's syndrome as a mild version of autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder. In other words, it is a disorder that results from abnormal development of, namely, the brain. Thus, it begins in early childhood and involves various social, behavioral, and other issues.

Symptoms & Signs

Adults with Asperger's are affected at different levels, so the signs and symptoms of Asperger's will vary from person to person. For example, Daniel Tammet is extraordinary in another way, in that many of the signs and symptoms of Asperger's in adults either do not affect him at all or do so minimally.

Nevertheless, the potential signs of Asperger's in adults include:

  • An inability to understand normal body language. For example, trouble understanding signs such as crossed arms when someone is uncomfortable with something can create misunderstandings.
  • An inability to understand social rules, such as engaging in small talk or talking only when another person has finished talking.
  • Difficulties in forming friendships.
  • Problems in communication, such as taking comments literally. For instance, sarcasm may be difficult for people with Asperger's to understand because they may not understand the subtle variations in tone that indicate someone is being sarcastic.
  • A difficult time understanding someone's emotion via their tone, facial expressions, or body language. Thus, an adult with Asperger's may also have problems empathizing with someone else and may mistakenly be seen as being selfish or uncaring.
  • Not being able to understand someone else's point of view.
  • Difficulties with verbal reasoning or problem solving.
  • Issues with controlling their feelings, such as anger.
  • A very specific field of interest or hobby.
  • Usually, average or above-average intelligence.

Case Example

Let's go over a potential case example of what an adult with Asperger's may experience given the aforementioned signs we discussed. Jack is an intelligent man in his 30s, and is known to be really great at his job. He's also married and recently he and his wife had a child. Seems kind of like the average man in his 30s, right?

But, remember, Jack has Asperger's. To the outside world it may look like everything is normal but he is well aware that it took him many years of trial and error to find out where he fits in best and where he doesn't in society as a whole. For instance, it took a lot of job losses to finally realize that he does well when working at a job that doesn't require multi-tasking nor a lot of socialization with colleagues or clients. It also cost him a lot of friends and even family members to figure out how he's supposed to behave around other people using societal customs and norms. He's also had to figure out how best to avoid or handle things like the encounter with the local cashier and the fact that she always engages in small talk.

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