People with Asperger syndrome have problems with social interaction and attentiveness, and are also sensitive to noise and light. Several of these characteristics were evident to parents during their child’s first two years, reveals Petra Dewrang’s thesis in psychology at the University of Gothenburg. The thesis was defended on 17 June. Check the end of this report for a link to download the full-text thesis.
In her thesis, Dewrang investigated how individuals with Asperger syndrome aged 14-24 years old perceive themselves relative to their diagnosis. The thesis is based on interviews, tests and self-evaluations. A questionnaire for parents also resulted in important descriptions of these individuals’ behaviour and development from infancy onwards.
The results show first and foremost that the similarities are greater than the differences when the Asperger group and the comparison group describe their lives.
“But the differences that do exist are vital for understanding how people with Asperger syndrome stand the best chance of getting by,” says Dewrang.
The Asperger group were as content with themselves and their lives as the comparison group. But they found it harder to build relationships with other people, and their plans for the future were less “adventurous.” Parents and siblings were more present in their lives than is normal for this age group even after they had left home.
On the other hand, those with Asperger’s syndrome were just as good at social cognition as the comparison group when they had to explain why the key person in a story reacted in a certain way. However, the limited ability to theoretically understand other peoples’ thoughts and feelings made it difficult to maintain relationships in real life.
Material adapted from University of Gothenburg.
Dewrang, P. & Dahlgren Sandberg, A. (2011). Repetitive behaviour and obsessive-compulsive features in Asperger syndrome: Parental and self-reports. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, 1176-1186.