Social Relationships and Asperger's Syndrome

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Journal of Intellectual Disabilities

Social Relationships and Asperger's Syndrome : A Qualitative Analysis of First-Hand Accounts Robert S.P. Jones and Tor Ole Meldal Journal of Intellectual Disabilities 2001 5: 35 DOI: 10.1177/146900470100500104 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Social relationships and Asperger’s syndrome
A qualitative analysis of first-hand accounts
University of Wales, Bangor, UK University of Wales, Bangor, UK Journal of Learning Disabilities ©    London,Thousand Oaks and New Delhi  () -   -():

Abstract First-hand accounts of five people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who spoke about social relationships were analysed using a grounded theory approach. Four central themes were identified. These were an awareness of the difficulties in communication and comprehension, descriptions of attempts to ‘fit in’ by trying to role-play at being non-autistic, the awareness of other people with Asperger’s as a supportive community, and an awareness of the benefits of the Internet as a means to develop and maintain social relationships. Overall the analysis showed a high degree of awareness and insight into individual difficulties with social relationships, and highlighted other people with Asperger’s as a source of friendship and support. Keywords Asperger’s syndrome; communication; first-hand accounts; social relationships

Asperger’s syndrome is a neurobiological disorder named after Hans Asperger, a Viennese physician, who in  published a dissertation entitled ‘Autistic Psychopathology’. This dissertation described a pattern of development and behaviour in several young boys who had apparently normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviours and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. Despite this, it is only in the past few years that Asperger’s syndrome has been recognized by professionals and parents. For example, it took more than  years for this condition to be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), a classification system initially developed by the American Psychiatric Association in  and now in its fourth revision (American Psychiatric Association, ). It is in dispute as to whether the disorders expressed by Kanner and Asperger are distinct disorders, or whether Asperger’s disorder is merely a case of high-functioning autism, on the low end of the autistic spectrum (Frith, ). 

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People with Asperger’s syndrome exhibit a variety of characteristics, and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Individuals show significant deficiencies in social skills, can have difficulties with changes or transitions and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. Individuals report considerable difficulty reading non-verbal behaviour and are often reported as being unaware or uninterested in social communication. Although significantly under-diagnosed until very recently (Attwood, ), individuals were often described as clever, eccentric, absent minded, physically awkward and (particularly) socially inept (Happé, ).They may...
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