Living with Asperger’s: ways to overcome social deficits and feelings of inadequacy

Asperger's therapy Dr. Kimberly Miller Healthy Mind Sacramento Asperger's syndrome therapist

I am a therapist in Sacramento specializing in neurodevelopmental issues, including Asperger’s. I see many teens and adults with Asperger’s syndrome (now called autism spectrum disorder) who are bright, focused people. They are often successful in either their career or in other endeavors in life. But it is hard for them to manage all aspects of life. Let’s talk about the major challenges of living with Asperger’s, and how you can start to tackle those obstacles.

Asperger’s and social deficits: “I do not know what to say to people or how to act in social situations!”

If you have a diagnosis of Asperger’s, perhaps you have a job and are great at the technical aspects, but avoid parties or hallway chatter. Romantically, you may be in a relationship, but get criticized by your partner for not saying the right thing at the right time, not “connecting” with her/him, or not being empathetic enough. You do not really get what you are doing wrong, but apparently, it’s something!

Solutions:

If you would like to work on this issue on your own, here are some beginning steps:

  • When talking to someone, try to listen to what they are saying, instead of thinking about what you are going to say next.
  • Try to not interrupt them while they are talking.
  • Try to make eye contact.
  • If you don’t know what to talk about, just ask people about themselves! People generally like to talk about themselves.
  • In romantic relationships, trying listening and validating instead of looking for a solution all the time. Here’s an example: “I’m sorry your boss was such a jerk at work today. It sounds like you felt ___” (fill in emotion: sad/hurt/angry? It’s ok to guess).
  • When we talk to people and listen and validate, then try to guess what they may be feeling, this helps them feel emotionally connected to us. This is a hard one for many people with Asperger’s to understand, but people like to feel like they are being listened to very closely and that someone understands their feelings. It is ok to guess at their feelings. It shows you are trying to understand them.

If you would like to work on this issue with a therapist specializing in Asperger’s syndrome:

At Healthy Mind Sacramento, I work with my therapy clients with Asperger’s on:

  • learning social skills (sometimes we even practice in session!)
  • learning how to “read” social situations correctly
  • working on creating relationships with their loved ones that feel “deeper.” Many times people with Asperger’s syndrome are in relationships, but their partner complains about their ability to respond to them and connect with them emotionally.
  • Empathy: how to identify emotions, correctly use emotion words when talking, and more accurately “guess” other people’s emotions (empathy deepens relationships of all types!)

Asperger’s and not living up to expectations of self or others: “I feel inadequate”

If you have Asperger’s, you may not have been successful at a certain job, or promoted as fast as others. You may have gone off to college then struggled. You may feel like you are smart but not living up to your full potential. This could be because:

  • You were good at the technical part of the work but not the social parts
  • You could do the work, but not juggle all the organizational and planning parts
  • You found the work environment stressful and overstimulating

Solutions:

If you would like to work on this issue on your own, here are some beginning steps:

  • First, it is important to try to reframe your thinking. There is nothing wrong with you as a person. Sometimes there is not a good person-job fit. It is possible to find a better fit. Not all people are the same.
  • Many people I know with Asperger’s syndrome have non-traditional work situations and are able to thrive that way. Some realize they are not able to work well for a big company and become an independent contractor. Some find a telecommuting job. Some work part time.
  • The more you are able to think outside the box, the more likely you are to find a job fit that is right for you. If you feel like you don’t fit in at work and that no one understands you there, that may not be the best work environment for you.

If you would like to work on this issue with a therapist specializing in Asperger’s syndrome:

At Healthy Mind Sacramento, I work with my therapy clients with Asperger’s on:

  • Tackling the question of: do you have a good work-person fit?
  • If not, we brainstorm work options that may be a better fit, and check feasibility of those options. If they are not income feasible, there may be a way to create a sense of fulfillment and meaning outside of work.
  • What am I talking about? Many people with Asperger’s have special talents or skills they that they can harness to create a feeling of meaning and purpose in life.
  • We also work on anxiety reduction, if needed, as people with Asperger’s often have higher levels of anxiety than others.

want to talk more about Asperger’s therapy options?

Healthy Mind Sacramento is a specialty therapy practice focusing on treatment of neurobehavioral disorders in kids ages 10+ through adults. Videoconference and in-office treatment is available. For more information, get in touch.