What Are The Symptoms of Asperger's in Adults?

Although Asperger's is often associated with children, many adults also live with this condition. In this article, we'll explore the signs and symptoms of Asperger's in adults.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
December 13, 2023
min read

Understanding Adult Asperger's Syndrome

To gain insight into the unique experiences of individuals with Adult Asperger's Syndrome, it's important to understand what this condition entails and the key characteristics associated with it.

What is Asperger's Syndrome?

Asperger's Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that falls under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It was previously considered a separate diagnosis but is now considered part of the broader autism spectrum. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and the presence of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior.

Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome often exhibit average to above-average intelligence, along with a distinct set of strengths and challenges. While there is no known cure for Asperger's Syndrome, early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve an individual's quality of life.

Key Characteristics of Adult Asperger's Syndrome

Adults with Asperger's Syndrome exhibit a range of characteristics that differentiate them from neurotypical individuals. It's important to note that each person's experience can vary, and not all individuals will display every characteristic. However, understanding these key characteristics can help promote understanding and support for individuals with Asperger's Syndrome.

  1. Difficulties with Social Interactions: Adults with Asperger's Syndrome may struggle with social interactions, finding it challenging to initiate and maintain conversations. They may have difficulty interpreting social cues, such as facial expressions and body language, making it challenging to understand others' emotions and intentions.
  2. Challenges in Nonverbal Communication: Nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, gestures, and tone of voice, can present challenges for individuals with Asperger's Syndrome. They may have difficulty understanding and appropriately using nonverbal cues, which can affect their ability to express themselves effectively and understand others' intentions.
  3. Limited Empathy and Understanding of Social Cues: Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may struggle with empathy, finding it challenging to understand and connect with others' emotions. They may have difficulty recognizing and responding appropriately to social cues, which can impact their ability to navigate social situations successfully.

Understanding the key characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome in adults is crucial for creating a supportive and inclusive environment. By recognizing and appreciating the unique strengths and challenges of individuals with Asperger's Syndrome, we can promote empathy, understanding, and acceptance.

Social and Communication Challenges

Individuals with Adult Asperger's Syndrome often face unique challenges in social interactions and communication. These difficulties can impact their ability to connect with others and understand social cues. In this section, we will explore three key aspects of social and communication challenges faced by adults with Asperger's Syndrome.

Difficulties with Social Interactions

Adults with Asperger's Syndrome often struggle with social interactions. They may find it challenging to engage in small talk, initiate conversations, or maintain eye contact. Difficulty understanding social norms and unwritten rules can lead to feelings of social anxiety and isolation.

It's important to note that these challenges are not due to a lack of interest in others but rather stem from difficulties in interpreting and responding to social cues. Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may benefit from social skills training and therapy to develop strategies for navigating social situations.

Challenges in Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in social interactions. However, individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may struggle with interpreting and expressing nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. This can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in forming connections with others.

To compensate for these challenges, individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may benefit from learning explicit strategies for understanding nonverbal cues. Therapy and social skills training can provide guidance on recognizing and responding to nonverbal communication effectively.

Limited Empathy and Understanding of Social Cues

Empathy, the ability to understand and share others' emotions, can be challenging for adults with Asperger's Syndrome. Difficulties in reading social cues and understanding others' perspectives can make it challenging to empathize with others. This does not mean that individuals with Asperger's Syndrome lack empathy entirely, but rather that they may struggle to express it in ways that are easily recognized by neurotypical individuals.

It's important to approach individuals with Asperger's Syndrome with patience and understanding, recognizing that their limited empathy is not intentional but a result of their unique neurodivergent wiring. Therapy and social skills training can help individuals with Asperger's Syndrome develop strategies for understanding and expressing empathy effectively.

Understanding the social and communication challenges faced by adults with Asperger's Syndrome is crucial for creating inclusive and supportive environments. By recognizing and accommodating these challenges, we can foster better understanding and inclusivity for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Repetitive Behaviors and Special Interests

Individuals with adult Asperger's syndrome often exhibit specific patterns of behavior and interests that are characteristic of the condition. Understanding these repetitive behaviors and intense special interests can provide insight into the unique experiences of individuals with Asperger's syndrome.

Engaging in Repetitive Behaviors

Repetitive behaviors are a common feature of adult Asperger's syndrome. These behaviors may manifest in various ways, such as repetitive movements (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking), adherence to strict routines, or repetitive speech patterns. Engaging in these repetitive behaviors can serve as a way for individuals with Asperger's syndrome to self-regulate or cope with overwhelming situations.

It's important to note that repetitive behaviors in individuals with Asperger's syndrome are different from purposeless or compulsive behaviors seen in other conditions. These behaviors often have a specific function or purpose for the individual, providing comfort or a sense of control.

Intense and Focused Special Interests

Another characteristic of adult Asperger's syndrome is the presence of intense and focused special interests. Individuals with Asperger's syndrome often develop deep knowledge and passion in specific areas, which may be highly specialized or niche subjects. These interests can become all-consuming, with individuals dedicating significant time and energy to learn, explore, and engage in these areas of interest.

Special interests can provide a source of joy, fulfillment, and expertise for individuals with Asperger's syndrome. It allows them to engage in activities that they find meaningful and to connect with others who share similar interests. These interests may also serve as a coping mechanism or a way to establish routine and predictability in their lives.

Resistance to Change and Routines

Individuals with adult Asperger's syndrome often display a strong resistance to change and a reliance on routines. They may become distressed or anxious in the face of unexpected changes or disruptions to their established routines. Maintaining predictability and consistency is crucial for individuals with Asperger's syndrome as it helps them feel secure and in control of their environment.

It's important to recognize that this resistance to change is not due to stubbornness or inflexibility, but rather a need for stability and familiarity. Establishing clear expectations and providing ample notice for any upcoming changes can help individuals with Asperger's syndrome navigate transitions more smoothly.

Understanding these repetitive behaviors, intense special interests, and resistance to change can help individuals with Asperger's syndrome and those around them create an environment that supports their unique needs. By embracing and accommodating these characteristics, individuals with Asperger's syndrome can thrive and contribute their valuable perspectives and talents to society.

Sensory Sensitivities

Individuals with adult Asperger's syndrome often experience sensory sensitivities that can significantly impact their daily lives. These sensitivities can manifest in various ways and may vary from person to person. In this section, we will explore some common sensory sensitivities associated with adult Asperger's syndrome.

Hypersensitivity to Sensory Stimuli

One of the key characteristics of adult Asperger's syndrome is hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli. This means that individuals with Asperger's may have heightened responses to certain sensory inputs, such as sounds, lights, textures, or smells. For example, a loud noise that might be mildly irritating to others may be overwhelming and distressing for someone with Asperger's.

To better understand the impact of sensory sensitivities, consider the following examples of hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli:

Sensory Stimulus Hypersensitivity Response
Loud Noises Covering ears or experiencing significant discomfort
Bright Lights Feeling overwhelmed or experiencing visual discomfort
Certain Textures Avoiding certain fabrics or textures due to discomfort
Strong Smells Becoming nauseous or having an aversive reaction

Preference for Predictability and Routine

Individuals with adult Asperger's syndrome often prefer predictability and routine in their lives. Having a structured and predictable environment can provide a sense of security and reduce anxiety. Changes to routines or unexpected events can be particularly challenging for individuals with Asperger's.

To accommodate this preference for predictability and routine, individuals with Asperger's may establish specific daily rituals or engage in repetitive behaviors to create order and reduce anxiety. These routines can provide a sense of control and stability in their lives.

Overwhelm in Noisy or Overstimulating Environments

Noisy or overstimulating environments can be overwhelming for individuals with adult Asperger's syndrome. Excessive noise, crowded spaces, or environments with too many sensory inputs can cause heightened anxiety and discomfort. This is often due to difficulties in filtering out irrelevant sensory information and focusing on the most important aspects.

In order to cope with overwhelming environments, individuals with Asperger's may choose to limit their exposure to such situations or use coping strategies, such as wearing noise-canceling headphones or finding a quiet space to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed.

Understanding and accommodating these sensory sensitivities is crucial in creating an environment that is supportive and comfortable for individuals with adult Asperger's syndrome. By recognizing and respecting their unique sensory needs, we can help create a more inclusive and understanding society.

Challenges in Relationships and Employment

Living with adult Asperger's syndrome can present unique challenges in both personal relationships and the workplace. Understanding these challenges is crucial for individuals with Asperger's and those around them to foster understanding and create supportive environments.

Difficulties in Building and Maintaining Relationships

Adults with Asperger's syndrome often face difficulties in building and maintaining relationships. Social interactions can be challenging due to difficulties in understanding social cues, nonverbal communication, and limited empathy. These individuals may struggle with initiating conversations, maintaining eye contact, or understanding subtle social nuances.

It's important for both individuals with Asperger's and their loved ones to recognize and accommodate these challenges. Patience, open communication, and clear expectations can help create a supportive and understanding environment that fosters positive relationships.

Challenges in the Workplace

Asperger's syndrome can also present challenges in the workplace. Individuals with Asperger's may struggle with social interactions, adapting to changes, and understanding unwritten social rules. These challenges can impact teamwork, communication, and overall job performance.

However, with the right support and accommodations, individuals with Asperger's can thrive in the workplace. Employers can provide clear expectations, explicit instructions, and a structured environment. Colleagues can show understanding, provide clear feedback, and be patient with any difficulties that arise. Additionally, individuals with Asperger's can benefit from developing self-advocacy skills and seeking out workplace accommodations that cater to their specific needs.

Strategies for Success in Relationships and Employment

While individuals with Asperger's face unique challenges in relationships and employment, there are strategies that can help them succeed.

In relationships, open and honest communication is key. Both partners should strive to understand and accommodate each other's needs. Seeking professional guidance, such as therapy or counseling, can also provide valuable support and guidance for navigating relationship challenges.

In the workplace, individuals with Asperger's can benefit from self-awareness and self-advocacy. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses allows them to seek out positions that align with their skills and interests. Additionally, seeking workplace accommodations, such as a structured routine or clear communication channels, can greatly enhance job performance and overall job satisfaction.

By fostering understanding, providing support, and implementing strategies tailored to the unique challenges of Asperger's syndrome, individuals with Asperger's can navigate relationships and employment successfully.


Asperger's Syndrome can have a significant impact on an adult's life, but with understanding and support, individuals with Asperger's can live happy and fulfilling lives. If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms listed above, it may be helpful to seek the advice of a medical or mental health professional. With the right treatment and support, individuals with Asperger's can thrive.


steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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