More adults learning they've got Asperger's syndrome

October 6, 2011 1:25:01 PM PDT
Asperger's syndrome is a mild form of autism. Most people never think of it in connection with adults. But a growing number of adults are finding that they may not be rude or odd -- they may have Asperger's. We look into the phenomenon and how patients are reacting to it.

Paula Ong knew she was different. She's smart but she couldn't keep a job.

"I'm on my 13th job," Ong said.

She had trouble getting along, and people thought she was odd.

"They think I'm being rude, they think I'm being too direct, they think I'm being cold," Ong said.

At 36, Ong was diagnosed with Asperger's, a developmental disorder, which is a mild form of autism. People have difficulty with social skills and communicating.

"They're wondering, 'What's different about me? I know there's something,'" said Dr. Katherine Loveland, director of the UTHealth Adult Asperger's Clinic.

Now a growing number of adults like Ong are being diagnosed with Asperger's in their 40's, 50's even 60's.

Doctors say that many adults who are finally diagnosed with Asperger's are actually relieved. They have a name for their idiosyncrasies and they understand why they are different.

Dr. Loveland has opened CLASS (Changing Lives through Autism Spectrum Services) Clinic for adults with Asperger's. She says adults have often developed big problems with anxiety too.

"Life with Asperger's can be pretty punishing. You get all this negative feedback from people, you did that wrong, you were rude. Why didn't you do this? What's wrong with you? Those are really hard things to hear all the time," Dr. Loveland said.

Ong copes with her anxiety with stuffed animals. She has 900 now. Boo the ghost is her favorite.

"He keeps my worries, he keeps my insecurities with him," she said.

And now that Ong understands herself better, she's getting better.

"The best thing to do is embrace it and use it to my advantage now that I know I have it," she said.

And Ong is counseling other adults who are just learning that they, too, have Asperger's.

For more information on Asperger's, email ms.aspergers@uth.tmc.edu.


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