Adults with Asperger Syndrome (AS) are individuals who do not have an intellectual impairment but often face co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, psychosocial and functional issues.
Often they hear that they are lazy, overreacting, just don’t want to try, that they are shy or that they need a push. But in actuality they are unable to do something, are too stressed, are on the verge of a panic attack or their anxiety will not let their body do something right now.
The difference between “I can’t” and “I won’t!” This is anxiety.
Individuals with AS are often diagnosed with a different mental health issues such as clinically significant anxiety at a rate of 60 to 70%, whereas the neural typical population (NT) has a current diagnosis rate of 5 to 10%. (Neuropsychiatry: Treatment of Co-morbid Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Nadeau, J. et al. December 2011)
Traditional mental health services and support systems do not always meet the needs of adults with Aspergers Syndrome.
Coaching individuals with AS and giving them tools to manage their anxiety requires the understanding of how Aspergers contributes to the high levels of anxiety. Some AS individuals are perfectionists, some have challenges communicating or talking with others, some can’t read facial expressions or body language, some fear that they might say the wrong thing in social situations, some find life too unpredictable, some have sensory challenges that lead to anxiety, and some become frustrated when things don’t go the way they thought they would. In each individual, AS and anxiety presents itself in a different way, with different triggers and different fears.
How does an individual respond to stress and anxiety? Is it the fight or flight response or does the individual freeze and retreat into themselves? Often individuals with AS are seen as being aloof or wanting to spend time alone, but their behaviour could be due to anxiety and wanting to avoid situations that cause anxious moments.
The goal of the coaching process is to assist the individual in developing a toolbox containing proven strategies that work for each individual. According to research, successful treatments include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness. But one size does not fit all. Each person needs to gain self-awareness so that they can have insight into their own anxiety and can begin to make better choices on how to respond when feeling stress or experiencing anxious moments. Their awareness of altered thoughts, altered feelings, the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety, and the altered behaviour they exhibit. By becoming aware and making better choices on how to manage their behaviour, emotions and throughts within anxiety, they can better manage how the anxiety presents, make better choices and manage there anxiety.
The diagnosis of Aspergers and anxiety is associated with functional impairment beyond the Aspergers diagnosis. Coaching individuals with Aspergers and anxiety to develop strategies to manage anxiety also includes teaching functional skills. These functional skills will help the individual gain independence in employment, completing their education, living independently and creating a social, confident life.
The freedom to be: At peace, independent.