Describing the triad of impairments

You should then explain why this is relevant to you. Asperger Syndrome is characterized by something known as the triad of impairments. People with AS will be affected in some way by each of these impairments. Below are some suggestions for ways in which you could describe how the triad of impairments relates to you. The Autistic Spectrum is very broad and two people with the condition may present very differently. No one person will have all the traits but by and large most people with AS will have problems in the following three areas.

1. Social communication

People with AS may be very good at basic communication and letting people know what they think and feel. Their difficulties lie in the social aspects of communication. For example:

  • they may have difficulty understanding gestures, body language and facial expressions
  • they may not be aware of what is socially appropriate and have difficulty choosing topics to talk about
  • they may not be socially motivated because they find communication difficult, so they may not have many friends and they may choose not to socialise very much.
  • Some of these problems can be seen in the way people with AS present themselves. For example, classic traits include:
    • difficulty making eye contact
    • repetitive speech
    • difficulties expressing themselves especially when talking about emotions
    • anxiety in social situations and resultant nervous tics

2. Social understanding

Typical examples of difficulties with social understanding include:

  • difficulties in group situations, such as going to the pub with a group of friends
  • finding small talk and chatting very difficult
  • problems understanding double meanings, for example not knowing when people are teasing you
  • not choosing appropriate topics to talk about
  • taking what people say very literally.

3. Imagination

This can be a slightly confusing term. People often assume it means that people with AS are not imaginative in the conventional use of the word, for example, they lack creative abilities. This is not the case and many people with AS are extremely able writers, artists and musicians. Instead lack of imagination in AS can include difficulty imagining alternative outcomes and finding it hard to predict what will happen next. This frequently leads to anxiety. This can present as:

  • an obsession with rigid routines and severe distress if routines are disrupted
  • problems with making plans for the future, and having difficulties organising your life
  • problems with sequencing tasks, so that preparing to go out can be difficult because you can’t always remember what to take with you.

Some people with AS over-compensate for this by being extremely meticulous in their planning, and having extensive written or mental checklists.