There is no relationship between Asperger’s or autism spectrum disorders and violence, Adreon says.
“This population is very rule based, very law abiding and rule abiding.”
However, she says, a person with Asperger’s might also have another disorder with symptoms that can make the individual more prone to aggression.
Adreon also cautions that the intellectual capabilities of many people with Asperger’s can lead parents into denial about the challenges.
“One of the largest studies showed that 10 percent of the people with Asperger’s tended to have superior or above superior IQs, in comparison to 3 percent of the general population,” she says. “With some of those individuals you’d have to get to know them well before you could see any signs of autism spectrum disorders, while in others it would be obvious the moment you meet them. That’s how variable the disorders are.”
While some people live independently, have careers, marriages and children, others do not, depending on the mix and severity of symptoms and the treatment they receive. Many of her patients live with their parents into adulthood, and find workplace interactions and social situations challenging. Many go undiagnosed. Early intervention and therapy and training can make the difference, she said, but most people cannot afford such intervention.
A late bloomer
Ramon Matos, 44, would one day like to live on his own, have a car and ultimately marry. He now lives at home with his parents.
“I’m the ultimate late bloomer,” he says smiling. He is dressed in a bright gingham shirt and jeans, and wears hip rectangular eye glasses. Matos, who is friendly and personable, speaks without reservation, and with little filter or breaks in the conversation.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s, he converses easily about his life and struggles as a child who was punished repeatedly for behaviors he did not have the skills to control. After he was asked to leave an elementary school, he says, his mother searched for ways to help him. She still has an accordion file of resources and services, he says.
At the University of Miami, he says, he struggled with a major in broadcast journalism, and he says was almost asked to leave when he made inappropriate comments to another student. After college, he was unable to get a job in his field.
Today, he is proud of his work as an assistant manager of ValueStoreIt locations in Miami, where he has worked for the past two years. He got the job through a CARD program that helps people with autism find employment.
David Finch, author of The New York Times bestselling book, The Journal of Best Practices, A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome and One Man’s Quest to be a Better Husband, also has the disorder.
Finch, 35, who grew up and still lives in northern Illinois, always knew he was different. But he developed strategies that worked — an example of “executive functioning,” which many people on the spectrum lack. He learned to keep quiet, and use humor. Making people laugh at the right time won him friends, and kept the focus elsewhere, he said. He also learned to mimic the behaviors of his peers to fit in, and was bullied no more than anyone else. He attended the University of Miami from 1995 to 1999, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and built an engineering career.