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Home » The Vine

The Vine: May 1, 2013

Submitted by on May 1, 2013 – 10:50 AM40 Comments


I have been friends with a woman for about 10 years now. I have known her much longer through mutual acquaintances, but we really just started having a personal friendship not that long ago.

The reason we didn't hit it off straightaway is that she's a bit…odd. Our initial social circle was mostly a bunch of 20-somethings hitting the town, flirting with boys and drinking. Probably excessively, but nothing bad ever happened. At the time I just thought she didn't really handle alcohol well because of some of the things she would do so I kept my distance.

Through some roiling realignments of the social circle (marriages, unfriendings [pre-Facebook!], pregnancies, etc.], she and I ended up spending some time together on our own. She has been perennially single, with only one long-term on-again-off-again loser boyfriend that never had a chance of going anywhere. (I won't list his rap sheet here — minor stuff but still.)

Anyway, about a year ago I was reading up on the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome and realized that she more likely than not suffers from this. She has odd social habits, such as all of a sudden declaring "I gotta go" and leaving in the middle of a social event or lacking the proper emotional responses to others. Once I read the symptoms, I couldn't get it out of my head that this explains so much of her behavior. She clearly exhibits eight of the twelve listed on the website I was on.

My question to you is, should I share this opinion with her, and if so, how? My fear is that I will hurt her feelings or hugely embarrass her by suggesting she has a condition that until recently was on the autism spectrum. I don't know if there is much she can even do about it, but just awareness might help her interactions with others. She does not have a lot of success dating because she doesn't really know how to "connect" with people and comes off as either rude, insensitive or even aggressive at times. She would call it assertive, of course. I am not a psychologist and realize she would need to see one for a professional assessment, but how would I even begin to suggest that? Or should I? Internet diagnoses are of course suspect and I fully realize that.

So, what would Sars do? I have asked my husband and a couple friends and no one knows what would be appropriate. How do you kindly suggest someone get checked for a specific condition without implying they have that specific condition? Clearly I have leaned towards not saying anything as, obviously, I have not mentioned it to her. But she's lonely, would love to have a boyfriend and is now having difficulties at work, mostly due to her personality and behavior.

I can't decide which is the bigger dick move — withholding information that could help her in the long term or potentially insulting her and hurting her feelings and being completely wrong.

Dr. Interwebz

Dear Doc,

I applaud your instincts here — both the instinct that tells you to save Friend from herself in social and work situations, because it makes you a sweet, concerned friend; and the instinct that tells you you have no relevant expertise in a diagnosis that, for good or ill, has become a catch-all for explaining awkward behavior.

Sars would do nothing, unless asked directly — something along the lines of "Why do you think I never get a second date?" or "Listen to XYZ story from work today — my boss totally hates me, right?" And then you ask Friend a few questions about the circumstances, food-for-thought-type questions ("Did he try to kiss you? …Oh, you 'lunged' away from him? Well, maybe lunging sent a certain message. …Aaaand you also ran inside after. Did you smile at least? …Okay, here's your problem: you're acting like you hate him." Etc.) Wait 'til you're asked (or 'til she's been complaining about a given situation for months on end and hasn't taken steps to change it). Point out a few things, if you like. But don't take your increased closeness — or her clumsy interactions — as permission to advise her to get checked out for a spectrum disorder.

Why? One, as you realize, you're not qualified. Two, it's probably hurtful; honesty for its own sake isn't always kind. Three, it doesn't do her much good. If she has a…I don't know how we group these things now, usage-wise. "Social delay," let's go with that. If she has a social delay, regardless of its nature, she has to decide to deal with it and find ways to live with it. I get that this is the behavioral equivalent of a skirt tucked into pantyhose, kind of, and obviously you don't want to hear that she got fired and wonder if you could have done something to prevent it — but whether Friend has Asperger's or is just tone-deaf, she's an adult. She needs to figure her shit out, because it's her shit. Just because you can explain it doesn't mean you should fix it. Or that it needs fixing. Our society needs to get better at letting people be, a little bit.

Can you use that symptoms checklist as a guideline for yourself, in not getting frustrated with her at times? Sure. But that's all you should use it for, in my view.

I do look forward to hearing from some folks with more experience with diagnosed behavioral delays, whether firsthand or with loved ones.

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  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …"Behavioral differences"? I don't know the best term.

  • Spectrum adjacent says:

    Oh, Interwebz. I sometimes do things that would have armchair analysts place me on the spectrum. I am not, but I have caused people to wonder–I can be difficult (exacting, unemotional, intolerant of foibles). This has cost me jobs and friendships, mostly in my late teens/20s. With the hindsight that comes from middle age I can say that being handed a diagnosis would not have helped me, even if that diagnosis were true. What did help was being told when my behavior was problematic by someone who was affected by that behavior.

    Letter writer, you are clearly kind, but I urge you to consider exactly how her behavior affects you. You are not her coworker, boss, or love interest. If she does something rude or hard to understand to you, call her on it, as gently or brusquely as you think appropriate. If her constant complaining bothers you, address that. But "fixing" her workplace or romantic behavior isn't on you. What I would urge you to do is just be a happy part of her life–continuing to enjoy shared interests, sharing the minutiae of your existences, etc. And if she asks you what to do about the bigger issues, listen to what she says, answer her questions honestly, and suggest professional help only if the conversation is already there, if that makes sense. Good luck.

  • Emily says:

    I really disagree with the "it doesn't do her much good" line of argument. Understanding that social struggles are part of a broader way of experiencing and interacting with the world is meaningful, and having a diagnosis might open up resources in terms of finding a therapist who can help tailor an intervention to the underlying issue. And my sense from reading articles and talking to people on the autism spectrum is that for many people, having the diagnosis is a relief and an aid in both making sense of their experience in the world and moving towards changing it. Anyway, that's not to say that Sars' points 1 and 2 aren't true, but I think there is potentially a lot for her to gain if she saw a specialist and was diagnosed by a clinician. So I would come down on the side of having a sensitive conversation with her. Something along the lines of: "you know I love and value you as a friend, and I want the best for you. I want all of the things *you* want for you — satisfying romantic and work relationships, etc.. I know this is something you struggle with, when I came across this article / checklist, it reminded me of you… I just wanted to pass it on in case it might be useful."

  • Jane says:

    The thing about approaching her a la Emily's suggestion is that the LW hasn't given any indication that her friend considers herself to be struggling, and the problems the friend has–relationship with a substandard guy and a tendency to piss people off sometimes–don't move it into "struggle" for me on their own either. That would put the LW in the position of approaching the friend with a solution for something that hasn't been really a problem, just a way of being. With Sars' approach, the topic is on the table already and this is just a possible facet rather than a Thing in Its Own Right.

  • IsisUptown says:

    There is a child in my family with Asperger's; she's a pre-teen now, very smart and does all right, but it's taken a lot work by her parents and educators, and she benefited from early diagnosis. It will be interesting to see where her teen years take her!

    I agree with Emily above regarding the "it reminded me of you" business.

  • Jamie says:

    One term (at least for folks on the spectrum) I have heard thrown around is "non-neurotypical."

  • Leigh says:

    I completely agree with Emily that a diagnosis can actually be VERY helpful…my brother and a friend of mine are both diagnosed with Asperger's (essentially. NVLD, actually, in my brother's case, although I suspect it's what the friend has too, but it's a less common diagnosis as not everyone agrees it should be split out. Basically it's like Aspergers except with strengths in the verbal realm–like writing/comics–and weaknesses in the engineering/math realm. But the social and processing disorder component is the same.) Anyway, for both of them, being able to identify the sources and reasons for the behaviors that have caused them trouble, as well as find and use resources to help them learn to work around some of those behaviors and tendencies, as well as get support from others who really understand them and the way they work…all incredibly valuable.

    That said, I also agree that a friend throwing out an armchair diagnosis is potentially hurtful and definitely rude. I think finding ways to suggest more concrete behavioral changes as SHE brings up complaints is a good start, and maybe even sharing things that you think would be helpful to her in places you know she'll see them but not making it clear that it's AIMED at her (like on Facebook…) could help point her in the right direction without causing any extra grief or awkwardness between you. I might also read up on how to deal with people with Asperger's so you're better equipped to be a good friend to her yourself–even if she's not diagnosably on the spectrum, if she's exhibiting so many of the behaviors then I bet a lot of that advice would be helpful to you anyway.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I like "non-neurotypical" — and at the same time, I wonder what the neurotypical template looks like. I can't think of anyone I know personally whom I would characterize as neurotypical; everyone's got some damn thing. Anxious, disordered relationship with food, phobic about Scotch tape…who's "typical"?

    And how wonderful that the answer is probably "no one."

  • attica says:

    Gosh, I wish more people would give a quick 'gotta go' and bolt. Me, I get annoyed by social interactions that have longer goodbye rituals than the interactions themselves.

    (I can tell I'm in a minority on that by the zero number of people in my various social groups that pay the waiter and get up from the table, when I'm all ok-we're-done-here-nice-to-see-you-see-you-soon-drive-safe!)

    Other than that, I agree this is Friend's row to hoe. Step off and let her be. I have a couple of Asbergery friends; I enjoy them for their immediate access to arcane information and don't presume to advise them about their interpersonal skillz or lack thereof. It's easy with practice!

  • Maria says:

    There was a time when we could say somebody had quirks or even go so far as to say they were peculiar. But no more. Now it all has to be medicalized.

    I know several people who have Asperberger's call who themselves Aspies, almost as an identity in some ways. The ones I know call the rest of us NT, or neurotypical. I just feel like it means non-Aspie.

    I guess it's one thing to feel that the label fits, and another to have it thrust upon us.

    I think the friend can start a discussion about personal growth in which she mentions a time when she figured out something she was doing was "the problem" in a relationship, and ask the Friend if she has ever had that epiphany. The answer may be no, but the overture was made. It lays a path for at a later time bringing it up when there is talk of another rift somewhere in Friend's life, as in, remember that experience I had, I wonder if there is a parallel here for you? Alternately, read a book about a character who has it and offer it to her to read to see if that sparks a discussion.

    While it is painful to watch somebody not quite be able to click as they want to, sometimes it's just better to let the chips fall and to talk about it when the person is more open to asking a la Nancy Kerrigan, why me?

  • Jenny says:

    I'd like to point you to this really terrific article from NYMag about the power (both good and bad) of an Aspberger's diagnosis.

    I'd also say, I agree with approaching it based on how it affects the relationship the two of you have. So, if she interrupts a conversation and says "gotta go", give her a call and ask why she left so abruptly. If she tells you why (she suddenly realized she had to get her Fresh Direct in five minutes), then the situation has been handled. If she says she didn't realize it was abrupt, ask her not to do it again. If she say she doesn't know how to keep it from happening and would really like to learn how to stop doing that, then–maybe–say, "well hey, some people with a similar problem have X and get help by talking to Y. Is that something you'd like to do?"

  • Lane says:

    Letter Writer, I definitely agree with your instinct to not say anything.

    Sars is spot-on with her advice, but I'll go one further: if she complains or asks about issues with her social life, why not nicely ask some version of, "This really seems to be troubling you. Have you ever considered seeing a therapist/counselor to help you work through it?" (Bonus points if you can add, "I know Person XYZ who did so and it they couldn't say enough about how helpful it was.") If she seems receptive to the idea, encourage her to follow through on it. No diagnosis required!

  • Katie says:

    Do everything Sars suggests, don't say anything unless asked directly.

    All over the Internet, I see people trying to ascribe Asperger labels to anyone who's a bit odd or doesn't quite fit social norms, and most of the people doing so are not doctors or mental health professionals. Plenty of people are a bit awkward or difficult without those qualities being the result of a defined condition.

  • Jen B. says:

    I'm finding this thread particularly interesting, as I ran into an ex-boyfriend on Sunday and it was all I could do not to shout, "You! Are! Bipolar!" (I'm not a psychiatrist, much less his.)

    Now I'm thinking I might approach him with a photo of, say, C.T. from the Real World and be like, "This guy's a jackass. It reminded me of you. P.S. You are bipolar."

    Thanks, Vine. ;-)

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    The main problem with a diagnosis or syndrome or whatever becoming "fashionable" is that a) people see that particular thing everywhere and b) start to think "Well, XYZ is obviously Asperger's/bipolar/whatever, how can they not realize it?" and suddenly it becomes somehow their fault that they haven't twigged on and miraculously become easier to get along with.

    As you say, you aren't qualified to diagnose your friend. There's a wide range of "non-neurotypical" behaviors that can be, or not be, fitted under that umbrella. So if your friend asks you for advice or has been complaining about a certain situation for a while, it's certainly okay to talk to her about that situation, and maybe even point out patterns in her relationships or suggest counseling, but keep any diagnosis to yourself. If she ever comes to you with the list and says "Does this sound like me?" that's another thing; kind honesty a la "Yes, some of these things do remind me of you, would you like to talk about it?" might be the way to go.

    And remember, even if she is diagnosed with a non-neurotypical syndrome, diagnosis isn't cure. It isn't like she's going to run across the list, read it and say "My gosh, this is me! I shall cease these behaviors at once!" She'll still be her, but with more information about herself. She can do what she wants with that info.

  • Jo says:

    I read this letter and part of me wondered if you were writing about one of my college friends. This girl has lots of problems with social interaction and can NOT deal with any interruption in her routine whatsoever (she almost had a panic attack the day of our history final when I sat in a different seat in class. She couldn't do the test sitting somewhere other than the seats we'd sat in every day. Couldn't even drink her coffee from a different mug, or, for that matter, get a different kind of coffee). Blah blah blah, all kinds of things she did fit the online description perfectly. After I'd lost touch with her, I met some kids with Asperger's (I was working as a tutor and they were students in my teacher friend's class), and went, "Woah. They're exactly like X." Independently of me having developed that theory, a mutual friend (who also lost touch with X) who has a daughter with austism said to me one day, "You know, after watching Daughter interact with people for all this time, I'm starting to think X maybe has Asperger's." Same thing from another mutual friend who is a doctor. I wrote a paper on my friend's daughter (part of what I thought would be a class project) and interviewed several experts to talk to me about autism and Asperger's and every time I heard something new about how the disorder presents itself, I left thinking about X.

    In the few years X and I were close friends, she complained often about feeling different and not being able to figure out how to interact with others. She went to several doctors at the student health center to treat her social anxiety. If my theory is right, she spent years (and probably still is) trying medications that may or may not be necessary but without any focus on what the real underlying issue is. I don't know enough about the treatment of Asperger's to know if drugs can help, but it certainly can't help to have a disorder that's not being treated at all.

    If I still were friends with X, would I bring this up with her? Absolutely. I think we had the types of conversations where there would be an appropriate time to say it. "Hey, I know I'm not a doctor, and you know I get a little WebMD-hypochondriac when I get colds, but have you ever considered being tested for Asperger's?" It might offend her and she might get defensive, but in this case, with this friend, I think I have enough evidence beyond just liking WebMD, and if I DON'T tell her and I'm right, it's a disservice. If she had a mole that looked just like the cancerous mole another friend had removed, I'd tell her that.

    I will say that when I developed this theory, it was way before Asperger's was as well-known and it wasn't the atmosphere we seem to have now where every weird person might be looked at as having Asperger's traits. Soo I understand where people are coming from that just not liking social interaction doesn't mean you're on the autism spectrum. But I think sometimes it's possible to be right. So I think whether you tell her depends on the type of relationship you have, the timing of the conversation, and how you phrase it. You have to know your friend well enough to know if you can bring it up, and you seem to think you can't, so you probably should trust your instinct with your friend.

  • Reyn says:

    Unless you want to deal with some massive fallout, don't say anything to her about your suspicions of Asperger's. Several reasons:

    1) it doesn't exist anymore as a diagnosis with the DSM 5. It was merged with Autism Spectrum Disorder. So it's not that it's no longer associated with autism, it's that it is ASD instead of Asperger's now (PDD-NOS always went away in this manner).
    2) The fact that you don't know this (but instead just think it's not associated with ASD anymore) suggests you might not have a lot of experience with ASD, please don't jump on the bandwagon of everyone has this because they're a little different. They way it's set up as a spectrum disorder, well, pretty much everyone could find a home on it if they wanted to.
    3) It's my job to tell people their child has ASD. It's not fun. There's a lot of yelling at me, crying, or flat out refusal while telling me I have no idea what I'm talking about (and, sometimes, in a glorious moment, there's just relief and acceptance). This happens after a diagnostic test in a clinic setting, not just after reading some signs on a website. While I would tell a friend if I had concerns for their child, I would do it because it's my line of work and I would feel like I was doing a disservice by not telling them. That being said, I would tell them once and never bring it up again if they didn't want me to. If it were my adult friend that I had concerns about, I would drop it from the get go as they're an adult and it's not my place.

    If you want to help her, help her when she asks for it as others have suggested. If she tells you something went wrong in a social situation, give her clues to what she could have done differently. Relate to her experiences by telling an awkward story of your own (because, let's be honest, we all have them) and what you learned from it. Or tell her that "wow, I don't know what I'd do, maybe you should talk to someone that has more experience with counseling…" and suggest someone if you know a good therapist.

    And then, just let her be her. Accept her for her quirks and learn to embrace them (as someone else mentioned, no lengthy goodbyes! Refreshing!).

  • Kristin says:

    Dr. Interwebz,

    I think Sars is 100% right – unless this friend is close enough to be godmother to your children or your maid of honor or whatever, you're not in a position to say anything to her about her mental health. If she's socially inept and knows that, you will absolutely hurt her feelings or make her defensive, which is unlikely to lead to anything but a withdrawal from her friendship with you. If she's NOT aware of being socially inept, it may not hurt her feelings, but she's unlikely to care, and again, could end your friendship or damage it.

    Think of it this way – what if a friend said to you, out of the blue (for you at least) – "Oh, I've been wondering why you're so weird. I think you've got Legionnaire's Disease!" You would be unlikely to take kindly to that, because it sort of implies that your friend feels that you need to be fixed…

    What I think you *could* suggest, next time she talks about work issues or even boyfriend issues, is that maybe she could talk to a counselor about stress reduction. If she's truly got a well-known situation like Asperger's, any decent counselor should be able to spot it and direct her to the appropriate treatment/therapy/whatever.

    PS – Jen B, bring a camera to that convo. I'd pay to watch. :-)

  • Erin McJ says:

    There's a rule of thumb I've heard (maybe I read it here?) that if you're not sure whether you should say a thing, evaluate whether it is at least two of: true, kind, necessary. I don't think suggesting to a casual friend that she might have Asperger's passes that test.

  • Kim says:

    Nothing better to add than what's already been said…but Jen B., I totally hear "You! Are! Bipolar!" as if shouted by a happy crowd, Wheel of Fortune style, and…I would watch the shit out of this game show I just made up right now.

  • Rachel says:

    This sounds like a solution in search of a problem.

    I would let it be, personally. If Friend starts to notice a pattern in her life and relationships and asks you for advice, then you could maaaaaybe bring it up, but I honestly wouldn't say the word "Asperger's" to her at all. If you really get down to it, probably every single person you know exhibits behaviors from time to time that could be "on the spectrum."

  • Amy says:

    Asperger's is one of those things that seems to be WAY over-diagnosed (usually self-diagnosed) by Internet users. I think that some people are just socially awkward, and some people — like me — are introverts. And of course, people just have different personalities.

    I'm not shy at all, but social gatherings tire me out. It's not uncommon for me to pull the "gotta go" thing and run out early, to sit quietly at a dinner and listen to other people rather than talking a lot, or to skip events entirely if I'm not feeling up to it. I'm also not an emotional person at all, so I probably appear cold to some people. I don't have Asperger's, though — I can read people and social situations well; I sometimes just don't care about displaying the "proper" (who decides that, anyway?) emotional response. I won't deliberately say hurtful things, but I will be blunt if asked for my opinion, and I honestly just do not care about a lot of things that get other people worked up, so I'm not going to feign interest there.

    I agree that Doc should keep this opinion to herself unless asked, because I can tell you from experience that it is annoying and hurtful when a friend acts like they think you need to be fixed.

  • Deanna says:

    Co-sign to everything Reyn said. I sat on the other end of Reyn's job (with the acceptance she mentioned, I hope) and one of my biggest pet peeves since my kiddo's diagnosis is non-professionals ascribing atypical behavior to an underlying but undiagnosed spectrum disorder. Autism awareness is a double-edged sword–lots of people know about it now in that it exists, but don't know enough to really KNOW about it and how to separate the stereotypes on well-meaning but oversimplified websites from the much more nuanced reality.

    If she is singing several verses of "Woe is me" I'd go along with suggesting she see a counselor to work out where her issues are, and a trained counselor will pick up on the big flags. Otherwise…autism is a pretty serious thing. It isn't a tragedy or devastating, but it is a big deal. An actual clinical diagnosis can take a long time to pin down–years, even. We were lucky to get my daughter diagnosed in just under seven months, and we're still having her evaluated for co-morbidity stuff. Don't step over that line unless you hear for sure that her professional therapist is singing the same tune.

  • Cora says:

    @Amy, reminds me of this article. And when I googled for it, I also found this. It's not LW's friend's problem, I don't think; but if I had to guess, I think a whole lot of us in the Nation are functioning introverts.

  • Anon for this one says:

    I wouldn't say anything other than offering up therapy as a suggestion if venting about problems happens as has already been suggested. My mother-in-law has "diagnosed" all of her children. I forget what everyone else supposedly has, but my husband drew the Asperger's diagnosis. He does have some of the behaviours, but her suggesting it's an explaination of him has been anything but useful to him. He feels hurt, and any chance of him talking to an actual doctor about a potential diagnosis is straight out the window.

  • JC says:

    I have a friend who just shared this story with me last week: My friend has lost a lot of weight through a pretty strict regiment of diet and exercise. An acquaintance of hers, after not seeing her for a while, ran into her and said, "Gee, you lost a lot of weight. Do you have diabetes?" My friend's response, "Buh…wuh?"

    Amateur diagnoses: Often not going well.

    Also, maybe her acquaintance has Asperger's? This story works on TWO levels!

  • perhaps says:

    This letter reminds me of a wonder I've lately been having, though of a different stripe–I have a more recent friend that is also acknowledged in all our social circle as odd (also leaves suddenly, very worked up about random matters/no response on others, in 40's has never left parents house, etc.). I am in no way tempted to "diagnose" him or suggest therapy, agreed with most of the above that you can only comment on your own relationship with her–anything else is on her.

    However, the longer we're friends the more I struggle to interact with him–he has difficulty answering even factual questions about his life. After years I don't know what he does most days, I don't know if he's ever had a job, or ever dated anyone, I don't know if he's got siblings or has ever been out of the country. After gentle questions from different angles, and then being pretty direct about what kind of regular factual types of answers I'm trying to get at when I ask a question, and assurance that this is not some kind of hidden exercise in getting the "right/best" answer (he seems to get hung up on even small talk type convo starters as if its a huge metaphysical why and potential value judgment), I've actually had to call him on it when he can't even muster a yes or no answer.

    I'm happy to talk about politics, the environment, science, tv, articles and other third party facts and analysis, which he excels at, and he is able to talk about his own hobbies in great detail–but I'm struggling to have a friendship where I have no framework to hang around him, no timeline, no reference points, and any interpersonal info going either way is like pulling teeth (he never asks and usually doesn't react to info about my life). I am on guard to censor myself at this point lest I ask something that for me is innocuous and it turns into a bout of silences and prevaricating. The conversational flow is increasingly stilted and overworked. Of course different people interact differently, so this may just be incompatible styles for us to be friends–but are there tips the nation would suggest that I can do to find a more functional middle ground with him, rather than just pulling away?

  • Clover says:

    Hi, my name is Clover and I'm socially awkward, probably to a diagnosable degree if you ask the right mental-health professional. Although I don't discuss it with anyone, I not unaware of it. I tend to skip out on parties early, get claustrophobic in too-close relationships, and get anxious in certain too-structured professional settings. I'm pretty sure people I know speculate about what might be wrong with me. I am very grateful to the people in my life who tolerate my quirks. If they think I'm on the spectrum, well, they might be right, but I'm glad they've chosen not to ask me about it. I'm just one little data point, though, and YMMV.

  • Emma says:

    Kim: Now I'm hearing 'YOU'RE bipolar! And YOU'RE bipolar!"

  • sb says:

    Have you considered the possibility that she might know, but just isn't comfortable sharing the diagnosis with *you*? I had a friend in college who pinged a lot of the traits of Asperger's (and we all kind of armchair diagnosed him behind his back, because we are terrible people), but it took a drunken night out before he was talking about his problems and mentioned the A-word.

    Ultimately, I don't think you need to have the diagnosis to be able to help your friend (if she asks for/wants you to, which is another discussion). You can just talk! And give advice! Like if she was any other friend! It's just that the things you talk about and the perspective you have to share might be different.

  • misspiggy says:

    Sometimes just discussing a condition without reference to the person can be helpful, assuming you can bring it into the conversation naturally.

    Someone describing X Condition at a party inspired me to look into it, because it had rang bells with me. It turned out it was the reason for my lifelong struggles, and my diagnosis saved me from descending further into disability. If a friend had said, 'Ooh, is this you?', I would have been put off, because it would have felt intrusive from anyone other than a close relative/partner.

  • JB says:

    I think that the realization that your friend may have Asperger's may help you more with how you relate to her, and to not take it personally when she is socially tone-deaf. Recommending a counselor is probably more appropriate than diagnosing her yourself.

    I have a friend/co-worker that I am almost certain is somewhere on the mild end of the spectrum… and other co-workers, particularly ones with family members that have it, have picked up on it, too. He is awkward and can ramble on, but those faults are counterbalanced by the fact that he is the most honest and loyal person in the building and is a kick-ass partner in trivia games.

  • Jobiska says:

    I do have one codicil for anyone who has diagnosed someone in their head but kept their mouth shut. For the love of…well, for the love of your friend, if she ever comes to you and says she, or her child, or whoever, has a diagnosis, do not! then blurt out that you thought so, or you knew something was wrong, or suchlike.

    I have a kid (now a college freshman and doing great) who had a lot of issues as a child, and there were at least two close friends who obviously thought something was wrong but never said anything until after I got…well, I never got a diagnosis, because he's just. that. unique, but I got some expert help etc. And at that time they both said things that implied "well, it was obvious all along that something was really wrong–glad you finally figured it out." Not that specifically, but it conveyed that message loud and clear. It hurt a lot to know these people I cared about, that cared about me and my son, were obviously thinking he was messed up all along, and didn't say anything. But I'm not sure it would have helped if they did say something earlier–it's just that later, after the fact, was even worse.

    So to anyone who goes the zip-the-lip route: that means forever (unless, as some posters have noted, the person actually comes to you with specific questions about their own behavior and your perception of it, especially as it affects you yourself).

  • Julie Brook says:

    My son's third grade teacher gave us a handy little brochure listing 10 traits of children with Asperger's and suggested our son had it. We took him to a pediatric neurologist who tested him, told us he had an IQ of 165, gave us a list of 10 traits of geniuses, and golly, gee, 7 out of 10 of the traits matched.
    Not all geniuses are on the spectrum. Not all high functioning people on the autistic disorder spectrum are geniuses. People who are not qualified should not try to diagnose others.

  • RobinP says:

    Hi Clover! You can sit at my table at lunch! Though not diagnosed, I'm almost certainly diagnosable, but I'm pretty happy that my friends and family have chosen to view my quirks as charming, rather than making A Thing of it. There. Now n=2.

  • rab01 says:

    @Julie Brook — I hear you in spades.

    My older son was diagnosed as possibly being on the spectrum at an early age. but, as the diagnosing doctor pointed out, whether he actually was or not had no impact on the proper course going forward because we needed to respond to the child he is/was and his attendant strengths and weaknesses regardless of the source of those characteristics. He is now in middle school, has close friends, is well behaved, behaves in a socially appropriate manner, and is at the top of his class in a very selective school. He will probably never be the captain of the football team or a glad-handing social butterfly but, since I was never those things, I can't say I'm shocked or too disappointed about that. He has no idea of that early diagnosis.

    Even when it comes from a real doctor, an on-the-spectrum diagnosis doesn't tell you anything about what to do because the spectrum is so incredibly wide. For the friend of the letter-writer, getting a real diagnosis might be helpful, harmful, liberating or confining. Every person's mileage varies. What can be helpful, however, is a friendly reality-check for whether or not certain conduct is socially accepted. Lots of socially awkward people (whether on the spectrum or not) learn to behave "better" around people one behavior at a time.

  • Beth says:

    This website, written by a friend of mine diagnosed with Aspergers in her early 40s, might be helpful to some of you includng the letter writer….

  • Sandra says:

    And reason number 4 not to bring it up first? She already knows. Trust me. Those of us who are wired a little differently are aware of the fact.

  • H., says:

    Late to the party, and not too much to add, but: my son has (had?) PDD-NOS, I am extremely shy and sometimes bolt parties, too, for whatever that's worth. But, yes, odds are she knows she's different. And if she doesn't know, then it doesn't bother her. Either way, there's not much point in you bringing it up.

    Also, as mom of someone who's differently wired, I have to say that if she does have Aspergers/ASD, she's doing really well as it is. She might come off as a little odd, but she's held onto a group of friends for over a decade now, in a really tumultuous time period. There are plenty of 'normal' people who can't do that.

  • clover says:

    There may be nothing but crickets here at this point, but I have an interesting and I think relevant postscript to the conversation, including my comments.

    A year ago I went through a battery of tests with a psychologist based on my own gut feeling that I wasn't quite right in the head in some way I myself didn't understand. I was guessing ADHD or possibly Asperger's. I chickened out and didn't go back for the test results, though, because I wasn't sure I wanted a label I'd have to live with.

    After reading this, I decided to go back and get the test results, and found out I have a learning disability called NLD (nonverbal learning disability) that I'd never even heard of.

    I've always been considered very bright but often flaky, unmotivated, undisciplined, disorganized, etc. A learning disability literally never crossed my mind as an explanation for this. Now that I'm learning about NLD, though, my past successes and struggles all have a new context. So much makes sense to me that never did before. And being able to forgive myself for my failures and inadequacies and to know that actually I *was* doing my best is weirdly affirming. It's also weirdly affirming to discover that many of the coping mechanisms I've found through trial and error and blind luck are the ones the experts recommend. I feel like I have been given a new, fairer curve on which I can grade myself.

    Having this diagnosis (which I got just a few days ago) has already enabled some mind shifts I never would have gotten to on my own, and I'm immensely glad I returned and got those test results.

    If you think there is a way you can mention your suspicions to your friend that will actually result in her getting an evaluation and possibly some help, I think you should.

    In my case, the disability comes with some amazing assets, too. Like many NLD folks, I am off the charts in my language skills. Does your friend have anything she's really amazing at? If so, maybe the evaluation could be suggested to her in a more neutral context, like "Have you ever had your IQ tested? I know someone who just went through a battery of different tests and learned a ton of interesting stuff about why she's so great at writing but has difficulty reading maps. I'll bet someone with your language skills would have some interesting numbers."

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