Social Anxiety in High-functioning Children and Adolescents with Autism and Asperger Syndrome published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
on the following blog post;
High Functioning Autism vs. Asperger’s: You say tomato I say tomahto
It had a few interesting things to say - so please, have a read.
What I found particularly interesting
I've stated before on this blog that the only difference between Aspergers and High Functioning Autism is a language delay but I've always had this problem with my youngest child, who is diagnosed with HFA but is doing a lot of speech therapy. You see, he's rapidly gaining language skills to the point where he's now certainly much more able to tell us what went on at preschool than my older (aspie) son did at the same age.
I keep thinking - what happens to the HFA diagnosis when the language delay disappears? My wife correctly surmised that it meant more than a simple "delay" in speech but I still couldn't quite get my head around the problem. Did it mean writing? conversation?
It was this paragraph (from the translating autism blog mentioned above) which really helped me to understand the problem;
In regards to their social interactions, in my clinical experience and interaction we colleagues, we see a difference in their ‘relative’ need for social companionship. In general children with HFA seem to just want to be by themselves without an explicit desire to interact with peers. They interact when necessary and when such interaction is functional, but not for the “intrinsic joy” of having social interactions. On the other hand, children with AS tend to desire close relationships with peers and explicitly talk about wanting more friends, but their social uniqueness make the establishing of such relation more difficult.This, I think, makes it very clear that the "difference" isn't so much about a "language delay" as an interest in friendship.
My youngest has certainly made massive gains in his language skills and is a better talker than his older brother was at the same age. He doesn't however have many friends - the few he has are mostly acquaintances.
To illustrate this;
Recently, we had an incident at preschool when my wife was dropping him off. Another boy called out to him and she said - "oh look, that boy knows you - what's his name". My son responded with "I don't know".
Unfortunately, the other boy's mother was standing nearby and she burst into tears saying "How could he not know my son's name? They've been playing together for over a year!".
My wife was able to gloss over things by suggesting that he was just mucking around and that "he always does that" but it was nearly an incident.
Some thoughts on Social Anxiety...
There's one other thing that the post says about aspergers which I'm sure you can already infer from the definitions above.
It suggests that if both HFA and Aspergers children have difficulty with social interactions but that HFA children don't care anyway. Then Aspie children would be expected to have higher stress levels (social anxiety) than HFA children. Their trials however don't bear this out.
In tests of social anxiety with HFA, AS and NT children, both the HFA and AS groups had more or less the same levels while still being considerably more anxious than their neurotypical peers.
What's worse was that;
The anxiety problems tended to decrease with age in typically developing kids, but these problems increased with age in the children with HFA/AS.In my discussions with teenage and adult aspies, I've seen a high incidence of "lonliness" and other forms of social anxiety related to the inability to make friends. I haven't really noticed this as much in autistic adults. This could be a perception thing on my part or the fact that I talk to many more aspies than HFA's.
I'd really like to see what the results would be if this study were to be redone with adult aspies and high functioning autistics.