Did you ever say something then regret saying it? I believe that most people have. However, with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, this can be a more common occurrence. If not actually happening, the anxiety that they are going to say something regrettable is always with them. For many it’s like walking through a minefield worrying that they might say something socially unacceptable or unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings. I was recently haunted by this worry a few weeks back when I thought I might have unintentionally insulted someone on line. I was greatly relieved when I discovered that I hadn’t.
The major contributor to this is the fact that many people with Asperger’s feel very uncomfortable in social situations. Often times they are worried about making the right impression and that sends anxiety levels sky high. This anxiety in turn results in the person saying something completely wrong or inappropriate or they might have used the right words but the way it was said gives the wrong meaning and taken in a way it wasn’t meant.
This was a constant source of stress and strife for me in my early years and sometimes rears its ugly head nowadays. When I was a child where I would speak freely about inappropriate topics resulting in a telling off from my mother. Eventually, this gave me the idea that it was better to keep my mouth shut. The problem with this was I went too far the other way and people used to admonish me for it. So in my early adult years, confusion rained. While I didn’t openly volunteer anything wrong, the fear of being labelled too quiet also caused anxiety levels to rise and as a result, I sometimes said things I shouldn’t causing a vicious circle. Other factors would sometimes add to the anxiety. When I first came to the UK, I remained quiet because I didn’t want to come across as a loud mouthed American. My quietness received mixed reactions from British people but it left me feeling that whatever I did was wrong. Years on, I can’t say that I have totally licked the problem but I am much more comfortable in social situations where the fear of making social gaffs is minimal.
Book link alert: Yes, Mark has similar experiences in “He Was Weird.” In fact, on his second day of school, he is so excited that he was able to run a full mile from school to home, that he tells other kids that he broke the world’s running record. Needless to say, this begins to open the floodgates of bullying against him.
It is true that many people with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty reading social cues and this often results in them saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Some never learn and are doomed to forever repeat their social miscues while others will let it drive them into their “shell.” Therefore, tolerance and understanding as well as a bit of forgiveness is needed to help the person adjust so the Asperger’s will not be a major hindrance in these situations.