19

I know a person "Bob" and his family very well. He had problems in his apprenticeship. I know another person that has the Asperger Syndrome and my friend Bob shows a lot of similarities. I don't want to offend Bob but I think it would help him a lot if he gets professional help.

Last time I talked to him he was close to his second final exams. He failed the first one and prepared for the second exams. First, his mother told my mother that he refused to get help from a therapist. He changed his attitude and went to a therapist but he only got something that is supposed to calm him down. He talked to a therapist but I don't think that it was enough to make a diagnosis because they didn't talk about something else.

I will ask him how the first exams went and when they were bad I will mention autism and show him that it can only help him if someone can make a diagnosis. Maybe it's something else than autism. I think that every diagnosis will help him.

I live in Switzerland.

  • 16
    Your friend has to decide himself whether he wants to do a test (and may forever be in a database stored as autist). What you could do is telling him that some things he do remind you of autism and it would maybe be good if he read about it (wikipedia i.e.). – Xatenev Aug 22 '17 at 12:13
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    How do you think the autism test will help your friend? – papakias Aug 22 '17 at 14:38
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    Why does it matter if he's autistic rather than just having trouble with people? People have accused me of being autistic in the past (I'm not), and it felt very judgmental. That's one of the reasons I decided to work on my people skills. – user2191 Aug 22 '17 at 15:08
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    Most likely people who go around diagnosing others as autistic need to take a test too. – developerwjk Aug 22 '17 at 22:12
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    If he visits the therapist, therapist will surely recommend him any tests that can help him. Maybe the autism test just isn't one of these. – Tomáš Zato Aug 23 '17 at 8:12

10 Answers 10

32

You can't do this directly without likely causing offense.

There is a stigma surrounding autism, so if you say "Hey, you should take an autism test" or even worse "You need professional help", what the other person may hear is "There is something wrong with you".

As a first step, I would suggest not mentioning a test or professional help, but instead mentioning the topic of autism in a way that is not related to them (and in a positive or neutral way).

Maybe your friend hasn't actually heard of it, or doesn't know what it is really about. You could mention an interesting article you have read, or media that you think show a positive or neutral - and accurate - display of autism (not necessarily documentaries and such, but maybe TV shows or movies). Your friend might recognize similarities or some of their symptoms and do their own research, and reach their own conclusion of whether or not they require help.

Even if your friend does not recognize this themselves, you have laid a good foundation for being more direct later. They now know that you do not hold biases or hate against people with autism, so they will be more open to your suggestions. They will see that you are not attacking them personally, but that you truly only want to help them.

If or when you do want to take a more direct route, you might want to follow advice similar to this (it focuses on depression, but applies in other situations as well): do your own research so you actually know what you are talking about, and be respectful in how/when/where you tell them.

  • Las time I talked to him he was close to his second final exams. He failed the first one and prepared for the second exams. First his mother told my mother that he refused to get help from a therapist. He changed his attitude and went to a therapist but he only got something that is supposed to calm him down. He talked to a therapist but I don't think that it was enough to make a diagnosis because they didn't talk about something else. – Fabian Wüthrich Aug 23 '17 at 6:18
  • I will ask him how the first exams went and when they were bad I will mention autism and show him that it can only help him if someone can make a diagnosis. Maybe it's something else than autism. I think that every diagnosis will help him. – Fabian Wüthrich Aug 23 '17 at 6:27
  • "Autistic" is not an insult. – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 23 '17 at 13:42
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    @AndreaLazzarotto Neither is "gay", but it can definitely be used as an insult, and could still very easily be offensive, including and I would say especially if someone is gay/autistic. – Zibbobz Aug 23 '17 at 18:04
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    @AndreaLazzarotto Yes, I definitely agree with you that autistic people are not wrong, and that it can be mentioned without that implication. My point was that people will likely take it as a personal attack anyway (even though they shouldn't, and regardless if it was meant as one or not). There are of course people and relationships were it may not cause offense, but I did not have the feeling that OP and their friend have such a relationship, so a more careful approach seems better. – tim Aug 23 '17 at 21:34
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If you want to talk to your friend, you must be prepared to provide some meaningful information on autism you should first learn as much about the disorder as you can. If you are going to approach your friend and suggest a diagnosis of autism, you really should know what you're talking about. Furthermore, it's a good idea to be supportive and honest when you tell someone you believe s/he is autistic. Many people do not fully understand what autism really is, so it will be up to you to be able to explain the disorder and answer any of their initial questions.

This being said, the following advice comes straight from asperger site and are some questions you should ask yourself before anything else:

  1. Do I think this person would want to know?
  2. Do I think this person should know because it's what I want? Or it's what he/she would want?
  3. Do I want to tell this person because I think it will make things easier for him/her? (e.g. Are they lost and struggling in areas, confused at their inability to fit in or succeed?)
  4. What is this person's current view of autism? This is a biggie. Autism still has so much negative stigma attached, if the person is not privy to the autism community that we are a part of (i.e. bloggers/FB/Twitter that are working to bring the positives and successes to the forefront from an autistic pt-of-view) their reaction would probably be one of anger. Then possibly fear and denial.
  5. Am I looking at this person as an individual, taking into consideration: Family, Friends, Social Circles, Job/Career.
  6. Is he/she overly-concerned with what others think? Is he/she the type of person who might feel shame and worry over being stigmatized as a person with a disability?

Then, I would suggest that you get more info and help from people who really know. Unless someone here with medical knowledge and meaningful experience can tell you, only a true professional will help you handle the situation in a way that neither you nor your friend is hurt.

Long story short: you should not do it by yourself, but seek professional council before.

Some reading: Asperger Site and the The National Autistic Society - UK

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    I think a key point in this is asking if this will actually help the friend if they know that they are autistic (assuming that the OP is correct). +1 from me. – fyrepenguin Aug 23 '17 at 2:18
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    Agreed. No matter what you want to do, the first thing one should ask oneself is: is it important to her/him, will it do good or any harm to her/him, or do I do it because it'll make me feel better? – OldPadawan Aug 23 '17 at 4:47
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    I read a lot about autism. I'm very interested in psycholgy. Those 6 questions are really good. I guess it would help him a lot and make things easier. He feels very depressed that he failed the final exams 2 times. With a diagnosis he would have a reason for that or at least it would explain why he had trouble with his apprenticeship. I don't think that he is aware of autism but a good friend of him has autism. I think that he would listen to me since I'm a very good friend of him. – Fabian Wüthrich Aug 23 '17 at 6:31
  • @FabianWüthrich make sure that it makes things easier for him, and does not just turn him into some other person who doesn't have the original problem. Most of the autists I know are perfectly happy with themselves and don't want to be "fixed", they just need a help with some social issues they have. – Erik Aug 23 '17 at 9:09
  • Should you really do this? .It could change his life forever .Take it from me – Autistic Nov 5 '17 at 10:34
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First, consider that your friend Bob might have already taken an autism test at a young age - this is usually the time his parents would've noticed something different about his behavior, and is also the time in his life where therapy programs would have helped the most.

And trust me, as someone with autism, even the best therapy programs can't just make it 'go away' forever.

It also really isn't your place to tell Bob what he should do about what you perceive as Asperger Syndrome. If (and that is a big if) you do feel very close to Bob and his family, you could ask if they've ever considered the possibility, and then maybe suggest some adult programs if you know any, if they show an interest in helping him.

But as an adult, Bob is wholly responsible for his own well-being, and more than anything, you need to respect that it is, and should always be, his decision to be tested and/or treated for it.

  • I don't remember that he has done a test when he was younger. My family is very close to his family. We know him since I was born (Our moms were in the same hospital) We are very close to him and we know him since his childhood. I just think that a diagnosis might help him. He would have a good reason why it's not as easy for him to do exams and work than others. I try to talk to him after the first exams. – Fabian Wüthrich Aug 23 '17 at 6:36
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You mentioned that you know another person with Asperger's (it's just autism spectrum disorder now, by the way) are you close enough to this person to ask them for help?

I've had this conversation with a few people over the years. I think it helps to hear it from someone who can personally relate... The conversation hasn't always gone well, but those that have gone in for testing were generally glad they did.

Aspies seem to have a way of relating to other aspies that can help to remove some of the associated stigma. If you know someone else who's on the spectrum it'll likely be easier for them to talk to Bob and put his mind at ease about the possibility of being a touch aspie.

  • The person I know went to school with Bob. They were good friends and they still do things together from time to time. Do you think I should ask the friend of Bob what he thinks? He doesn't talk that much about his disorder but he likes Bob and I guess he also just wants to help Bob. – Fabian Wüthrich Aug 23 '17 at 6:38
  • @FabianWüthrich Sounds like a good way to approach the situation to me. It's good that they already have a report. – apaul Aug 23 '17 at 14:49
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First off, you are never going to get an objectively "right" answer to this one. But let me share my opinion based on my own experience as a person with Asperger's (now known as autism-spectrum disorder).

Back in 2012 a good friend of mine presented me with the Wikipedia page for Asperger's syndrome and told me she thought it reminded her of me. This was done privately at work, we were in neighbouring cubicles, and she then left me to my own to read the article at my own pace. It put me down a bit but I thought about it a bit for the next couple of months. Roughly six months later, for completely other reasons, I met with a psychiatrist to evaluate a possible burn-out.

I got my preliminary diagnosis about a month after that, and the on-paper diagnosis about three months after that.

I have now spent about four years and a bit having to redefine my entire world-view to one where I and the average person have a very different experience of the world. Especially in interpersonal relations. I would liken it to a religious person losing their faith. Scary stuff.

Should you let your friend know? I would say absolutely yes. All I can say is that I am deeply grateful to my friend for caring and trusting me enough to let me know her thoughts, and the diagnosis is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Yes, it is scary. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it can potentially cause problems. Yes, you can end up in a lot of grief depending where you live. But frankly, the realisation and wealth of research material and personal anecdotes from other autistic people have helped to answer a whole heap of questions I have had for years.

And I now have access to a whole heap of aid that has taken a load of my shoulders and I can avoid large social gatherings at holidays without hurting anyone's feelings (I don't do well in those and mainly sit in a corner in a panic state the entire event).

Remember to adjust the way you suggest it based on your friends personality. I am theoretically-minded and the first books I picked up to were course material for psychiatrists and poured over stuff from Tony Attwood. Another autistic I know do not respond well to theoretical books and struggled with all theoretical courses in school, but excelled in more practical courses, for such a person presenting a Wikipedia page or theoretical book will likely not cause a good reaction.

For any personality, and anyone in general, I highly recommend the excellent read The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (ISBN: 978-0-812-99486-5).

Another thing to keep in mind when discussing this with your friend is that, sadly, the cultural views relevant to you will have an affect as well. I live in Sweden where, while people might not always be comfortable discussing mental health, there is generally a good understanding and social support for special needs with several law frameworks to rely upon. I understand that it is the same in Germany, but I do not know about Switzerland. So keep that in mind as well.

  • This reminds me of my girlfriend after she got her diagnose. Now, when people say she's being weird, or anti-social, or whatever, she can say "yes, I'm just different from you" with conviction, and it's really helped her self esteem. Knowing that (and how) you're really not like other people can be very helpful. – Erik Aug 23 '17 at 12:56
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    @Erik Glad to hear it! Of anything, I think self esteem is what we lack the most. Knowing I am different, and different for a reason, for me means I can accept it, and just go about my business. Not nearly as worried about a tic today as I was a couple of years ago, and dress, walk and act more in a way that I'm comfortable with, rather than the way I think others think I should act like. Whether they do or not. – Sebastian Hörberg Aug 23 '17 at 13:45
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I was the boss of somebody like "Bob."

  • I told him that his interpersonal problems with coworkers followed a pattern of mis-reading social cues.
  • I said that similar patterns happen for other people, such as people who have Asperger's Syndrome
  • Then, I suggested that some of the improvement strategies that are helpful for people with Asperger's might also be helpful for him.

I'm not a psychologist, but I do have a duty to give feedback on the "soft skills" of employment, such as interpersonal dealings with co-workers. In this person's case, I had an opportunity to mention Asperger's when I was explaining the pattern of his problems, and when looking at the landscape of possible improvement strategies. He needed to work on his problems, regardless what they're called.

I did this in a very boss-employee manner, but my inner feelings toward him were very "parental." He later told me this conversation changed his life forever (for the better) and he got diagnosed with Asperger's. His case turned out well, but I couldn't have known beforehand whether the analogy to Asperger's would be useful to him. All I knew is that he had problems, and that giving him feedback about each isolated incident wasn't enough for him to fix the problems.

  • That's very nice from you that you talked with your employee. I guess you were aware of autism right? Almost everoyne I know does not clearly know what autism means. Therefore I guess that no one has ever thought about Bob and autism. – Fabian Wüthrich Aug 23 '17 at 6:40
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    Great answer. Don't try and force him to do a test, don't try and tell him he's autistic, but do suggest that strategies helpful for people with Asperger's may also be helpful for him. – AndyT Aug 23 '17 at 8:29
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I have Asperger's, I was diagnosed at almost 50 years of age which is pretty late in life and I spent my childhood and adult life up until now being 'a bit weird'. Following the diagnosis I am still exactly the same, it has made minimal impact on my life (except that it allowed my employer to tick a diversity box) although some people regard me differently. I am still 'a bit weird', I am direct, I don't lie, I like order, I am in demand for my ability to proofread and come up with alternative solutions to engineering problems that nobody else seems to think of. As far as I am concerned all these thing happened before my diagnosis and I was valued for my skills. Now some people get the idea that I am Rain Man and that my skills are not earned and somehow I am cheating. At my age I just don't care what people think but if the diagnosis had happened when I was younger then I suspect that I would not have reacted too well as I am very independent and the thought of having to accept help post-diagnosis would not have sat well with me. Many people with Asperger's are independent and do not accept help well.

What is it about your friend that makes you think that a diagnosis will, in any way, help? Is your friend experiencing particular difficulties interacting with the world and society? Hanging a label on things does not make them better. I had anxieties and learned coping strategies to deal with the anxiety, not the Asperger's. I also had problems with being too literal that I have addressed. These were done because they were problems not because I had Asperger's. Be very careful what you suggest because this label can have a serious effect. HR suddenly took great interest in me as a pet project until we had a robust discussion. Sometimes people choose to 'interpret' for me. "He doesn't mean to be rude, he has Asperger's". No I really really really meant to be rude.

My advice; help your friend deal with the symptoms and problems. The label has little effect unless an employer really needs the diagnosis to do something. Even though we live in more enlightened times some people can, consciously or unconsciously, address the label and not the person.

1

Tact and opportunity are fundamental. Him expressing dissatisfaction with his grades are the perfect lead-in. Mentioning that you know someone who has an actual diagnosis and establishing similarities with your friend will provide a stable base on which to discuss.

Remain serious and provide him with the information you judge relevant, without going too deep into details. Should he become defensive, express sympathy by maintaining you want to help him do his best, and that there has to be a cause and potential solutions to his concerns.

Most definitely suggest the he read online medical articles on autism for the general public, in my case it was an eye-opener. Reassure him that he doesn't have to commit to anything, but that there are mountains of resources at reach, should he wish to try them.

As someone diagnosed with Asperger's, I feel the need to point out that an Asperger's diagnosis alone will not provide much help to your friend in terms of school exams. However, many people who suffer from autism spectrum disorders also suffer from ADHD, which is often the main reason behind poor academic performance in autistic people. An ADHD diagnosis will get him much further with schools, as they may provide accommodations like extra exam time and calmer separate rooms.

Either way, your friend should be seeking help from a licensed psychiatrist, not merely a therapist or psychologist. Psychiatrists are the ones properly qualified and legally recognized to diagnose these kind of issues, and can prescribe medication as needed. He might have to first go through a general practitioner to be referred to a psychiatrist.

0

There are three problems here and they are not all with your friend.

  • You are not qualified to diagnose a problem like this and a professional already has seen him. You could very easily be wrong about this.

  • I have an impression you are confusing any failures of his with your own experiences of someone with another problem. The two may be completely unrelated. People failing does not mean they're "faulty" and need fixing. It can mean many other things.

  • You say your friend was given tablets to calm him. That's a medical solution to something being tried. You must let this takes it's course.

He changed his attitude and went to a therapist but he only got something that is supposed to calm him down. He talked to a therapist but I don't think that it was enough to make a diagnosis because they didn't talk about something else.

This is a statement that he got help from a professional.

The only person who has a problem with that is you !

Do not try and second guess this. And what was said by your friend to a therapist is, by it's nature, not something you should know and in all probability your friend would not tell you everything they discussed. Therapists are trained to help people open up and discuss matters they would discuss with no-one else.

So what should you do ?

Be supportive.

Just that.

Therapy and related treatments (including personal change) take a long time. It's very hard to do and all your friend needs is someone to accept that and let it happen.

Perhaps ask how the therapy is working out, but don't make a big deal about it and be prepared to accept any answer from "mind your own business" to "brilliant".

-1

What would be the purpose of making him aware of autism?

  1. To get your friend aware of the typical autism traits and to learn to think about others' perspective

or

  1. To get a diagnosis and professional help

For the first of those just hinting of some place to read about it online could suffice. Maybe say you read some article you found interesting that describes some characters and the traits and let them figure out what characteristics seem to fit on themselves.

The second one I think should only be an option if it is obvious to you that he won't be able to live any kind of life without serious professional help. But most of them would likely be found out kind of early in their life if he had such serious troubles functioning that he would have gotten a diagnosis as a child after their parents had gone to the doctor.


Edit: I got asked in comments to clarify a bit, so here goes:

There exist lots of misunderstandings and stigma about mental or personality diagnoses. Therefore, getting a diagnosis is not sure to improve the quality of life of a person.

It depends both on how surroundings and individual reacts. It is well known that some individuals react badly to a diagnosis and almost seem to give up trying to bettering themselves and to compensate for the troubles. Because they finally have something to blame. Without the diagnosis maybe the person would at least strive to compensate to function a bit better. Therefore the diagnosis can for some people become an excuse for lazyness.

Another sad reality is that some people are gonna view you as "damaged goods" and treat you worse or at least with increased distance if you have some diagnosis. It is in many places illegal to discriminate on these grounds, but employers can be quite inventive. They can often manage to find some legal reason to avoid hiring someone they have preconceptions about.

  • I'm on the autism spectrum, I was diagnosed at the of 23 and knowing that I was on the autism spectrum and having professional help did help me, even if I could I live without knowing. So, could you back up your answer as to why your second point shouldn't be an option? I fail to see what harm trying to get him professional help would cause. – Ælis Nov 21 '18 at 17:32
  • @Noon Because there are lots of misunderstandings and stigma about mental or personality diagnoses. Getting a diagnosis is not sure to improve the quality of life of a person. It depends both on how surroundings and individual reacts. It is well known that some individuals react badly to a diagnosis and almost seem to give up trying to bettering themselves and to compensate for the troubles. The diagnosis becomes excuse for lazyness. Another sad reality is that some people are gonna view you as "damaged goods" and treat you worse or at least with increased distance if you have some diagnosis. – mathreadler Nov 21 '18 at 18:03
  • As comment aren't suppose to last here, could you edit this into your answer? – Ælis Nov 21 '18 at 18:13
  • Yes I can add it, just give me an hour. On the phone. – mathreadler Nov 21 '18 at 18:19
  • Sorry to bother you but do you have so source for that: "It is well known that some individuals react badly to a diagnosis and almost seem to give up trying to bettering themselves and to compensate for the troubles."? I'm interested. Also, I'm not sure about how relevant your last paragraph is since you don't have to tell people that you are on the autism spectrum. – Ælis Nov 21 '18 at 18:54

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