Looking for some information

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-20-2003
Looking for some information
2
Tue, 09-09-2003 - 9:24am
Hi! I've not posted here before but am a regular at Parentsoup and am cl for several boards here. I have 2 boys ages 13 and 16; both are developmentally 'normal' (or as 'normal' as teenagers can be...).

My 16yo (junior) is very active in the martial arts club at his high school and is on the SWAT team (the students that will be assisting the instructor with the new students). One of the freshmen that has expressed an interest in the martial arts club has Aspergers's Syndrome and the instructor would like one of his SWAT team members to help him - stay next to him and give him any special assistance he needs during the class. DS is interested in volunteering for this opportunity as he feels it will be good experience at teaching and could be very rewarding for him and, hopefully, for the other young man. Neither ds or I know anything about Asperger's, only that it's in the autism family. There was a family at church with a little boy that had autism but a more extreme case. My question is - is there anything ds should be aware of if he starts to work with this boy? Will he be able to communicate with him in the same way he does with the other teens? I know these seem like stupid questions but as I said the only experience I've had with anything like this was the little boy at church and he didn't communicate AT ALL.

Thanks for any insights or hints you may have.

Pam



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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-29-2003
Tue, 09-09-2003 - 11:07am
Pam,

I have a PhD in Psychology and a son with Asperger's (3 yrs old). I hope my son can find someone like your boy someday. A social guide is what these kids need most, especially boys, as males are less nurturing and tolerant of kids with differences.

Asperger's has at times been called the "Geek Syndrome." If your son has a stereotype of socially inept shy geeks, this is probably what he will find in the boy who has Asperger's. By Adolescence, most of these kids have figured out that they are different and have become rather shy. They are characterized by obsessiveness (the need to perseverate over and over again on certain tasks that they get "hooked on"), anxiety (usually social anxiety), difficulty coming up with the correct social behavior to use in situations (some may 'freeze' in social situations, some may do something awkward), difficulty reading social and emotional signals. On the bright side, a high percentage of these kids have gifted IQ's and their obsessions often lead them to make great contributions to society (retrospective analyses of many talented men in science, math, and music have shown AS traits - - Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, etc.).

I have had friends with Asperger's (many gravitate toward careers in academia), and my feeling is that the best way to work with these people is to be very straightforward about social requirements. If the person is talking to you and you need to leave, don't beat around the bush with your answer. Say, "I have an appointment, so I have to go now. Let's continue this conversation later." If you don't want to continue the conversation later, then don't say that. People with AS will take you literally and may call you up to continue the conversation or may bump into you 2 wks later and try to continue the conversation. People with AS don't understand social niceties very well. If you say, "Hi. How are ya'?" and you really mean to give a quick greeting in passing, a person with AS may stop to give you a detailed synopsis of how they are.

As adolescents, people with AS benefit from a peer, who simply tells them when some behavior is "cool or uncool." They take criticism very hard, however, so it is best to focus or roleplay what they can do better the next time. They especially benefit from a peer who helps translate the behavior of other peers. Kids with AS are often victims of bullying and tricks, so a "big brother" figure can help with this tremendously. People with AS often don't get jokes (at least not right away), and they don't know that they are being duped into doing something stupid by some mean kids who want to have a laugh. AS makes them less peripherally aware, so they may not see that a group of kids is planning to hurt them until they are right there in the middle of the victimization. It often takes only one older respected peer to say to the other kids, "This guy is eccentric, but he's cool. Look at how good his form is in karate." This is what your son can do for the boy with AS. He should use specific examples because these are most believable (e.g., mention subjects the kid excells at in school, hobbies he is good at, etc.).

Your son should also be aware that because this boy may have no other friends, he may start hanging around your son and treat him as his best buddy. For this reason, the PR your son does with other kids to help this new boy become accepted, may be the best thing he can do. The more peers accept the kid with AS, the less he will cling to your son - - just my two cents on the social dynamics that could result.

This is a general synopsis of AS in the teen years. Others on this board with teens can probably give you more specific info that would be helpful.

Suzi

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Tue, 09-09-2003 - 5:29pm
One thing your son may want to consider is reading *Asperger's Syndrome* by Tony Attwood. I found this book to be very insightful and quite an easy read. Just keep in mind, as Candes likes to point out,...once you've met one person on the with Asperger"s syndrome, you've met one person with Asperger's syndrome... Not sure i got that quite right, but I am sure you get what I mean!

Sio