Thursday, October 25, 2007

Aspies and their friends

There is a phrase which I have heard practitioners use to describe ADHD and which I believe they would probably use to describe Asperger's too;

"known by all but liked by none"

Although I know a number of people with Asperger's who feel this applies to them, I am are not convinced that a blanket definition such as this is appropriate for the condition.

It is true that the Asperger's child has a great deal more difficulty making and keeping friends than neurotypical children but I don't think it is true to suggest that they end up with no friends. If anything, the aspie is more likely to end up with a very small band of very close and very dedicated friends.

Primary School
The literature suggests that Aspie boys tend to prefer playing with the girls in their primary years. I would agree with this. As a child, I found that I was unsuited to sports, always the last to be picked and never at all interested in the sport itself. For the most part, girls were less interested in sport and more into talking. I found this much more to my taste.

I have no idea how this would have continued past primary school because at the end of year four, I had to leave my primary school to start at a secondary school. My secondary school was boys only.

Secondary School
I have very few memories of "playing" in the first year of my secondary school. I have a lot of memories of standing on the edge of the playground waiting for lunch to finish. By the end of winter of my first year (winter, in Australia finishes in the last third of the school year) I had met a new friend.

I met this friend while at soccer. Note, I did not say while playing soccer although we were both on the soccer field at the time and it was a reasonable expectation of our parents that we would join in the game. After all, we were on the team. I was amazed to find that this boy was as bad at soccer as I was. He was a social pariah in other ways as well, though I suspect he displayed more ADHD or more ADD qualities than Asperger's.

Nevertheless, we became very good friends and he introduced me to his other friends. None of them were in my class that year (or for the next three years - sigh... if only the teachers had been paying attention) but all of them are still my very best friends (25 years later).

The Library
When I got to year seven at school, the teachers were asking for students who wanted to become library monitors. Without even considering my new found friends, I immediately signed up. Luckily, all of them followed me. We all stayed library monitors until about a year 11 and we were probably longest lasting and most dedicated group of monitors the school library had ever seen.

I think that being a library monitor was the main thing that prevented me from being bullied. I was out of sight and therefore out of mind. By the time we left the library in year 11, our classmates had matured enough to bullying was a rarity.

One Girl in Particular
Over the years my school had turned co-ed, (girls were introduced) The first exposure we had to girls in our classrooms was in year 11 but the girls had been introduced in younger classes and in year 9, I met the girl I would marry.

I am often told that I am very lucky to have met this girl. I know that I am - she's one in a million.

Aspies have difficulty with normal conversations let alone sustaining relationships and especially relationships with people of the opposite gender. At school ages, even normal boys have problems with this. I think one of the things that helped me to get married was meeting someone who would be one of my best friends (and still is) at such a young age.

What can parents do to help
  1. Be aware, aspies attract (and socialize best) with other aspies or other children with disorders or drawbacks such as a language difficulties (ethnicity etc).

  2. The best thing that parents could do to help their aspie children make friends would be to locate groups at the school which are most likely to contain other aspies. Chess clubs, library monitoring and other non-sport groups would be the a good starting point.

  3. Parents also need to be aware that if the child is being bullied, it may be best to move the child to alternative lunchtime programmes such as library duties. Schools only have a certain amount of power to prevent bullying and they can only stop that which they observe.

13 comments:

Zachary Lassiter said...

I loved this and posted some feedback on this on my blog:

http://zachlassiter.wordpress.com/2007/10/31/known-by-all-but-liked-by-none/

Anonymous said...

I am doing my senior project on Aspergers and just from reading this passage I've learned alot...Thankyou

mike said...

Thanks this was very moving for me I have a six year old who is a aspie and I always wonder about how pre teen and teen years will be for him. It’s good to know everything works out. Thank you for your post.

mike said...

Thanks this was very moving for me I have a six year old who is a aspie and I always wonder about how pre teen and teen years will be for him. It’s good to know everything works out. Thank you for your post.

Andreas said...

I've never heard that Known/Liked phrase. I would have had words with that person...

I had a very interesting childhood experience; I have never been diagnosed. If you've ever seen the film "Mean Girls", you'd get an idea of how I pragmatically viewed people's interactions.

I strategized, making acquaintances with the 'right people'. Learning the best topics to use, amongst the correct group. It was like multi-national politics; I wanted my country to be prosperous but not necessarily on top (too much effort/risk).

I kept my own personal enclave of good close friends, kind of a safety net. I would work from there, using my influence to keep them on the good side of potential bullies.
Luckily for me, I had a sharp tongue and a quick wit, so many bullies actually liked me! Just a few bully friends can keep other bullies away. I always worked hard to create a space where my friend and I could be our selves.
Fads and their politics didn't mean anything to me; they were practical factors to consider, like physics: some were obstacles, some could be made use of.
Although, I could never really understand the camaraderie of the 'coolest people'. A few of them liked me but I couldn't understand why, so I could scarcely utilize that to my advantage.
A lot of people found me confusing.

I was happier than most ASD people, and maybe average for NT.

(My jaw dropped when I read the drawbacks & ethnicity part. I knew what you meant... but wow... Maybe because things are better in my generation)

I enjoyed the post!

Adnoun said...

After fifty years of analysing the behaviour of people around me so I
could get by, working out how to intervene where possible for those who were
bullied, and generally forming heartfelt opinions about people, politics,
behaviour and justice, I was advised by a professional that I might be
ASD. I took this lightly enough. (Enough to what, exactly? To be comfortable
and undistracted by it, I suppose.)

Later, I began to reflect on my accepted "eccentricities" and "oddness" and
generally to evaluate the way my social environment is structured. I don't find
life pleasant, or easy, but I don't think it's right to expect it to be. It's
better in parts if you or you + others or simply unconnected, benevolent others
can make it less unpleasant. Then it's over!

Eventually, I heard of Aspergers, somehow.
There was a god deal (hmm, unintentional error) of hitting when I was a kid,
rather than the slow development of broad-brush categorising and "labelling"
there appears to be now. So, I had had no idea what Aspergers actually was,
other than nowadays it can cost a student his placement year if exposed. I
have since found a clue or two about what Aspergers might be, and I have a score
in some online test. And for a while there, I couldn't take it at all lightly.
For example...
[[
I thought about what I wrote here, and I've deleted it. This is the internet,
after all, and I am now suspicious of everything I say in the "not what ppl
usually say" department.
]]
...but it's alarming to suddenly "unbelong". Should I give up altogether with
the difficult and usually upsetting business of meeting ppl? Should I let
friends fade away? Have I been kidding myself?

Well, I was perturbed by some of this. So I looked online for
asperger with friends
and Google brought me here.

I gratefully draw encouragement from the article, to feel all right about trying
to continue with exactly what is described there - a "very small band
of very close and very dedicated friends". This has to be the first step towards
accommodating to this "label", and fitting it into my everyday thinking and
decision-making. It really surprised me how undermined I felt, before reading
the article, and how many threads seemed to be cut, even though it's just a
label which describes an innate skill-set, a social-ecological niche
suitability, a trans-cultural diverstity spectrum location, or a "condition"
as I'm sure I am expected to say.

Thanks for publishing this article.

Adapt Not Unbelong

Adnoun said...

.
After fifty years of analysing the behaviour of people around me so I
could get by, working out how to intervene where possible for those who were
bullied, and generally forming heartfelt opinions about people, politics,
behaviour and justice, I was advised by a professional that I might be
ASD. I took this lightly enough. (Enough to what, exactly? To be comfortable
and undistracted by it, I suppose.)

Later, I began to reflect on my accepted "eccentricities" and "oddness" and
generally to evaluate the way my social environment is structured. I don't find
life pleasant, or easy, but I don't think it's right to expect it to be. It's
better in parts if you or you + others or simply unconnected, benevolent others
can make it less unpleasant. Then it's over!

Eventually, I heard of Aspergers, somehow.
There was a god deal (hmm, unintentional error) of hitting when I was a kid,
rather than the slow development of broad-brush categorising and "labelling"
there appears to be now. So, I had had no idea what Aspergers actually was,
other than nowadays it can cost a student his placement year if exposed. I
have since found a clue or two about what Aspergers might be, and I have a score
in some online test. And for a while there, I couldn't take it at all lightly.
For example...
[[
I thought about what I wrote here, and I've deleted it. This is the internet,
after all, and I am now suspicious of everything I say in the "not what ppl
usually say" department.
]]
...but it's alarming to suddenly "unbelong". Should I give up altogether with
the difficult and usually upsetting business of meeting ppl? Should I let
friends fade away? Have I been kidding myself?

Well, I was perturbed by some of this. So I looked online for
asperger with friends
and Google brought me here.

I gratefully draw encouragement from the article, to feel all right about trying
to continue with exactly what is described there - a "very small band
of very close and very dedicated friends". This has to be the first step towards
accommodating to this "label", and fitting it into my everyday thinking and
decision-making. It really surprised me how undermined I felt, before reading
the article, and how many threads seemed to be cut, even though it's just a
label which describes an innate skill-set, a social-ecological niche
suitability, a trans-cultural diverstity spectrum location, or a "condition"
as I'm sure I am expected to say.

Thanks for publishing this article.

Adapt Not Unbelong

Anonymous said...

I am 14 and have Aspergers. I stim in 3 different ways. 1 I nail bite which isn't that noticeable in school. 2 I flap my hands which if I do under my desk I am sometimes fine and 3 this is the real problem. I most commonly flap my hands on my head while giving a weird expression on my face. I have done that in school sometimes and gotten teased for it. I really can't help it. Sometimes teachers send me out of the class and to my Councillor. I really hate that because Then everyone sees me leave. I have skipped a grade in Elementary (3rd) and am now the (baby) of my soft-more classes. People think I am weird and are always teasing me. After being in a different school last year and being in special ed I got my mom to put me in mainstream. I really need help to stop stimming because I can't control it and sometimes I don't even know I am doing it. But I really am getting embarrassed. Can anyone help me earn some dignity. Once while I was taking a test in class I couldn't handle all the talking, wispering, lights buzzing and flickering, the teacher walking, even people breathing was bothering me and I had a meltdown. I just couldn't take it. Not a huge one but there was crying and lots of noise. Can anyone help me not get made fun of. here is my Anonymous email and if you read this and are in my english class please don't give any of my information away. mecaleogle@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I have recently done a test on whether I have aspergers or not and am awaiting the results, and I was wondering would you call hair noting, beat boxing, what seems like random muscle tensing, strange vocal noises and hand flapping stimming? All of those things I do but without thinking or planning to it just happens and I feel I have to and it's hard to stop sometimes, and I don't know I'm going to do it either. Makes me feel better afterwoods also, like much more relaxed? It's odd to describe, just wondered whether that would be classed as stimming all of those things.

Anonymous said...

I am the mom of an autistic savant child. He was given a grim prognosis and I stopped working as a psychologist and spent the last 8years with him. I have done some unconventional things and they have turned out well. One thing I did in regard to bullying was to calmly and politely adressed the bullies on a frequent basis when I delivered my son to school and talked to them about both autism and about their own interests. I was astonished at the results - some of these bullies are now his protectors...or in their words..."yeah we watch ____'s back.

Anonymous said...

I don't have aspbergers , but my three very very best friends do. I feel like there is something wrong with me since I do not have it. what Characteristics do I have that makes me mutually attracted to making friends with people with aspbergers?

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm newly married and we didn't live together 1st but now that we are I see and notice my husband is even more odd than I thought. He's always had a child like personality, which was cute at 1st. Anyways he recently started rubbing me as he falls asleep and when I told him it was annoying he said I can't help it it feels good. Me thinking he meant it in a sexual way but he didn't he said it soothes him. He also sniffs his nose a lot followed by a hmm sound at the end. He pops his hand by stretching it out over and over. He sing talks and when he talks regular he squints. Are these things considered stimming? I'm sure he was doing all of this the when we dated but there was a lot of time we were apart due to his work.Talking to him mom she revealed issues during her pregnancy, and said that he was developmentaly delayed as a child. She had him tested and he was put in slow classes as she put it and since this was years ago not much else was done. He's 39 now. I asked him how he felt as a child and he said the same ppl always called him odd or weird and he felt like he never fits in he just pretends and goes with the flow. I suggested that he see a doctor and told him about AS. He said he relates with some of the characteristics of AS so I'm hoping to get him diagnosed soon. I'm not sure how much it will help because he has lived so long without a diagnosis. I educate myself so I don't get so frustrated with him as his wife, but my teenager kids laugh at him all the time and he gets mad or bickers with them so I end up being the referee. They always refer to his behavior as ha classic Torrance... Which is his name. So they know something is wrong but I think a true diagnosis would help them understand. Advice/help please...

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous,

Having a label will usually help matters as it gives an individual a starting point to understand themselves and to control their most "annoying" habits.

Most of the "habits" you mentioned do fall into the region of stimming. That doesn't mean that he can't help doing them, it just means that they help your husband.

If those stims cause you problems and if he understands that they are stims, he may be able to channel them into different forms.

Of course, all of this depends upon how open your husband is to the idea of Aspergers and how willing he is to understand and challenge himself. It also requires an understanding and supporting family behind him.