Aspie Digest - October 26, 2005
The Tony Attwood Seminar: Quotable Quotes
I jotted down some notes during the seminar, here are my favorite parts, in no particular order. (I tried to get direct quotes, but that's an impossible task as you realize.) I have added a few of my own comments as well.
It was a good seminar. I walked out of it convinced that: my son has Aspergers; I had it as a child and may still have residual elements; and it is actually a good thing, if we learn how to adjust it to the society we live in!
So, here they are... the quotable quotes...
The diagnostic criteria are still a work in progress. The existing criteria are 15 years behind clinical data and research. The DSM criteria do not reflect the original descriptions of Hans Asperger, or the clinical and empirical knowledge.
In half the cases, AS is hereditary.
These kids are a law unto themselves. They will only follow the school rules if these rules are logical. They want to be treated like adults and do not have respect for authority.
Adults with AS may need professional assistance/guidance if they are promoted to management.
In a conversation, children with AS are more interested in truth than people's feelings. To them, the point of a conversation is to obtain information or teach you something.
They have a pathological fear of making a mistake. Some activities are refused for that reason, i.e. for fear of making a mistake.
Dr. Attwood called special interests "a silver lining to the difficulties" of a person with AS. These people have very few pleasures in life. Socializing is not pleasurable to them as it is to neurotypical people. Their special interests may be the greatest pleasure in their life.
More on special interests - most of the technological achievements we are now enjoying were made possible by people with AS, and at the price of social interaction. "If the world was left to you socialites, we would still be in caves talking to each other" - Temple Grandin.
Motor clumsiness - major problem in school. Timing problems make it impossible for these kids to play ball games/team sports, which are, as we all know, the be all and end all in the school hierarchy. Kids with AS can, however, become agile and proficient through solitary practice (solitary sports like swimming, golf; endurance sports such as marathon). This has struck a chord with me. I have always been horrible at team sports. I did participate in solitary sports as a kid - I sucked at sprinting, but was pretty good at swimming, skiing, ball throwing. I still cannot play ball games because of my timing issues. I do bowl and I am pretty good at it. My younger son K10, although neurotypical, also has timing issues and is not good at team sports, but he is in a swimming class and is a very good swimmer. I hope to see him on a swim team one day. I12, however, has bailed out of sports altogether which I find very sad. He loved track when he was younger, but was told to wait until 7th grade to get on the track team. Now he is in 7th grade and wouldn't hear of it. He just got tired of waiting.
Making Friends: typical kids know by intuition how to socialize and be friends. Kids with AS have to learn that. If they do succeed, it is by extreme intelligence.
They need solitude and need to be on their own. This is relaxing to them. None of their difficulties are exposed when they are alone; solitude is a great stress-reliever for them, whereas being in a group is stressful; they prefer to learn in solitude.
Dr. Attwood gave an interesting example regarding social cues. He asks his young patients this question: suppose you come home from school, your mother is in the kitchen. As you walk in, she turns around and you see that she is crying, tears streaming down her face. What would you do? Kids with AS gave responses like "talk to her about dinosaurs", "bring her tissues", "leave her alone, she'll get over it quicker" (that's because they themselves would like to be left alone when they're sad).
Socializing in school/on the playground. Dr. Attwood gave us several really serious messages for the adults and neurotypical kids, especially the popular, socially advanced kids.
One, on a playground, there are two groups: the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys only accept those who are as good socially as they are themselves. But the bad guys always have an open door. So a child with social deficiencies may end up hanging with the bad guys. (yep, we've been there with I12 - see this post)
Two. Statistics show that 85% of students do not engage in bullying on either side. But out of the other 15%, half are bullies and the other half is being bullied mercilessly, often resulting in physical damage, depression, suicide. The bullies don't have it easy, either - kids that engage in bullying during school years are more likely to develop alcohol and criminal problems in the future, so they also need rescuing. What Dr. Attwood said here is that the moral majority, the kids with socially high status need to step in and tell the bully to stop. The bully will only listen to the kids with the socially high status. (Yes, I have already told this to K10, since he and his friends seem pretty high up there).
Three. Kids with AS are more likely to have gender identity issues, and here's why. Boys with AS are often rejected by boys, because they cannot play team sports. So some of them end up becoming friends with girls, fitting into their circle, and to a point adopting their interests. Which in turn causes their peers to call them gay.
Girls with AS are often rejected by girls, because they are not cliquish, they don't like to gossip, and they also don't like feminine clothing because to them, it is uncomfortable. They may prefer boys' clothing. So some of these girls end up becoming friends with the boys and fitting into their circle. Which in turn again leads to their peers calling them gay. Just because a girl plays with the boys, or a boy with the girls, does not automatically mean these kids are gay or transgender. Heck, most of my friends growing up were boys (nerdy boys, but still!) and I am straight as an arrow.
I do not want to make this post too long, so I will continue with the Quotable Quotes in the next Digest.