Aspie Digest - November 2, 2005
I have found this blog last week through Marc's site: Aspie Diaries. This is really good writing, I'd love to add this one to my blogroll, but I would like to get the author's permission first.
I have finished "The Curious Incident of the Dog..." and really enjoyed it. This book grows on you. Good, thought-provoking stuff.
I have also started and finished "The Speed of Dark". Again, a very good read, thank you Cathy. The main character reminds me of a man I once worked with. Not sure if my coworker was autistic (although in my opinion, almost everyone in IT is borderline - hee hee), but he had a frame of mind very similar to Lou Arrendale's, and he loved classical music, and solitary sports. I miss him a lot. Reading the book was like being in his company once again.
Quotable Quotes - Notes From Tony Attwood's Seminar, Part II
Last time, I stopped at "Making friends". Dr. Attwood was reviewing each age group separately. Here are a few of his thoughts on age group from adolescent to adult.
At this age level, neurotypical adolescents are capable of highly developed forms of friendship, whereas adolescents with AS are several years behind in their social and interpersonal development (for instance, they view conversations as a way of sharing information, not promoting social cohesion). On top of it, kids with AS cannot cope with the noise, crowds, new ideas and being interrupted, and are genuinely pleased to be left alone. They may refrain from making friends because they are afraid of making a social mistake ("safest place is in your bedroom with your computer" - amen to that!) These kids may benefit from having pets, or joining support groups for their special interest (Support group for programmers? Isn't that an oxymoron?) Adults may meet friends through their place of work (this will ensure that they have similar interests.)
Of course, some of the kids (like mine, for instance) do not really want to socialize. They will say, "I socialize in school, I don't want to socialize at home too." This is because their social capacity is very small and it is fully met by social interactions during school time.
Helping an adolescent/adult adjust in the society:
1. Cheat sheets. One of Dr. Attwood's patients had a "compliment schedule" that listed suggested frequencies for sincere compliments: loved one=1-2/day; coworker who is a friend=1/2/week; coworker that isn't a friend=0-1/week; friend=1-2/week. Teaching to say appropriate compliments at appropriate times ("nice shirt" - OK to say to a coworker, but "you have beautiful eyes" - not always OK.)
2. Explanation. Warn your companion in advance about the way you may act in a conversation (examples: "I am the sort of person who looks away when you're talking to concentrate on my answer to your question", "I am the sort of person who talks a lot about trains. If this gets boring, please stop me", etc.)
Impaired Executive Function - this means the ability to plan, organize, stay on task, etc., as well as ability to explain how the problem was solved, ability to convert one's thoughts and feelings into speech. These kids need an executive secretary (Mom!) to do the planning and organizing for them. (I do that a lot. Recently, I have actually moved I12's "good" T-shirts to a different room, so he cannot accidentally wear them at home and get them ripped and stained. Moving the T-shirts out of the room was, by the way, his idea.)
In the same vein, Dr. Attwood recommends minimizing the amount of homework, especially if it takes a very long time to complete, leads to meltdowns and otherwise creates problems at home. The reasoning behind this is that these kids work twice as hard at school as any other child, because they learn both the academic and the social curriculum. By the time they get home, they are very tired and need to relax.
In high school, Dr. Attwood recommends "pruning non-essential subjects" such as languages or sports, and starting to accumulate vocational skills and experience (part-time job or volunteer work in the child's special interest area by the time they are 14-15 years old.)
Cognitive Behavior Therapy - there is an awesome CD/DVD that you can buy on http://www.jkp.com/ for only $129.00 (hee hee) No, seriously, what you can do is recommend this CD to your child's school. We saw the demo and this CD is really helpful in learning to detect the people's emotions by their facial expressions, voice, gestures, etc. Another site that was recommended to us is http://www.cat-kit.com/.
Emotional Toolbox - what kids with AS can learn to do to "fix their feeling" and adjust better. Here are a few possible tools.
Physical Activity Tools - Physical exercise (it is as effective in dealing with depression as medication!) Creative destruction (crushing cans, etc.) I12 has figured that one out a very long time ago!
Relaxation Tools - Music; solitude; reading (as an added bonus, reading fiction is an indirect social therapy!); sleep; stress ball; art; massage.
Social Tools - Talk to a family member or friend; talk to a pet; share a problem; seek a second opinion. Helping someone; being needed (for example, mentoring someone on computers and programming); introduction to someone with similar issues.
Thoughts and perspective - Put the events in perspective; do a reality check; imagine what you would like to do or say (do not do it and do not tell people); comedy programs; sense of humor; etc.
Motivation - for kids with AS, pleasing other people is not a motivation. The biggest motivation for these children is being smart.
Special Interests are an extremely powerful relaxation tool. If arts, writing or music are the child's special interest, then these may also be a means of emotional expression.
Medication as a tool - please don't shoot the messenger. This is what I heard, and this is what I wrote down. There is no medication that directly helps AS. Mood stabilizers may be used to treat secondary mood disorders, but there is a side effect. Those with AS survive by using their intellect, and medication robs them of their clarity of thought. To quote one of Dr. Attwood's patients, "it is like being locked out of my own house."
Other possible tools include sensory like ear plugs, headphones, or soft clothing; communicating via email instead of talking; using money as a reward; employing an executive secretary (Mom!) to help with organizational problems; cutting the amount of homework or changing sports; and dietary changes (gluten-free, dairy-free) as needed.
Inappropriate tools for the child - fight; being alone too long; taking stress out on someone else; hurting yourself.
Inappropriate tools for the parents - affection; "would a hug help? - No, I get madder"; punishment; talking; getting emotional.
(I have said it before, but in the context of all these tools I will say it again - thank God for Newgrounds BBS. I used to hate that forum, but then I realized how much social interaction I12 is getting from it, and how much he learns there in terms of social interactions. The forum is heavily moderated, and most of the regular members seem like pretty good kids, some of them with interests in programming and making flash animation. But the best part is that the kids seem to maintain quite a positive attitude in life. If you come to the BBS and start talking about hating life, or hurting yourself, or killing yourself, people will laugh at you and call you an emo... most of the time you will also get genuine concern and offers to get help. If you have an AS kid who is used to some mature content and strong language... this forum is a lifesaver. The feature that allows to view all your kid's posts in one window also comes in handy *wink* I12 mentioned it on the forum a long time ago that he has "Assburgers". They don't seem to mind.)
Qualities and Difficulties of a person with Aspergers Syndrome
- An expert.
- Notice sounds others do not hear.
- Speak your mind.
- Enjoy solitude.
- Reliable friend.
- Good at art.
- Liked by adults.
- Making friends.
- Managing feelings.
- Taking advice.
- Knowing what someone is thinking.
- Being teased.
- Showing as much affection as others expect.
AS is not a disability, but a difference. It is like being left-handed in a right-handed world.
Dr. Attwood tells his patients: "You owe your talents to Aspergers Syndrome." Of course, too often, the patient responds with: "Then why do I need therapy?" The answer is: "to develop team work skills that you will need to succeed in life."
To have AS is an advantage. The difficulty is for the person who has it to cope with those who do not understand AS.
This is all I have from the seminar. I hope it helped. Best wishes to all Aspies and parents (and parents that are Aspies!)