In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I include a couple of poems. Here is one that arose from a Business Networking Meeting I attended every Friday. It’s just how I felt, being an Aspie on the outside of all the conversation:
I do not wish to tip toe around the polite perimeter of social exchange,
To avoid intimacy and understanding.
I do not wish to abstain from participation in the
socially connected sea of humanity;
to be silent when I am eager to speak,
To smile with others without knowing why,
Or listen to the negative impreachments of my peers.
I wish to connect
To find and open the portal to your innermost reality.
My Book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, talks about a time when kids and parents alike had no idea about Asperger’s and there were no support groups. Fortunately, that is no longer true today.
]The following is a notice from the Autism Society of BC about an October 16th lower mainland Workshop that will give you ways to help your child get organized at school:
ASBC Burnaby Support Group Meeting – Fri Oct 16th 10-12
Do you know what Executive Function is and how it affects our planning, organizing, attending to the right information at the right time, making decision accordingly, flexibility…?
We are pleased to have Michele Shilvock, Behavior Consultant, to present the following workshop in our October meeting. All are welcome.
Our upcoming ASBC Burnaby Support Group meeting details:
Date: October 16, 2015 (Friday)
Time: 10:00 am to 12:00 noon
Place: Studio, Suite #301 – 3701 East Hastings, Burnaby BC (North East corner on Hastings and Boundary)
Directions: Walk from north side on Hastings from Boundary towards east, past a mail box and a bus stop, look towards the building (Enterprise Centre), walk up a few steps to see a long flight of stairs at your left, walk up the stairs from G/F directly to 3/F (if you see 2/F it’s the wrong staircase). Suite #301 is at your left.
Topic: Executive Function Skills and how these play out in the school (elementary and high school)
Executive function plays a key role in all students learning and specifically looks to target skills that help one decide on what information to attend to, how to interpret the information and ultimately make decisions based on it. They allow a learner to organize, plan out, sustain attention and assist with task completion both in their social and academic worlds. The focus of this presentation is to offer attendees a greater understanding for the different components of executive function and how children on the autism spectrum may be impacted by deficits in one or more areas, both in the elementary and high school settings. Further more, strategies for how to improve in these areas will be discussed in a general format both for implementation in the home and school settings.
Michele is a board certified behaviour analyst who has been working in the field of autism for over 15 years and brings with her a wealth of knowledge and a passion for wanting to work with others. She is very dedicated to the training of individuals in the community through workshops and speaking engagements. She has and continues to work closely with families and school teams to assist in the facilitation of team oriented working relationships. Michele works closely with children in the home and school settings and has a keen interest in the social, emotional and executive function of individuals on the autism spectrum. Her focus ranges from working with infants and toddlers, to supporting skill development through the preschool years and into adolescents and teen years.
Who will navigate us successfully through life to success? To achieve the goals we set for ourselves?
Dr. Phil as he is commonly known, says it has to be us. Nobody else. And he has developed a set of what he calls “Life Laws” which he has used to help many of his clients find their way out of seemingly hopeless situations.
In his book, Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, Dr. Phillip McGraw stresses that what is vital is “…understanding and controlling the cause-and-effect relationships of life; in other words, using your knowledge to make things happen the way you want them to.”
That we are responsible for learning the social strategies that will get us where we want to go, is probably, as Aspies, the last thing we want to hear.
But whether or not you are familiar with Dr. Phil’s non-nonsense TV Show style of therapy, I strongly suggest that every Aspie young adult and adult read this book at least once.
He goes on to state that “We live in a social world.” This book explains why social skills are key to success and how to organize and manage your life in the direction of your own definition of success.
Perhaps the two most important aspects of this book, are 1) the insistence on one’s duty to self when it comes to learning social skills, and 2) the notion that we manage ourselves.
If you haven’t read this book, you might look at your current self-management strategies and ask yourself:
People who are different somehow are often subjected to unpleasant treatment. Sometimes very harsh treatment. Social isolation. Bullying. Discrimination. Unfortunately, people on the autism spectrum can often find themselves in these unpleasant situations.
Many now-famous people have found themselves in very dire situations, suffering treatment or circumstances which might easily have left them forever emotionally scarred if not dead.
One such man, Viktor Frankl, imprisoned in Auschwitz for several years during WWII, was fascinated by his own and others’ ability to survive conditions which should have killed them.
“Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life…” Frankl concluded, would often survive, even if they seemed more fragile emotionally and physically than other men.
In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl credits their survival to an interior sphere of intellectual stimulus to which they could retreat.
This brings to mind the biography and now, movie Unbroken. Cast adrift on a raft for weeks with no food or water, Louis Zamperini and his pilot survived. Both credited their survival with intellectual discussions and debates which took their minds off their plight. They were also able to devise ways to catch fish (rarely) and capture drinking water from the occasional rainfall.
Also, the story of Nelson Mandela, (movies, Invictus and Long Walk To Freedom) a man who endured unthinkable punishment in prison under the Apartheid system of South Africa. He had a dream to live for; to see his people live freely in their own country.
While most Aspies or high-functioning autism spectrum individuals will never live under conditions as dire as these, it is encouraging to know that interior intellectual lives have meaning and value.
It is important to learn to cope socially, to hone our social skills to the point where we can move freely in our societies with confidence. However, nurturing that rich interior life can help move us through periods of suffering.
Frankl says also that people who had an unfinished work that only they could complete, people who had a dream to fulfil, and people who had someone else (a loved one) to live for, also found reason to endure.
Frankl notes that unavoidable suffering gives a person a unique opportunity to express his finer self in how he/she manages or bears his suffering.
Please note that Frankl is speaking of unavoidable suffering. To suffer when it is avoidable, Frankl maintains, is mere masochism.
Being praised for being smart can unwittingly lead bright kids to a downward learning spiral.
So says Mary Loftus in an April 2013 Psychology Today article; Smooth Encounters.
Loftus suggests kids who are told they are bright may not put in as much effort, thinking things should come naturally to them.
This can lead to poor results which can make them doubt their ability.
Praise effort, Loftus suggests. Praising the work leading up to the brilliant report or impressive project is often more helpful for the child seeking reassurance. Praise persistence. Praise performance. Remind the child of obstacles overcome.
This kind of praise leads to intellectual and social success.
It’s SMALL. Bytes of conversation as opposed to megabytes or gigabytes.
Keeping it short and impersonal can be challenging when you’re longing to express thoughts and ideas you have harboured inside yourself for so long that they are bursting to come out. But you must manage your conversations, especially when you are first meeting someone.
Remember: Bytes. Little. Little bits of conversation.
When you are first introduced to someone? This is not the time to tell them about your fascination with engineering systems, national infrastructure or energetic reactions. Save those conversations for networking meetings or gatherings of people with similar interests.
Socially? Small talk is for when you first meet someone. It’s a time to establish a safe conversational zone for both you and the person who is the object of your conversation.
Topics? The weather. Recent outings or vacations. Current events. Popular movies.
If the other person takes you deeper into their personal life, political or religious persuasion, fine, let them go on.
But rein yourself in. Keep your conversation pleasant, interested and attentive. Excuse yourself politely if you feel you must escape them.
I was born with Asperger’s so I had markedly different ideas and behaviours from the average girl, and definitely from my mother and father.
In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen, I talk a lot about the lack of relationship between myself and my parents. That sense of disconnection, the feeling that I was some sort of interloper.
At the time, in my teens, I thought Mom’s ideal daughter would have enjoyed sewing, crocheting, baking bread with her, and sharing her enthusiasm for Woman’s Day magazine. I was into classical music, movies like Lawrence of Arabia, poetry, Shakespeare and boys.
Was I right about Mom? I’m not so sure.
My mother’s house was always dusty, rather untidy. She went out to work, you see, when few mothers did, straining in the steaming heat of the Empress Laundry or cleaning low-rent motel rooms.
Once you’ve been out to work, you’ll never want to stay home again, she told me in a rare moment of mother-daughter confidence.
And of course the housework had to be done by someone. And as the eldest daughter by nearly eight years, naturally that lot fell to me and to my grandmother. I talk about that in Unforgiving, too. About how I just took these duties for granted.
What did Mom want? Just a daughter who didn’t talk so loud? Who didn’t speak out of turn? Who could get a job and keep it?
The truth is, I will never know. Relationships are complicated.
Deeper into my adulthood, Mom and I came a little closer. When she got Alzheimer’s? After Dad died she came to live with us.
Goodnight, Mom, she’d say as I tucked her into bed.
She had forgotten I was her daughter. All she knew was that I was someone who lovingly tucked her in at night.
Maybe that’s all we needed to know about each other.
In case you think I’m writing this blog from a position of perfection, you should know: it ain’t necessarily so.
Once on a road trip with my daughter? She was singing along to some CD’s she brought. I think she has a pretty voice. She loves to sing. But like me? She has a little problem with keeping on tune.
No big deal. But she sings in a band. So I said, in a very motherly way, if she would take singing lessons? I would pay for them.
She wrote a whole blog about that.
If you don’t think I was out of line? You probably have Asperger’s too.
Another time, I went to visit my other daughter, who at that time was a single mom. There were a number of issues I wanted to discuss with her, so I made a list. And pulled it out and started on number one.
She laughed so hard she nearly fell over. That is so YOU, Mom. A list of what to talk about!
Just thought you’d like to know—both girls still love me, still include me in their lives, and are only a phone call away when I need anything.
But don’t think the author of this blog has come to perfect her social relationships. I do research so that we can learn together.