Monday, January 4, 2010

Snakes Make Good Pets

I’ve always known that my son, Corey, lacks social skills. He joined my family when he was twelve years old, and I am sure that his traumatic earlier life as well as his Aspergers contributes to that lack. But it seems to be getting worse. Is that possible or typical for a person who is diagnosed with Aspergers?

Corey is now 17 years old. Although he comes home and talks about his friends at school, I know from other children there that he really doesn’t have any friends. I’m not sure he realizes that often the other students are making fun of him even as they pretend to be his friend for some bullying purpose or another.

No one ever telephones him. He never calls anyone. He is never invited to a party or other outings. Other kids don’t wave or say goodbye as he gets off the school bus each afternoon.

Even around the house and the family he seems to be withdrawing more and more the older he gets.

I’ve fought my school district to provide social skills training – they continue to refuse. I’ve sent Corey to a social skills support group, but after a few visits he doesn’t want to go anymore. If I make him, he will refuse to participate. My older son continues to model appropriate social skills, and goes out of his way to help Corey, but all Corey will do is copy everything Chip does – not because he ‘gets’ the social aspect but because he thinks it makes him ‘cool’ to be like Chip.

I’ve gotten Corey to volunteer during the summer so that he can be around other kids and other adults. He attends the deafblind support group meetings we have at our house and at other locations. But still I see no progress.

Sure, Corey will speak in a group of new people as if he is an expert on a particular subject. He even does so with such an air of confidence that it is almost believable until you realize that the subject on which he is speaking has not even been mentioned by the group he is around.

For example, a group of his high school peers might be talking about the latest movie they all saw. Corey will speak up loudly that snakes make good pets, and will go on to list the reasons why. You can see his peers glance back and forth at each other and soon move away from him.

So, is it typical that the lack of social skills becomes more obvious as a child gets older, or are the lack of skills even getting worse? This is a scary considering that in just over a year, Corey should be moving into the job market. How is he going to be able to get and hold down a job?

He can’t stay home forever, and I feel so bad that I don’t seem to be helping him.


Erin said...

Hey, Deborah.

First off, I'd like to say welcome back! I definitely missed your posts but am thrilled that you enjoyed your 'unplugged' vacation!

Secondly, having grown up with many classmates with Aspergers, I am well versed in the fact that they are some of the most delightful, intelligent individuals I've come across thus far. I know, for one of my friends, one of the ways that we encouraged him to interact with us, was that we picked out some of his favorite things, which was, at the time, computers, and anytime we had a question, we would ask him...and eventually end up laughing with him and striking up a fairly lengthy conversation.

I remember having to work with this same friend in middle school on a project. His mother called me, in a panic, because she was afraid I was scared of her son and frustrated by the things that were happening. In actuality, I understood every single thing my friend was doing, but his mother's explanations of his habits were helpful, to say the least. Maybe try that with Corey's classmates?

Hope you're doing well, and best of luck to you and your beautiful son!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Terri said...

I don't know if you follow this blog, but the guy that writes it offers good insights, I think. He has Asperger's and is in college, his brother has autism and he writes a lot about social skills and such (I have found his insights helpful when considering my son whose issues are different, yet similar in many ways.)

Corrie Howe said...

I don't have answers for you. But I can understand your concern. I'm hoping that you'll discover what works for both you and Corey.

iggy_sent_me said...

As far as your son's social skills go, there isn't really a clear answer. I myself have Asperger's Syndrome and am nearing my 18th birthday. At this point, I have fairly decent social skills, enough to make it in modern society, but I had to go through a lot to reach that point. I'd always had poor social skills, and the older I got, the more it showed. For the longest time any social interaction made me highly uncomfortable. I was afraid of simple commercial transactions, using bathrooms other than the ones in my house, and using the phone. Not only that, even though I had a great desire to get to know people, the constant spurning of my ineptitude eventually caused me to resent everything around me.

By the time I'd reached highschool, I was jaded to the point of hating the world. I thought my life was going nowhere, that nothing I did, whether I enjoyed it or not, mattered at all. School was a nightmare. Even though I was smart, most of my classes were pretty easy, and I only got average grades due to carelessness. I was happiest around my friends, when we'd do social activities together.

The majority of my friends were people I could identify with. People like me, who also had issues or irregularities. We could understand each other, and they wouldn't shun me for being who I am. not only that, but we often shared similar interests. Video games for instance have been, and are, my lifeblood. As such, I gravitated towards people who shared my interests. I also only associated with people who shared common video game interests, that is, the same kind of games I'd played (there's a lot more to video games than blowing up zombies, but not many others saw it that way).

Around my core friends, I could be true to myself, and felt comfortable. That being said, after freshman year, I adamantly refused to continue taking my medication (which essentially turned me into a zombie who could concentrate in school and nothing more), signed up for more difficult classes (which not only felt worthwhile but had much smarter and nicer peers), and tried harder to be both friendly and successful, and now I think I've finally reached that point.

Now, about your son. For people like us, we greatly desire social interaction, but start off unfortunately poor at it. The first step, I think, is to find people who actively share our interests. If such people around school or town are difficult to find (not unusual), the internet may prove a valuable resource. You mentioned that your son likes snakes (I do too, actually). There are plenty of herpetology forums where everyone loves (and I mean LOVES) snakes. For your own reference, the following website is a great resource regarding people with Asperger's Syndrome that you or even your son may find useful. For your son directly, is a social website where autistic and Asperger's people and young people hang out and socialize. People there should prove friendly and like-minded, and will be receptive to your sons personal issues, should he wish to confide. After all, everyone there is like us, too. Confidence is the key to success. (And sorry this is so long... I tend to ramble =P)