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Advice On Autism And Teens From An Adult On The Autism Spectrum
Advice on autism and teens from an adult on the autism spectrum
Lisa Jo Rudy
School is a tough place for teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). In junior and senior high school, conformity is valued. But for people with autism, social conformity is extraordinarily difficult to achieve. Junior and senior high school also require tremendous flexibility, as students move from space to space, subject to subject, teacher to teacher. Since people with autism tend to prefer consistency to change, this, too, can be difficult to manage.
Robyn Steward is a young adult with Asperger syndrome. She lives in London, and is a trainer and mentor working with teens and parents who are coping with autism spectrum disorders. Robyn's experience may be both helpful and inspiring to parents and to teens with Asperger syndrome.
Here's how Robyn describes her own teen and young adult experiences:
I was essentially asked politely to leave school, because I spent so much time out of classes since I refused to be called names by the other children. I had no real friends at school apart from the IT teacher and no friends at home. I just assumed I'd never have friends or get anywhere because I felt that was what the teachers were saying. and because I got bad grades and struggled being organized.
But when I went to college things changed. Suddenly I did get good grades. I made friends and became organized. I’m almost 22 and still don’t fit in, but I have my own place in the world.
I believe that everyone can find their own place and they may do that aged 12 or aged 99. The best thing you can do is be there for them, because they will have to find their own path, because only one path is "them-shaped," just as only one path is "Robyn-shaped" and nothing can change that.
Parents raising a teen with Asperger syndrome may have a tough time helping their child find that "them-shaped" path. Here's Robyn's advice:
At school, most teens want to fit in, but sometimes they just don’t. I was one of those teens, now I've found my feet in London (UK) as a trainer and mentor. I train people who work with those with an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and I also mentor young people with ASD’s. So I come into contact with a lot of people, not just those with ASDs but their families, teachers and supporters. Most of the young people I work with have a common problem: they are "them-shaped" and that often means they don’t fit in anywhere at school.
It can be easy to say this will be better when you're older but this doesn’t solve the immediate problem.
One of my mentees said to me recently, “I’m almost normal now,” and this is very sad indeed, because you cannot become "unautistic." You can change behaviors, but unless you actually do someone harm, such change can sometimes be a bad thing.
Of course, I'm not saying that a behavior like smearing excrement on the walls could possibly be a good thing; that’s one behavior that clearly ...
Aspergers And Imagination
Aspergers and Imagination
It is a gross misconception that people with Aspergers have no imagination. A great number of writers, directors, artists, more inventive engineers are on the spectrum. I personally know hundreds, through the course of my work, and through the many unknown but super-talented readers and Facebook friends I have that are Aspies (people with Aspergers). Psychologists who have observed kids with AS have labeled them as unimaginative, simply because they were not playing as society expects to see children play and have subsequently misunderstood what they've observed. I am not a clinician, but I can give you examples from my own life that refute this belief, and I know from talking to others that many Aspergians with vivid imaginations have shared this type of experience.
I didn't like dolls very much when I was little. They were big, awkward, and lacked realistic body parts. They didn't move, they didn't speak, or if they did, speech was limited. I much preferred Barbies, if they were the more modern rubbery kind. (The early ones were hard plastic.) But most of all, I liked making up stories. In my mind, I could create vast epic films that were three dimensional, had real characters that I could control, but that took on a life of their own. I could fly, gallop on horseback, perform magic spells, whatever I wanted. In my childhood,
I starred in more movies than Anjelina Jolie...and most nights couldn't wait to climb into bed so I could lie in the dark and do this undistracted by other people and their chatter, which to me often sounded like it was about nothing. (And still does, truth be told). This was from the earliest age I can remember, and before I was able to speak.
Coloring between the lines of a coloring book is pretty banal in comparison, don't you think? If I'd had the money and the connections, or supportive parents and teachers, perhaps I'd have become a Spielberg of sorts, but my creativity was thwarted...