Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shedding Light on Why I Write (I'm a Poet!)

I began, and continue this blog as a means for my son and others with similar social communications problems to better understand some of the nuances of life in a social context.

The “why” of creating the goal is much more difficult to put in a public forum. This little blog is not only open to my son for reading, but I want him to read it; I want him to learn all the little things that are second nature to everyone else; I want him to know that he is smart and strong and loved and that there is no doubt in my mind that he will be happy and successful in life. Knowing he might (will?!) read this, how open and honest can I be in revealing my fears?

I fear, for example, that he will continue to struggle to make friends and cultivate relationships with peers, that he might not understand the unspoken guidelines regarding how to get and hold a job upon graduation from college, that this learning difference will hinder him from a having a fulfilling life.

I have written here about the email threads I receive through my membership in AANE, a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources for children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome or similar disabilities. Some I read and breathe a sigh of relief that my son does not have those particular problems, but many – especially those that touch on peer interaction – touch my heart as I see him struggling in a similar plight. Following are short edited excerpts from parents and AS/NLD young adults to illustrate these struggles.

Question: Just wondering if anyone's son has found a long term girlfriend?

Discouraging Responses:

My son… has not had a girlfriend. Not even a date. We tried E-Harmony but it didn’t work out so after the 3 months I discontinued. He is really depressed about not having a girlfriend.

My son is 20, and to date he has never had even a short-term girlfriend, to my knowledge.

… kind of depressing not having a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.

[I worry that] life is passing by.… it is especially frustrating because there is so much [to] enjoy…. afraid of becoming the weird middle-aged guy who lives alone and everyone avoids.

And Encouraging Responses:

Even my NT son is finding the same problem out there in the dating world. He's 6'3", blond, slim - doesn't smoke, doesn't drink and has many interests….He's such a nice guy and so nice looking.

Even "typical" people have trouble finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. I have lovely friends who didn't meet their "true love" until later in life

Our kids…need to build up their self confidence and competence in life. When they feel good about themselves, it will show and they will become more attractive to the opposite sex. We know it's a journey and probably a longer process for our kids. Self confidence is a big issue [as is] willingness to get out there and try something new. …encourage our kids to find things they like (or are willing) to do that involve other people. It doesn't matter if there's an attractive potential mate that the activity. Getting to know people can bring about introductions, and also build self confidence.

…have a friend who is about 55 of 56 who is NT and is just getting married for the first time this July. He is a very nice person, funny, loyal, good job, just an all around nice person but it took this long till he found "miss right" so I use that as my guide for my son when the right one comes it will happen.

On College and Peer Relationships:

He is desperate for social interaction…his train of thought is that his roommate at school would be his best friend...

…thinking of closing his Facebook account because ”what’s the point? No one ever writes on my wall or asks me to be friends.”

[The] opportunity for down time [living at] at home has been a really important contributing factor to [my] confidence and success at college.

[I’m] looking forward to finishing [community college]… so [I] can transfer to a live-in school. …loved college.

If you are reading this and you are neuro-typical, and your children are NT, I hope these short sentiments give you an idea of life on the other side of typical. This is why I write. My son told me fairly recently that there were times during high school that he felt “alone.” Given that he mentioned this while sharing that some of the fellows he had met in a group setting had been pretty horribly bullied, I am glad he did not go through that ordeal. But how much better is it to be ignored?

This summer my son has been out until relatively late several times and I am rejoicing. He has always hit developmental milestones at his own pace, and I hope that this is just another such instance.

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