Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Aspie Only Wants to Be Left Alone (That's What You Think Anyway)

Your young Aspie may seem content to sit in front of the computer, but in my experience it is simply a surrogate for genuine socialization, and while Aspies may tend to be more secluded indoors and in front of a glowing screen, it is usually those very same individuals who yearn the most for social interaction with real people. This may seem counterintuitive but the front they put forth tends to be an acquired reaction after so many years of rejection and even verbal abuse causing them to slink back into the depths of loneliness. Aspies, of course, enjoy their solitude and alone time, but they ultimately want to share their myriad thoughts and ideas with others, tho perhaps only on a limited or one-on-one basis. All humans crave affection and attention in some form or another, so if you realize that they are finding this attention in non-physical engagements online then you can see that the reason they are spending so much time communicating with others in the virtual world is because they are lacking that in the real one. I'd bet if you studied their internet usage you would see that they are not "alone" at all, meaning simply playing games or surfing web sites only reading information, but more likely they are in chats, on forums, Facebook and the like, all places where they are, you guessed it, interacting with other people! Don’t limit your mind to what at first seems the most apparent or what others tell you, but dig a little deeper and I am certain that you will both be the happier for it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Aspergers, Sports and Athleticism

Sports can be a difficult at best, and incredibly embarrassing at worst, for many young Aspies. It's proven that most Aspies have difficulty with some degree of motor skill function, basically we're clumsy as hell. I am always dropping things, tripping over sidewalks, stumbling around doorways, misinterpreting gestures, etc., that have all made my ability to participate in group sports all but impossible, no let me be honest with myself and change that to completely impossible.

You want your Aspie to get out and about, to be physically fit and happy. Physical activity is a necessary part of staying mentally healthy as well, your body creates necessary endorphins which can do a lot of the work for you when it comes to finding ways to keep your Aspie happy and cheery.

OK so we know basketball and soccer are out, maybe the same for track sports. If you truly find that your Aspie has no true athletic interest or ability consider some of these options:
  • Play frisbee in the park. This involves some coordination building activity and lots of running around chasing the disc they will inevitably miss. 
  • Croquet is less intensive for hotter days or those with no interest in exertion, but it keeps their focus and gets them out in the sun, wind and air for a bit. A good starting point.
  • Badminton is excellent because it is one of the more physically demanding of the "lesser sports" but also great fun, with lots of running, eye-on-the-birdie coordination building, laughs and conversation. I can play this game for hours.
  • Horseshoes are fun and simple, actually keeps some tone in upper arms and body and demands focus and problem solving which Aspies tend to enjoy. They need to figure out the best way to hold the shoe, the best type of toss, take winds into account for how much force they need to put behind each toss, etc. 
  • Kite flying is another good one especially if you buy a kit that requires the kite to be built first. This engages family time, your Aspies love of engineering and mechanics, and then he has the payoff of hours of fun while figuring out how to get the kite airborn, keeping it aloft and eventually how to do tricks. You may need to guide him on each step, he may give up after having it in the air for only a few minutes thinking this is the end goal until you show him that he can execute dips, dives and flyby's with the new toy.
  • Swimming is by far the ultimate activity for many Aspies. It is among the best forms of exercise (for anyone), is easy on the body, and you can bring in so many different elements to the scenario from pool games ranging from Marco Polo to Water Polo, toys, contests like races with a friend from one point to another, and the ability to explore surroundings at natural areas like ponds, lakes and rivers due to the small creatures that abound in those environments. Be sure to remember sunscreen for your Aspie's sensitive skin, and yours too!
Get off this computer, get outside, get active and have fun with your family today!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Integrate, Don't Eliminate; Aspergers is Something to Embrace, Not Overcome

I always hear people talk about "our battle with Aspergers" or some other phrasing that makes me believe that a lot of people don't really have a full understanding of what Aspergers is all about. Aspergers is a very unique and special gift that can be nurtured, as I have told young Aspies before, it's almost like a super power. You don't know what it can do just yet, but as you get older you will learn ways to develop your "powers" meaning special skills.

If you're a parent that spends all your time and energy trying to overcome Aspergers, let me tell you, you're fighting a losing battle, Aspergers is something you should work to embrace, not try to do battle with. Remember this phrase when things get hectic... Integrate, don't Eliminate.

Look at the facts in your life, after all, that's what your Aspie is doing. :

  • If someone you love has Aspergers, it's not going away. 
  • While there are areas where you can modify behavior to better suit etiquette or social interaction, it is unfair to think you need to bend your Aspie towards all social norms, it's not fair to him. He has just as much right to live life as he wants as anyone else does theirs, sometimes other people need to change to suit him.
  • Choose the path of least resistance, it's not just for physics anymore! Why fight to change something that may be trivial in the long term? You may get so caught up in an action or behavior that you haven't really taken the time to consider if it even needs to change. How does this action affect you or other people? How will it affect you negatively in a year from now or five years? If you can look at it subjectively and realize that it's not a big deal, let it go, which leads us to the next point...
  • Let it go! Sometimes, even when you know you're right, just the act of letting something go can be cathartic for everyone involved. Choose your battles, you aren't surrendering, but maybe putting it off for another day, maybe when your Aspie is older or has more social experience under his belt. 

Summer Can Be a Source of Depression, Anger and Grief for Young Aspies

Summer break from school is supposed to be the time when memories are made for kids and teens, but for young Aspies, it can become one of the most difficult periods of their lives. Let's figure out why.

You already know that many Aspies are introverts, or perhaps even the opposite, they love people, but just have a hard time figuring out how to make friends because they are either socially awkward or shy. They may see their friends running off together to the local pool or beach, going to the movies, road trips and all sorts of other rites of summer but be left out of the group for whatever reason. This can, rightly so, lead to sadness, depression, and even in extreme circumstances thoughts of suicide, anger or harm to others.

One solution I recommend is to try to find ways to get your Aspie outdoors and engaging with other people in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable. Does your Aspie like cars or airplanes? Consider a trip to an air show or auto museum. Local car shows happen throughout the summer in many places. Is he an aspiring Picasso or Rembrandt? Find events at the local art museum or art festivals, even farmer's markets often have artist's displaying their wares. Whatever their interest, there are usually gatherings and contests for most of them and in these situations your Aspie can feel free to "nerd out" with other attendees as much as he likes, since devotees tend to love the minutiae of their chosen hobby or art.These subtle interactions may not pay off immediately, but you have at least opened the door to more social interactions and he will feel more comfortable speaking with like-minded strangers.

Family gatherings can be a great way to keep him involved socially. Hopefully, your relatives are familiar with your little guy's idiosyncrasies and unique self, so he will already be comfortable around specific cousins, aunts, uncles and so on. Host BBQ's, pool parties or get-togethers just so he has company and can interact like everyone else is. Growing up, this was a source of security and safety, I always loved being around people I knew I could just be myself with. If you encourage the other cousins his age to bring their friends, it can often lead to new friendships as well.

Looking towards the end of summer break is another consideration, in that your Aspie may have gotten in a rut or have conditioned himself to being alone and indoors all summer which will make reacquiring the skills needed to socialize at school all the more difficult, almost like hitting the reset button each and every new school year. Do yourself and your Aspie a favor by keeping him socially engaged throughout the summer so you both have less work to do when school starts back up.

Welcome to Aspie Art

This is an extension of what started off as a project to help promote artists of all ages who are lucky enough to have Aspergers. That's right, I said lucky because to me, it is a gift and one that I would not surrender for any reason. I LOVE that I was born this way. I would also love for nothing else than for other Asps (I use this term affectionately and interchangeably with "Aspie") to feel the same way about their unique and beautiful gift. I welcome questions and comments, and the comments are open to anyone. Please be respectful, that's the only rule here. Let's get this show on the road...