Sunday, June 24, 2012

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.

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