Can people with Aspergers still be social?
My son is 16 and has been diagnosed with Aspergers in the past. He is now seeing a new psychiatrist who says there is no way he can have Aspergers because he can be social at school (even though all he wants to do at home is play on a computer game called Runescape and do nothing with others). He thinks my son has Intermittent Explosive Disorder because he get very angry and upset if things don't go his way (like he has to get off the computer). So, basically, this doctor is saying that is my son really has Aspergers he wouldn't be able to "fake" being friendly to other kids at school.
What do you all think of this? The doctor seems to think I am clueless and I would love to set him straight!
Joined: 3 Feb 2006
Location: Ohio, USA
The doctor's the one who's clueless! At sixteen, your son has most likely learned a lot about social interaction. If he was diagnosed with AS, I'm going to assume no speech delay, no developmental delay. Plus, he's had sixteen years in which to study the neurotypicals and learn how to communicate with them. That's a pretty intensive course of training. Chances are he can interact at a casual level, have a conversation, answer and ask questions, get information, probably make friends.
Transitions often do trigger meltdowns in Aspie teens. Having to get off the computer, stop doing something you really enjoy, especially with no warning--that can be really jarring. Often takes me anywhere from two to six hours to manage it...
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Joined: 25 Apr 2010
Location: Fairmont, WV
Can his doctor be sure that your son is being social? Is it possible that he is just TRYING to be social? Unless his doctor is following him around daily, I doubt he can make that distinction. Many teenagers with AS are embarrassed by their inablility to make and keep friends during a time when it is vitally important. In other words, it is the socializing that is probably being faked.
If he has friends, is he chatting with any of them on the phone at home? Does he go to their homes? Do any come to visit him? Does he actively participate in group activities and go to parties? At 16, he should be developing romantic interests; has he dated girls?
If your son is being social, then it needs to be defined somehow and actually, the answer to ALL the above questions should be "yes," at least once in a while. But if you can definitely answer no, especially to more than one, then I don't think there is any reason to just throw out his Asperger's diagnosis, especially when displaying anger when a routine is broken IS Aspergian.
Edit: P.S. I concur with Callista; the doctor is clueless.
"If you can't call someone else an idiot, then you are obviously not very good at what you do."
Joined: 12 Sep 2010
Location: Dallas, Texas
I used to think I had friends in school, but that was before I fully understood what friendship was. I would tell my parents I had friends but they were really just classmates. I never did anything with them outside of school. I didn't really talk about anything besides school work with them.... or animals.
Thank you all for writing! I felt like I was a complete idiot with this doctor! I did ask the doctor, "If you think my son has Intermittent Explosive Disorder, then how he is able to control that at school". The doctor had nothing to say then! The doctor told me that my son said he had plenty of friends and that he played football with them and hung out with friends. When I told the doctor that never happened, he looked at me like I was a liar!
Today, my son, who is out of school for the holidays, played on Runescape on the computer from 9 am until 9 pm, when I finally made him get off the computer. He never does anything with anyone! Getting him to come to his grandma's house to open presents was an ordeal!
So, how do I help my son with transitions?
The doctor put him on Geodon to help with the anger, though I'm not sure it's doing too much.
Thank you all for writing! It helps to know I am not alone.
Joined: 17 Jul 2004
Location: In a quiet and peaceful garden, where gentle Mick Avory-like Sweet Peas grow.
I'm a very social aspie, and I have a lot to say.
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Joined: 19 Sep 2010
Joined: 25 Nov 2010
So, how do I help my son with transitions?
Joined: 3 Jun 2010
Having Asperger's does not mean you cannot be social, it means that you may have difficulty with social interaction and that you might have a preference for being alone. I can be social but it takes a lot of effort; this is the same for my 15 year old son.
I work at a job where there are days that I have to lead or be in meetings for most of the day. On those days, I am exhausted from the effort required, I need downtime that evening. My son is the same, after a day at school, he is tired and spends the evening quietly at home with my husband and myself. It is rare for him to go out or want to go out.
Other people I work with can go out and be social with friends on a workday evening and actually seem to need this and be energized by the social activity.
Since December 22nd, my 15 year old has barely been out of the house, he has been quite happy to spend his time with family and playing video games. If he has been in contact with friends, it hasn't been by phone.
It bothers me that there are professionals out there who really seem to have no idea of ASD's.
Joined: 25 Dec 2010
Location: Apache Junction, Arizona
Being social depends a lot on being comfortable. I'd bet that he'd be plenty social with someone interested in the game he plays for 12 hours straight. It's hard to be social when you have limited interests and few people want to hear about them. Growing up with AS is no picnic. I'm not familiar with that game but he may be 'social' within that game; just not verbally. Pressure on him to be social will have the opposite effect - he'll likely clam up completely if he's pressured.
If he's like me then highly emotional situations (like being hassled about not being social) will make him want to seek refuge to recharge. There are few things more unsettling (at least for me) than having to face that the world doesn't like the kind of person I am and that I must learn to be 'fake' to fit in without enduring ridicule and abuse. In my case I spent hours every day working with computers, dabbling in electronics, and other technical things. I met girls at school and it was enough motivation to make me want to try to fit in more. The 'right' girls worked out fine. I've had a few major relationships and have been in this one for 17 years - married for 10. So don't give up hope; he just needs the right motivation and environment to make it happen. The best you can do is to help him not lose hope; there is someone out there that will love him just the way he is.
When he turns 18 see if you can convince him to join Toastmasters - it helped me A LOT.
There may even be a Toastmasters youth leadership program at his school he could start on now.
Joined: 1 Dec 2010
Location: Kelowna, Canada
My son 13 is plenty social with his online friends when they have games in common. Otherwise he does not fit into social circles and has great difficulty although he has told the psychiatrist that he does have friends outside. I think it is embarrasement and realizing they are experiencing life differently and since the doctor is effectively a 'stranger' perhaps he thought no one would be any the wiser...
The psychiatrist recently said my son had Oppositional Defiant Disorder because of his anger and frustration. It's best to give your son as much notice as possible on what the family schedule will be, I try to talk about ours the night before and will probably repeat it the next morning and sometimes he will still forget what we are doing. If you are leaving the house perhaps remind him 30-60 minutes before that you need his cooperation to get ready. Same for the games or game systems give him warning ahead of time, some parents use a timer, someone said recently (may have been here) there is one that can be downloaded from the Internet that pops up on their screen to remind them so it's just not you. Does this eradicate everything, no, but it really helps.
It might also help to explain what is expected of him in social settings such as visits to relatives and give him an idea of how long it will last etc. as he will want to know, or it will be on his mind, when can he return to his interests i.e. his games.
Check if there are perhaps any local groups for building 'social skills' in your area. I have none here so I am looking at starting one to help build social skills and also provide a place for AS teenager to socialize.
Joined: 11 Apr 2010
Location: emerald city
intermittent explosive disorder? is that a real disorder?
it sounds kind of hocus-pocusy. and it sounds like you know your son much better than the doctor and probably know more about AS as well.
Now a penguin may look very strange in a living room, but a living room looks very strange to a penguin.
Joined: 11 Oct 2010
I was social as a teen an there's no doubt about my AS dx. I just socialized with other kids who didn't fit in with the mainstream cliques but my high school was a big one, so it worked out well for me. I had lots of friends, and a wide variety of friends,. It was a good experience. As an adult I can be social--I just have some limitations, like I find new social situation more stressful so I can't stay at them as long, I need to let myself properly prepare mentally and emotionally for new social situations and I try to engage is smaller social groups that are easier for me to navigate. if I respect my limitations, Ii can socialize and enjoy it easily.
I would suggest you get another therapist for your son, and he sounds like he never meet someone with AS before and has only read it from a book. Your son doesn't need this confusion.
I have to wonder from your description if your son has executive function disorder, a frontal lobe disorder common with AS. Among its symptom is difficulty regulating and overriding negative emotion like irritation and frustration, and difficulty transitioning from one task to another, like getting off the computer and doing homework.
Here's a list of common symptoms of EFD from this website: http://home.comcast.net/~kskkight/EFD.htm
* Have the sense that things either happen or don’t, little awareness of process
* Have difficulty getting started on tasks, and shifting between them
* Tend to live in the current moment “I know that now, but when I get to school it feels different”
* Are unable to effectively reflect on past experience to plan for the future, thus common discipline measures, like incentives and consequences, produce little change in behavior
* May continue to use the same strategy to solve a life problem, even when it has already proven ineffective
* May vacillate from impulsivity to rigidity, often with rising anxiety over things not turning out right
* Have difficulty adapting to change
* Rarely matches a strategy to a problem before trying to solve it
* Have low self-esteem and tend to be both unrealistic about their abilities, and very sensitive to critique
* Have difficulty overriding an emotion in order to behave appropriately or positively in a situation
* Have very low tolerance for failure or frustration. Will quit rather than try another approach, even when one is suggested.
* Tend to believe that accepting suggestions or help indicates weakness.
* Tend to locate the source of their troubles outside their control.
* Will skip steps in a procedure and be baffled about the reason an expected outcome was not reached.
* Have difficulty putting a sequence of steps in order, or even realizing that there are sub-goals to be accomplished on the way to the finish.
* Believe they either know something or don’t, have little faith in effort.
* Have difficulty shifting perspectives
* Need prompting to consider the feelings or views of others
* Fail to see the big picture, or the connections between details “Just when I get good at what my teachers ask me to do, they give me something new that I am no good at doing!”
* See only the big picture, missing the trees for the forest.
If your son has EFD, he needs to learn coping skills. A good therapist who respects his AS dx can help him with that.
Good luck. And please, consider getting your son a new therapist. Geodon is awful stuff, really awful side effects and frequently not effective. My mother is a psych nurse of 35+ years and she has horror stories about kids on geodon. Definitely get a second opinion on that.
Don't beat yourself up about this--you should be able to trust a licensed doctor to know what he/she is doing. It's not your fault if this doctor is ignorant of AS.
Last edited by Mercurial on 29 Dec 2010, 1:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
Joined: 11 Oct 2010
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