Highly gifted but socially isolated Asperger's teen-aged son

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Bocamom
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23 Jun 2009, 9:32 am

Looking for others who can relate and share support/possible solutions regarding my Aspie son. He's HIGHLY gifted academically, almost 16, will continue science magnet program in 10th grade (4 AP classes), above-average looks, perfect speech patterns — but terribly socially isolated. While he claims it's by choice, he's lamented his situation on occasion, and moreover, has stated his desire for a girlfriend for more than a year. :( I don't see that happening any time soon (nor does he, realistically) since he doesn't communicate with virtually ANY peers outside of school, at best maybe a couple of rotating pals, if that. Typical of AS, he's exceptionally awkward -- and/or just appears disconnected -- when he does enter social situations. At home, he's a pleasant, low-key kid who has zero interest in e-mailing, texting or phoning anyone. Every interest, from computers to reading, science, building, political humor, comedy, and educational television, he pursues solo. Obviously, the days of mom arranging play dates are long over. (Many former chums are now outgoing teens who’ve drifted away from my son.) He can be warm and engaging with some family members and others -- mostly adults or younger kids -- so he seems to "have it in him" IF he feels a total comfort level. He plans to join several clubs at school next term (mostly academic and community service), but even in small student groups involving common interests, he appears truly lost socially. I haven't found any like situations in the Boca (FL) area, just one Asperger's group that drew mostly teens with learning/behavioral disorders. I'm assuming he'll find a niche in college (hopefully by graduate school!! ! ), but we have 3 years to go. Three years to help and prepare this sweet young man! Again, I'd love to network with others in similar situations -- parents, older Aspie students themselves, or anyone who knows this type of teen-ager. :D



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23 Jun 2009, 9:46 am

He sounds like a doll. I'm not sure how this would work with an older kid but my 12 year old and I role play. Alex is also very shy with kids his own age so we go over what to do deal with diffrent things he comes across when dealing with other kids. Clubs are a great idea I hope this works for him. Alex found scouting helped him a great deal to make friends with other kids about his age not that this would be a big help dating ad they don't mix the kids until 19 or 20 I think in venture scouts. I hope this helps alittle best of luck :)



Darrenj777
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23 Jun 2009, 9:55 am

Bocamom wrote:
He can be warm and engaging with some family members and others -- mostly adults or younger kids -- so he seems to "have it in him" IF he feels a total comfort level. :D


i was abit like that, prehaps he may find it easier to have older friends or even younger friends. when your 16 the social stuff really kicks in and its seems very cut throat, cynical and judging... i found it easier as older people compensated for me and my 16 peers were very harsh.



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23 Jun 2009, 10:20 am

I've had similar problems (have no idea if they will continue in college) :?. I personally went with hanging around the social odd balls or new kids in school (I still never call people & rarely e-mail though, by choice). He could join a club or something in school, get a job, etc. But you should just ask him if & what he wants and help him find a way to get that. Help him learn to socialize if he wants to & I would leave him be if he gets enough socialization by his own standards. :)


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DonkeyBuster
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23 Jun 2009, 12:02 pm

I didn't socialize hardly at all in high school, outside my special interest group (horse showing). Even in college, I hung out with just a few folks in my department, but we spent hours and hours solving all the world's problems (too bad the president never called... 8) ).
Sure, sometimes --for an evening or so--I'd agonize about why I wasn't more popular... probably hormone surges... and then I'd get involved in my interests again and the heartache would be over. What's adolescence without a little angst?

I gradually became more proficient at the small talk that is required for meeting new people, but even now new groups are difficult for me... I usually just wait for someone to introduce themselves to me and start talking.

Frankly, I wouldn't worry about it too much. If he is willing to join groups concerning his special interests, he's "putting himself in the way" of social interaction in a way that gives him a ready-made connection with the others. I think that gradually, in his own way and time, he'll adopt a public persona that will serve and is comfortable for him, especially as he has an awareness of needing a script to work with.

Often, it's more the idea of romance than the actual reality that is appealing... I'd look around and think "Eww, I can't imagine kissing any of these people." And the angst would resolve itself. LOL

I've had many partners over the years, and now I've been in the same relationship for 9 years.

I think your son sounds like he'll be fine.



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23 Jun 2009, 6:35 pm

Unless he starts making a big problem about it, I wouldnt worry too much. Everybody wants to be popular every now and then, and the desire for a girlfriend is more likely hormones then a outgoing personality. I would just let him be. When he wants to socialize, he can.

Although, I would suggest encouraging him to try some online computer games. There is a wide variety to chose from. There is real time strategy games, where in you are the commander of an army. You gather resources, use resources to build an army, attack with the army, defend from your opponent, etc. Here is a video if you arent familiar with the game type:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tCOEyvL ... =rec-HM-r2

The only problem is that RTS games have fallen out of favor lately, they arent as popular as they used to be. But you can still go find a good game of them. And of course you can chat with other players about the game and what units they like etc.

Option #2 is the more classic shooting game. Games like Team Fortress 2 are a lot of fun. You basically go around fragging other people and having fun. And of course you can talk with the other players.

Option #3 is called MMORPGs, these are games like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy 11 (my favorite) and Eve-online. These games have 1000s of people playing online interacting with each other in a virtual environment. You can join with other people, go complete quests, level up, get rare items, etc. I really enjoy these games myself, and have been playing Final Fantasy 11 for almost 5 years now. And of course since you team up with other people to complete quests, it is a great way to talk with and be sociable with other people.



DonkeyBuster
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23 Jun 2009, 6:57 pm

And I'd recommend he stay away from computer games... if he has any face-to-face skills he needs to continue to develop them, not disappear into a fantasy world online. Sorry, that's not useful socializing, IMO. You're not learning anything about meeting someone's eyes, how to handle your body during a conversation, becoming familiar with the ebb and flow of conversation, learning how to do the small talk, not monopolize the conversation, and read body language.

We may not be born knowing this stuff, but we can sure learn a lot of it, but only face-to-face with real live human beings.

Gaming is fine for some sense of connection, but as a way to actually develop social skills,... lets just say the guys I've met in their 20's who game a lot are still as inept as when they were in high school. And a guy who's 30 and all he can talk about is gaming... he's not attractive to any intelligent person who wants more in a relationship than waiting for the next software upgrade.

Keep him away from gaming, IMO. Because of its addictive nature for many Aspies, it will take time and interest away from real live life.

Now watch what happens.... let the flames begin... :twisted:



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23 Jun 2009, 7:33 pm

Hello donkey buster.

I dont mean to quibble, but if your age is correct then I am going to assume that you didnt play online video games as a teenager. So, as such you may not have a full understanding of all the benefits. I have heard many people in their 40s and 50s (including my parents) say 'playing video games is bad for you! Go outside and talk to real people! Your never going to accomplish anything by sitting there staring at a box'. So, you aren't alone in your opinion.

But unfortunately, people like yourself do not have the knowledge of people like me, because I have actually done what I am suggesting and know full well the outcome. Your just looking at it from the outside and making assumptions about what is really going on, and I am afraid you are assuming incorrectly. Not because you are a bad person or anything like that, you just lack the first hand experience.



DonkeyBuster
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23 Jun 2009, 8:34 pm

I spend plenty of time on the computer, not gaming but chatting on lots of forums besides this one. I enjoy it. And I can get totally sucked into it and neglect what's right outside my front door... heck, the very person I live with.

And it is a whole different ball game than face to face. Much safer, much less stressful, and you don't run into the folks you've offended at the grocery store.



Michjo
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23 Jun 2009, 8:35 pm

If i didn't talk to peope online, if i didn't play online computer games, then i wouldn't talk to people. It's all well and good painting online games as the wrong direction to go, but you must consider what is good for the individual. My computer has not turnt me into an asocial person with no comminicative skills, my autism done that a long time ago. Infact, if it wasn't for my computer, i'd be even worse socially, hopefully one day my computer will get me to the stage where i can go outside and approach people.



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23 Jun 2009, 9:10 pm

DonkeyBuster wrote:
I spend plenty of time on the computer, not gaming but chatting on lots of forums besides this one. I enjoy it. And I can get totally sucked into it and neglect what's right outside my front door... heck, the very person I live with.

And it is a whole different ball game than face to face. Much safer, much less stressful, and you don't run into the folks you've offended at the grocery store.


And this is a bad thing? I mean what is wrong with being in a safe, low stress, environment? Of course any activity can be problematic if taken to the extreme to the exclusion of things like work and sleep. But simply playing computer games in your free time? How is that a problem?



Katie_WPG
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23 Jun 2009, 11:48 pm

I echo the sentiments of most of the posters here.

I would leave it be for now. Your son sounds quite a bit like I was at that age, and I had very few friends at that age. People were civil to me, I was civil to them. But I wasn't quite ready for in-depth social initiation yet. It took some practice with people that initiated with me before I opened up to people.

The fact that he wants to get out and meet more people at age 16/17 is a good sign. It took me a bit longer (spurts in the first couple of years of University, seeking got more intense in my fourth and fifth years) until I really tried to meet large amounts of new people in my peer group (unless you count a brief flirtation with meeting local online friends, which netted four steady friends for me :) ).

I kind of wished I tried a bit harder to meet friends in high school. Many of my middle school friends just kind of drifted (for good reasons though :x ).

But I would agree with the decision not to put him in social skills programs. Sometimes, a lot of those programs focus more on manners and basic appropriate behaviour rather than trying to make friends. Especially if most of the teens there have additional disorders or disabilities. It may hit his self-esteem harder than it has to be hit.



TheKingsRaven
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24 Jun 2009, 2:49 am

For computer games I'd try to look for one that encourages people to work as a team, you could do worse than demigod: most maches I've played don't have any real communication but even then people tend to work together somewhat. Games where people actually do coordinate together are really fun.