Advice for sixth grade girl with AS?

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flowermom
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25 Oct 2012, 6:15 pm

I have an eleven year old daughter who was diagnosed with AS at four. She knows about her diagnosis, and is overall a happy child. She does great academically at school and has some nice, close friends.

So the issue is that she has begun to realize there is a difference between her home and school persona. At home she is talkative, has a wicked sense of humor, is fun and silly. At school she is quiet and shy and a follower. I think this comes from watching others so she knows how to act. Lately she has been telling me she is sad because she knows she is not being her true self at school, yet she feels if she shows that true self to others at school they will think she is "weird" - her words.

We have talked a lot about conformity during the middle school years and she feels she does not want to risk standing out or being made fun of. I have no idea how to handle this. Of course, I want her to be herself and feel good about who she is, quirks and all. But, I understand her hesitation, especially during the rough middle school years to stand out.

Has anyone dealt with similar issues. Any advice?



momsparky
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25 Oct 2012, 7:13 pm

I don't know about advice (I have a 6th-grade boy who has never been quiet, he tends more towards class clown to cover up his deficits) but I did like what John Robeson had to say in his book Be Different - basically, he talks about the importance of observing other people to learn the appropriate way to communicate with them.

I think maybe letting your daughter know that there are two very different situations at school and at home, and that most people have a different "home" persona than they do at work or at school - has she ever been to work with you or your spouse? For one, relationships tend to be shallower and for another there are just plain lots more people to deal with and manage.

Does she have friends who can come over and see her "real" personality?



g2
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25 Oct 2012, 7:21 pm

I was there. She is right, she probably will be seen as weird. This means that less people may want to be friends with her. It is much easier to become one of the weird than become one of the normal, I'll give her that from my experience. However, it is a personal choice, and if she feels that she would be happier as herself with only the people who really accept her for who she is as friends, then you should not try to stop her.



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25 Oct 2012, 11:23 pm

I agree with momsparky - almost everyone has different personas that they bring out for different situations. My therapist even helps me identify the one I need to use in certain situations that cause me anxiety (like IEP meetings :))! So you can tell her that while the difference between her home and school personas may be a bit more dramatic than some people's, she isn't alone. You might encourage her to work out a particular "script" for letting her light shine at school in a small way to see if she would be comfortable with it.



ASDMommyASDKid
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26 Oct 2012, 7:56 am

I refused to make that compromise growing up until way later in life, and I think I attracted a lot of problems and grief for it. So actually, I give her a lot of credit for being able to recognize that this is an NT expectation All NTs I have ever known seem to be able to do this seamlessly and automatically. I also give her a lot of credit for being self-aware enough for her to be aware she is doing it, and that it makes her uncomfortable.

I think I agree with the advice of helping her interject a bit of her usual wit into her daily school life. This way she can be comfortable with the affects. As she becomes more comfortable, she is more likely to interject more of "herself" into her school persona, I think. She seems cautious, so hopefully she will know where to stop if she does it gradually enough.

From a moral perspective I am all for the you should be free to be who you are, yada yada yada, but having done it, and knowing the problems that come from it, I am reluctant to recommend it.

It makes me sad to say that, but there you go.



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26 Oct 2012, 7:59 pm

I have a 6th grade son.

We actually had to work together to help him tone it down at school. Maybe tell your daughter that he actually feels better now that he has learned better how to blend in? He has "at home" behavior and "at school" behavior and it isn't about not being true to yourself. It is about being smart enough and skilled enough to learn how to have some control over your interactions with others. Before when he was his quirky, strange little self in full glory for all the world to see, he got picked on, and he felt a bit like he was at the whim of other people. Now that he has learned how to tone it down, he feels more sure of himself and less at the whim of others. It is kind of the opposite of how I thought he would feel.

I bet if my son could talk to your daughter, he'd probably tell her she was lucky to have learned how not to draw negative attention at an earlier age. He'd also probably tell her that she is who she is, no matter how she is acting at any moment, and that it is absolutely OK to be weird.


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Kjas
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26 Oct 2012, 8:17 pm

flowermom wrote:
I have an eleven year old daughter who was diagnosed with AS at four. She knows about her diagnosis, and is overall a happy child. She does great academically at school and has some nice, close friends.

So the issue is that she has begun to realize there is a difference between her home and school persona. At home she is talkative, has a wicked sense of humor, is fun and silly. At school she is quiet and shy and a follower. I think this comes from watching others so she knows how to act. Lately she has been telling me she is sad because she knows she is not being her true self at school, yet she feels if she shows that true self to others at school they will think she is "weird" - her words.

We have talked a lot about conformity during the middle school years and she feels she does not want to risk standing out or being made fun of. I have no idea how to handle this. Of course, I want her to be herself and feel good about who she is, quirks and all. But, I understand her hesitation, especially during the rough middle school years to stand out.

Has anyone dealt with similar issues. Any advice?


Right now, it's probably more important in the long term scheme of things for her to stay in her school persona while at school. I say this, because now and in the coming years (until she graduates high school), the social intricacies are going to get much worse and become much more confusing because so many new rules are going to be introduced. If she stays quiet and stays observing though these years and her high school years, then hopefully she will have a good enough grasp to navigate the social world semi-successfully or better later on in time for college (which will be incredibly important for her to able to do that then).

During college once she has figured out the most important social rules that cannot be broken, she can start to bend the rules she can get away with and let her personality show more and still be accepted for it. But if she starts doing it now, likely she will stop observing so closely and it will impact on how much of her social skills and rules she picks up on. That could be the difference later in life between her navigating college successfully andfinding and holding down a job later in life - and her struggling or being unable to do those things in a consistent manner later in her life.

So in the meantime, I would whole heartedly encourage her to be herself fully at home, not just passive but really active encouragement. She needs to have a place where she feels accepted for who she is, and that is going to have to be at home. Letting or encourageing her to let a little bit show at school probably won't hurt at this point. But the fact that she is aware enough to recongise this now means that she is very perceptive, and probably has a good chance of being successful later in life if she can pick up those rules and mimicking skills now. But definitely talk to her and tell her and let her understand that everyone has different "home" and "school" personas - she needs to understand that, because it will probably go against her nature which is why she feels sad about it..

My choosing to stay quiet like your daughter is was probably the main factor in my ability to go to college successfully and hold down full time employment. The skills I learned by observation and mimicking during those years are what has allowed me to do that. It won't be easy for her, but she has somewhere that she is accepted, which is more than I had.


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OliveOilMom
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27 Oct 2012, 3:42 pm

I was your daughter. Sixth grade was when I met the friends who helped me learn to "act normal". I don't know what to tell you other than to maybe tell her to ask her friends advice.


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Wolfmaster
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28 Oct 2012, 1:04 pm

I honestly just stop caring about how people thought I acted, and just decided to by myself. That has helped tremendously c:



MomofThree1975
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28 Oct 2012, 6:52 pm

I am NT and was painfully shy in JHS. At home, I was more relaxed and had a more out going personality. At that age, I remember being so self conscious about EVERY LITTLE THING that it was best to be shy and blend in. The only thing that made me stand out was academics (I was also a part of the math team). It think it is natural for most people to be themselves with people who know them and love them. When we are out of our comfort zone, most people are more guarded.

Your daughter is pretty observant to notice the different personas that we use, based on the people we are around. Those middle school years are pretty intense. Speaking as a former wall flower, if she is able to "blend in" and get through JHS unscathed, I think she's already ahead of the pack.



analyser23
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28 Oct 2012, 7:09 pm

I am 32yo and am still like this!

I have my "public self" and my "prviate self". I wish I could be my true self in public, but the negative consequences for me outweigh the positives. I show my true self to my best friend, and to my family, partner, and Son, but that is all. I am happy like this.

We need to be able to "act NT" in order to survive in an NT World.

It is good that she is aware of both her "languages".

I also cannot keep up with how to be the "true me" in the NT World. Things go so fast and are always changing... It takes me a bit longer to process all this fast and changing stuff and hence I get more caught up in that and trying to figure out what to do that my "true self" can get left behind a bit. Whereas at home, most things stay the same and/or I am in control of it, so there is more room for my true self.

This might also be what is happening for your daughter?



flowermom
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29 Oct 2012, 6:20 pm

Wow, thank you all so much for the thoughtful responses! I truly appreciate everyone sharing their stories.

My daughter does have a couple of close friends that know and like the "real her" and I point that out to her all the time plus her family who she knows loves her unconditionally.

I think I will let her read this thread and the responses, I hope that is okay. Then have a discussion with her about it.

I know this next section time with middle school and high school will bring a lot of changes. Just want to support my sweet girl as best I can.

Thanks again.