Actual reality vs. perceived reality

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JoeDirt
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05 Mar 2013, 4:51 pm

We've been having a hard time with our son lately, and wanted some input from other parents/Aspies on an issue that seems to be getting more common and somewhat more challenging.

As many Aspies do, he has fantasy and reality. He has a stuffed animal that he sleeps with every night that he thinks is real, which is cool with me even- he's my avatar. :)

It seems however that as he gets older, he has a hard time (just about impossible now) of separating reality from fantasy and is getting more adept at arguing it as he gains knowledge that can bolster his case- last night we had a discussion regarding what he thinks was a glowing green rock in the snow hill in the school parking lot. He says he also saw it last year. They have been digging for it for a few days, and he is in the process of "losing friends" because they're saying that he is lying about it, he insists otherwise, and he isn't the best at being, well, subtle during conversation. Without breaking his spirit, we tried for a while to even get him to consider that it could have been a wrapper, ice reflection, or even a rock that may or may not have been real- leaving the door open that it could be real if he found it, which he wouldn't do- it WAS real, and he was vehement that it exists, and came up with reasons how it got there from the bottom of the ocean, where it goes in the summer, and how it gets back there the next year all the way from the floor of the ocean to his particular school's parking lot in Michigan.

With animals and such, he will treat a stuffed animal like a newborn. If it hits the floor, look out. They have real feelings, real birthdays, etc- which honestly, I'm not too put off with for now since he's only 8. (until we spend about $40 for cake, presents, and the rest for a stuffed animal's birthday.) I can look past it though, as I think he will eventually grow out of that level of obsession. I think...

What worries me more are the inanimate objects- like the rock, or the milk crate of chip clips that were one of his stuffed animals' "friends" that lived in his bedroom compete with a toilet paper floor and water dish that he would not let us dismantle after a week or so. (He has since let it go, as he grew disinterested with it)

I've read some great threads about animals, and that isn't the part that challenges me as much as the inability to even listen to a rational explanation about why something may or may not be real depending on his current position... Anyone have some insight or ways to communicate with him that may help us help him cope? We don't want him to alienate his friends in the process, as he doesn't have a lot to start with. He's fairly good in social channels, we want to help him stay that way since he enjoys it so much...

Thanks!



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06 Mar 2013, 1:55 am

Hi! Your post struck a chord with me and I wanted to reply, but I just want to let you know in advance that I'm not sure how helpful my input will be. :lol:

I'd just like to start off by saying that I think it's wonderful how supportive you are of your son and his fantasies, especially of his favorite stuffed Triceratops - wish my parents had been that supportive of my relationships with my plush friends. :D

I'm not sure what to say about the "glowing rock" story, but in re: to his treating his stuffed animals as if they are real - I did that all the time when I was a kid, and still do, to an extent. Although, it's not like when I was very young and would carry one everywhere in my arms and insist that everyone talk to it, provide it with its own place setting/seat, and apologize when they sit down on it/knock it over; no, now that I'm in my 20s, my interactions with my plushies are mostly just sleeping with them, giving them "baths" when they seem like they could use it, and consulting them for advice during those times when there is literally no one else available who would understand what I'm going thru. I have also been known to apologize to them when they fall out of my bed accidentally and greet them with, "Guys, I'm home!" when I walk in my room. :lol:

I think my closest relationship with a plushie was with my stuffed dolphin, Dory, and when I read about your son's stuffed animals, I was immediately reminded of Dory. Dory and I are still really close; I still take her with me, but only in my bag or one of my pockets. I prefer to keep her in the front pocket of my hoodie, bcuz it soothes me to be able to reach in and stroke her tail to keep myself "grounded."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that your son's stuffed animals might always be a part of his life, but the good news is, there are ways to sort of "cut down on" the amount of time spent on caring for the stuffed animals...perhaps when you have to go somewhere that you don't necessarily want the stuffed friend to follow you to, you could try telling your son something like, "I think your Triceratops (Didn't you once say in another post that the Triceratops' name is "Greenie?" :D ) is tired; why don't we let him stay home and take a nap while we go do (xyz) and when we come back, he'll be waiting for you!" or something like that. Or maybe try a compromise -such as, Greenie can come with us, but when we get there, he has to wait in the Car....I remember loving that one Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin has to leave Hobbes in the Car while he goes with his dad to run errands, and before Calvin leaves, Hobbes requests, "Ask your dad if he'll leave the Car running so I can turn on the radio." :lol:

Some more good news is that with the stuffed animals, I don't think you have to worry too much that your son really and truly believes that they are just as real as other human beings are....I think that in the back of his mind, he really does realize that he is just pretending, and I think the same might be true for the "glowing rock..." It's just that when kids are that young, their fantasies can be very, very important to them, and they can "cling" to them fiercely.

I hope some of what I said here was helpful....please keep in mind that I'm not an expert in children, nor do I have any children of my own, so I could be way off here. If I am, I apologize.


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06 Mar 2013, 2:07 am

Since considering others doesn't come naturally to some - perhaps with time, patience and active teaching, he can be taught certain social lessons such as, "people don't like being lied to"?

Active imagination is good, but perhaps teach him to "think like a scientist"... he thinks he saw a glowing rock? Next time, get him to look very carefully... he saw something glowing? Was it actually a rock? Was it something else? Still or moving?
The details are what lead to answers...

Of course, I'm just speculating. My boy's in the same boat but I don't get much parenting time to teach this stuff... I don't think his mom is. :?



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06 Mar 2013, 3:55 am

That Triceratops is awesome! Dinosaurs and prehistory/history were my special interests as a kid.

I don't think it is that uncommon for children that age to have some magical thinking. Maybe it takes apergers longer to grow out of it, as with many other things.
When I was little I also treated some of my toys that way, I was extremely protective of them. Every once in a while one would get lost, and me and my parents had to search until it was back, revisiting all the places I had been before. Again not uncommon for children, maybe lasts longer in asperger children.

If he likes to read, that could be a way to learn more about the distinction between fantasy and reality. Fantasy books such as Harry Potter and The Hobbit are obviously not real. There are also really nice non-fiction books for children, I had some on dinosaurs and other animals and early humans and history.



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06 Mar 2013, 4:34 am

I seriously, seriously wouldn't worry. You son is only 8 years old. My daughter is almost 12, well into puberty and still surrounds herself with special soft toys at night-time that are her favourite characters (special interest), names them, carries them around, gets upset if her dad says anything even slightly negative about them as characters, and has a fantasy world that she has trouble separating from reality (she thinks I can take her to meet fictitious cartoon characters, and she is a highly intelligent and academically capable girl). I can't see that it's doing him any harm. As long he is taught social skills for dealing with real people, and develops an understanding of the difference between the real world and fantasy I think it's not something you should worry about.


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06 Mar 2013, 8:19 am

My daughter is 7yrs and has a diagnosis of Aspergers. What you've said about your son sounds very similar to my daughter. I'm also in the middle of a Facebook conversation, with a group of mums of girls with Aspergers, who are saying very similar things. My daughter was talking about her toys last night. She's been having a hard time at school lately, with other kids constantly asking her about why she loves toys so much. It's really getting to her, so I tried to explain to her that, she thinks her toys have real personalities and that's fine, but other people don't feel the same way. I told her that she was in the minority on that one. She seemed to really accept this. I know she's going to be like this for the foreseeable future. But, I do feel this has a positive side. Her imagination is really cool and I can see her ending up in some sort of creative field, when she gets older. Her homework assignment for this week is based on World Book day. She's to create a character and write a short story about him. I can confirm that she's not struggling with this in the slightest, as she only has to look to the characters she's invented for her toys, for inspiration.

I must add, that I was very like that too. I played with little bean dolls until I was at least 14. In my mind, they all had little lives and personalities, even though I truly knew they didn't have these attributes. The difference with me was that I never spoke to anyone about what was going on in my mind. It was my secret. I've no diagnosis, but a child playing like I did then would now been seen to be 'lining up toys'. I did line them up, but they were my class and I was the teacher, etc. From my mid teen onwards, I no longer felt the need for my other little world of living toys. I still have my own little fantasy world, but it doesn't revolve around toys.


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06 Mar 2013, 8:56 am

It may be a way that your child is learning about people. People have different personalities and are hard to predict. By giving inanimate objects personalities, your child is able to create a virtual laboratory of social interaction. My son does this with imaginary characters in his role play. It may be an important phase for some.



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06 Mar 2013, 11:08 am

We had this at the same age, and were really worried about it, too.

DS (at 12) still feels very strongly about his stuffed animals, although not as strongly as he used to. I think it fills a need for him to have some interaction in his life that doesn't involve constantly adjusting for miscommunication (poor DS, he even has trouble socializing with the dog, even though that is much improved.)

However, the other stuff you describe seems to have faded as he matured. We'd have the same issues of him rigidly insisting something was different from the way it was and making other kids mad as a result.

I think it had more to do with poor pragmatics, a reliance on scripted language, and poor social skills than it actually had to do with him believing something that wasn't true. I think, for him, he was trying to imitate the way he perceived other kids playing - picking something irrational and sticking to it like it was true, rather than everyone agreeing on the parameters of a pretending game and playing as though it is true. I am only guessing, because like I said this kind of resolved itself.

I wish I could tell you whether DS just grew out of it or whether the barrage of pragmatic speech therapy and social skills classes we threw at him at the time this behavior stopped was the answer. Could be either.



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06 Mar 2013, 4:05 pm

Great info, everyone... Thank you!

As I had read before, the comments about his plushies still sounds true, and common. I know Greeny is his favorite, we even had to dress him in clothes since he is starting to fray around the edges and has been fixed numerous times. Actually, Greeny is now wearing a sock "sweater" with leg cutouts, and toddler sock "pants" to keep him safer... :)

[img][800:768]http://i603.photobucket.com/albums/tt116/JoeDirtGR/2013-02-02_11-35-42_17.jpg[/img]

The thought about relying on scripted language is interesting, and I could see poor social skills contributing to it, aside from the thought that he will come up with incredibly complex thoughts to justify in his mind or to us, why something is completely true, and defend it to tears. But, it helps to know that it faded for you also. For now, and no reason not to- we help him with his imaginations with Greeny. His fort in the back yard was painted when we moved into the house, he picked the colors out himself.

If you want to see the dedication we have to Greeny, check my blog post: http://thefivegreenys.blogspot.com/2013 ... plane.html

Or even the blog address... :)

He does for sure create a social laboratory, and I can agree with other posts I've read that one important reason why is that he never is judged by them, right or wrong. However, when I told him that the Greenys (there are 5 of them) were on the floor partying one night when he was asleep, he promptly "grounded" Greeny for one week. And actually followed through with it for about 3-4 days. :D

As for the glowing rock, I can see that we might have some work to help him through that one, but I like the scientist idea. He's a brain, so he would be into that. I'll have to think about how to make that one work. I'd go over and help him look for a bit, but the hill is in a fenced part of the schoolyard.

In all, yesterday they didn't give him a hard time over it, and I suspect that deep down in his mind, he knows it probably isn't true, but wants to be "right" per se. He is an 8 year old boy who wants to be right, of course... :)

Thanks everyone!



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12 Mar 2013, 11:22 pm

JoeDirt wrote:
Great info, everyone... Thank you!

As I had read before, the comments about his plushies still sounds true, and common. I know Greeny is his favorite, we even had to dress him in clothes since he is starting to fray around the edges and has been fixed numerous times. Actually, Greeny is now wearing a sock "sweater" with leg cutouts, and toddler sock "pants" to keep him safer... :)

[img][800:768]http://i603.photobucket.com/albums/tt116/JoeDirtGR/2013-02-02_11-35-42_17.jpg[/img]

The thought about relying on scripted language is interesting, and I could see poor social skills contributing to it, aside from the thought that he will come up with incredibly complex thoughts to justify in his mind or to us, why something is completely true, and defend it to tears. But, it helps to know that it faded for you also. For now, and no reason not to- we help him with his imaginations with Greeny. His fort in the back yard was painted when we moved into the house, he picked the colors out himself.

If you want to see the dedication we have to Greeny, check my blog post: http://thefivegreenys.blogspot.com/2013 ... plane.html

Or even the blog address... :)

He does for sure create a social laboratory, and I can agree with other posts I've read that one important reason why is that he never is judged by them, right or wrong. However, when I told him that the Greenys (there are 5 of them) were on the floor partying one night when he was asleep, he promptly "grounded" Greeny for one week. And actually followed through with it for about 3-4 days. :D

As for the glowing rock, I can see that we might have some work to help him through that one, but I like the scientist idea. He's a brain, so he would be into that. I'll have to think about how to make that one work. I'd go over and help him look for a bit, but the hill is in a fenced part of the schoolyard.

In all, yesterday they didn't give him a hard time over it, and I suspect that deep down in his mind, he knows it probably isn't true, but wants to be "right" per se. He is an 8 year old boy who wants to be right, of course... :)

Thanks everyone!


Aww, I love Greeny's little outfit - and that's so cute that your son "grounded" Greeny for partying when it wasn't allowed! :lol: Your blog entry about Greeny and the balloons was so cute and funny, as well. :D


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13 Mar 2013, 8:00 am

I was the same way as a kid. I had umpteen bazillion stuffed animals (really-- quite a lot, an inordinate amount) and they all had names, needs, personalities. I don't ever remember anyone else tending to them-- they were my kitties, my puppies, my hedgehogs, my babies and taking care of them was my job. I remember washing them in the tub when they got stinky-- and I suspect Grandma sneaked them into the washing machine-- but it was my time.

I remember a large brown stuffed dog named Dusty. Dusty was very shy, but liked to cuddle with people he knew. He had a lot of medical problems-- a club foot, a broken leg that had healed badly and often ended up rebroken and needing a splint, a lazy eye, you name it. I spent a lot of time being Dusty's vet, and he always went to the hospital with us, and I'm sure there are medical staff in Fairmont to this day who remember learning more than they ever wanted to know about the medical needs of stuffed dogs. I'm about 100% sure this grew out of the fact that Dusty was my buddy when my grandpa had a massive heart attack and a series of nervous breakdowns.

I still have him. I'm hoping the baby will want him, because 35 is too old to have a stuffed dog in your bedroom and I'm going to cry if I have to donate him. Also Tabby, and Angora, and Growly, and Whitey, and Snowy, and Dorrie, and Trixie... You see the problem with this, right????

I was so bad about it, I had about 30 Matchbox cars that had names and personalities-- and I still remember them. I had "dolls" made of sticks and little wads of paper-- I believe they are called spitballs??-- that had names and personalities. I had imaginary friends-- LOTS of them-- into my teen years. I think I've forgotten the spitball dolls' names, but the imaginary friends are a recurring memory that I have to shove down regularly lest the embarrassment kill me.

I don't ever remember not knowing that my toys weren't really alive and that my imaginary friends weren't really real. People would give me hell about it, and I'd tell them that I knew darn good and well that they were imaginary, and that I liked pretending it and wasn't going to stop.

What finally stopped me?? SHAME made me learn to keep my mouth shut, and eventually suppress doing it in my head. I still remember all their names and personalites-- I gave quite a lot of them to my oldest daughter and was disappointed when they mostly sat in a net decorating her room. I gave a few of them to my son and love the fact that they have names and they say things and they need to be mended.

My advice?? Part of me wants to say enjoy this time, it will end soon enough. Let him enjoy it-- it will become a source of pain soon enough-- in fact it sounds like it's already coming. He might not see a glowing rock-- he might just really, really, really enjoy acting out this story.

Most of me says, teach him hard that other people don't enjoy it and that what other people like is all that matters. Shame him, tease him, humiliate him. Make him fear the judgment of others so he will stop enjoying it. Take away his plushies and any other object he develops that kind of attachment to. If he transfers it to books-- I did-- take them away too. Make him play lots of sports.

If that doesn't work, reach for the antipsychotics. He's too old to remember nothing else and that will make it painful, but if he continues down this road that's where he's going to end up anyway. There will be a professional who does not know the difference between "excessively imaginative" and "delusional." Besides, they've just found more connections between autism and schizophrenia.

I hate giving that kind of advice. That's not how I want to live. That's not how I want my kids to live. But maybe it's for the best.


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13 Mar 2013, 9:48 am

BuyerBeware wrote:
My advice?? Part of me wants to say enjoy this time, it will end soon enough. Let him enjoy it-- it will become a source of pain soon enough-- in fact it sounds like it's already coming. He might not see a glowing rock-- he might just really, really, really enjoy acting out this story.

Most of me says, teach him hard that other people don't enjoy it and that what other people like is all that matters. Shame him, tease him, humiliate him. Make him fear the judgment of others so he will stop enjoying it. Take away his plushies and any other object he develops that kind of attachment to. If he transfers it to books-- I did-- take them away too. Make him play lots of sports.

If that doesn't work, reach for the antipsychotics. He's too old to remember nothing else and that will make it painful, but if he continues down this road that's where he's going to end up anyway. There will be a professional who does not know the difference between "excessively imaginative" and "delusional." Besides, they've just found more connections between autism and schizophrenia.

I hate giving that kind of advice. That's not how I want to live. That's not how I want my kids to live. But maybe it's for the best.



You are being sarcastic, right? That is so sad. I know it is hard, and unfortunately one has to hide some "uncool" things from the NT to survive. I get that. I have trouble with that, too. I see my son saying uncool things, and I want to stop him, but can't always bring myself to. Kids should get to be how they are.
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17 Mar 2013, 8:09 am

No, I'm not being sarcastic.

I wish I were. I hope I'm wrong. I hope I'm a bitter stressed-out old woman that nobody should listen to. I hope I'm so wrong that it defies words.


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27 Mar 2013, 3:27 am

BuyerBeware's suggestion actually made me feel physically ill.

I can confidently say that if I had been treated that way - oh wait, I was - but if they had actually succeeded in poisoning my fantasy world, I would not be alive today.

A spirit of shame and self-loathing isn't the kind of 'gift' you should give any child. There's nothing wrong with teaching discretion, because there will always be people ready to mutilate your personality "for your own good", but outright destroying someone's imagination just to spare them from potential pain... you may as well clip a songbird's wings or saw the legs off a horse. What was described is nothing short of breaking someone's spirit, beating them into submission like a mangy dog.

I just... I can't think of enough ways to say how very wrong the concept is.



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27 Mar 2013, 9:29 am

It makes me feel physically sick too, honey. Like someone twisting the end of a broken bottle in my gut, heart, and soul.

I treat my son that way and then cry myself to sleep.

And I can't keep it up for very long, no matter how hard I try, because everything in me screams, "WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!"

I got the soft-pedal version of that treatment from my mom's parents, and the cruel version from my cousins, the kids at school, some teachers.

I'm 100% certain it's the reason I get, "Oh, you're fine! You seem so normal!" from so many people that know me only on a business or acquaintance basis. No crap I look normal-- shame and fear and punishment taught me to hide, to fear, to be good at it.

I also acknowledge the possibility that it's the reason I'm a wreck inside. I got here by punching myself in the face and stomach behind a locked door until I conditioned myself against crying. I got here by teaching myself never to speak unless spoken to. I got here by a lot of abuse at society's hands, and a lot more self-abuse. To get free of the bullying cycle, I treated myself like a stereotypical drill sergeant treats draftees. I became cold and hard and callous with myself, and hate trickled in over time.

I'm think that treatment is largely responsible for a lot of the anxiety, depression, antisocial and avoidant and schizoid/schizotypal personality disorder, social anxiety and agoraphobia, and explosive rage that tend to be "comorbid" with ASD. I lived every waking moment on high alert. I pretty much considered my life a combat zone. Looking with something like logic at what I know about psychology outside the Skinner Box, once again acting all Aspie and trying to apply some from of logic to the human mind, what would one EXPECT to happen????? Gee-- THAT'S a no-brainer.

A very angry activist locked inside my mind screams, "GODDAMMIT, that's where Adam Lanzas come from!! !! !! !"

I wonder if it's that treatment itself, or the cognitive dissonance that comes with, "Be yourself! You're wonderful! I love you!" versus "Don't be like that! What the hell is wrong with you! You FREAK!" that causes it. I sometimes (OK, often) think that if I had just grown up with the abuse, had never experienced the semblance of love and approval from Grandma (the list of 100 Ways to Praise a Child that she kept taped inside a kitchen cabinet and made sure to use every phrase from every day, no matter how empty the praise) and my father's and grandfather's and paternal grandmother's genuine understanding and acceptance, I might be happier and more functional. If having known nothing else, I would just be able to accept that this is simply the way it is, without resentment or rage or the wish that or feeling that it should be otherwise.

I guess it's a question of what pain you'd rather have-- The pain of doing Aspie things and suffering the consequences of that in a still-not-very-tolerant society that has its own problems with ToM, or the pain of forcing yourself (or teaching a child to force themselves) to act like something they're not and not act like something they are.

I want to say, be yourself. As long as you're not hurting anyone, be yourself. There will be consequences and some of the behaviors will change in response to that over time. You lose a pack of friends for playing pretend too hard, someone explains what happened and what needed to happen, you don't make that mistake again. Eventually you get over it and make new friends; by trial and error you learn what to do.

I want to say society will change, very slowly but it will change, with education and exposure.

What I see, though, is a society that is become less tolerant and more judgmental with education and exposure. Maybe that's something that's coming to an end-- a front-end backlash, a death throe from the old society. I hope so. I want to hope so. I see so many happy, strong, functional young square pegs talking about themselves and their experiences on YouTube, I want to believe a better world is coming and I can't quite kill the hope.

Then I go out and deal with relatives and friends and the school system (especiallly the young, fresh-out-of-school, cutting-edge kindergarten teacher) on my son's behalf. I sift beaches of sand looking for the one diamond grain of a good advocate, a good therapist, a good whatever-- be that for him, or for myself.

I cannot sincerely and confidently say it's not ultimately kinder to break them while they're young. I don't want to unhesitatingly say it is-- that's why I present both sides of what I think and say that I hate making a suggestion like that.

If you've got the courage and the stamina for a long, long, long fight, go ahead and prove it wrong. PLEASE. That's not a rhetorical statement; it's a plea. I would LOVE to be proven wrong. That would be the ultimate joy in my life right now.


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