FRIENDSHIPS & ASPERGER'S SYNDROME
By Mr Coffee
People with Asperger's
Syndrome are capable of achieving long-term friendships. What
has helped me in many cases is my skills in a certain discipline.
My areas of interest would include driving a bus for a group of
people on a ski trip, or working on a web site for a not-profit
organization. What makes the relationships work in my case, is the
fact that I can offer something that the group needs, whether it
be web-authoring skills or the ability to drive a bus on a trip.
In the above case, I would be involved with the group for a legitimate
reason and have a purpose for being there, without needing to worry
whether or not I "fit in".
Focus on tasks instead of 'small talk'
I used to be involved with a group that functions
much like the Boy Scouts of America, and I concentrated on helping
school-aged children with their projects. I didn't usually engage
in "small talk" with the adult leaders. Instead, I focused
on my tasks and would allow others to approach me when they had
questions related to a given project. I was often able to understand
the functioning of the kids well enough to communicate with them
effectively, and meet the directives of the group. For the most
part, my social needs were met, and what communication skills I
had were kept up to date.
TROUBLE WITH NON-VERBAL CUES AND PLAY
Asperger's Syndrome is considered a developmental
disability. The trouble with me is usually the lack of ability to
pick up on subtle non-verbal cues when communicating
with the general adult population. Thinking is logical and sequential,
the reasoning is concrete rather then abstract. Imaginary play and
some sports were not always within my capability. Therefore, I helped
the kids with their projects, using communicating on their level
to the best of my ability. I would allow the other workers to handle
more of the creative issues involving imaginary play and sports.
As the reader may observe, the above example does
not contain any real provisions for a close friendship. However,
the elements for a good working relationship were there. In my case,
while other adults would communicate and socialize among each other,
I would have my part in the group, and I actually did well in helping
the kids with their projects. The other adults were then able to
approach me at their leisure without having to feel like they were
being forced to socialize. I think my focusing on the actual work
helped relieve a lot of that pressure.
difficulties interpreting group dynamics
In an example that did not work, I was at one
time thrust into an adult group that had a strong emphasis on dating
and forming partnerships. I ended up placing extreme pressure on
others to help me interpret what was actually going on with others
in the group. Most of the time, I ended up ignored, until I got
negative attention from the leadership without realizing what the
problems were. I could not figure out my own reason for being there
in the first place, so I eventually left.
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This story is reprinted with the permission of
Mr Coffee who organizes an Asperger's syndrome forum at www.autismforum.net