- When it’s your 3rd child who can’ t make friends you know there is something up.
- When after a whole year in school he doesn’t relate to anyone, you know there is something wrong.
- When you tell him to go and play with his cousin and he says “but i don’t know how!” -you know he is being so honest.
- We were not driven parents, we didn’t have plans and careers mapped for our children, but this MADE us act.
- When you KNOW something is not usual you would take on the world to make life easier for them.
- We took a LONG TERM plan.
- We could have taken Fionn from main stream school but we didn’t.
- We CHOSE that we would support him as much as we had to to make him as resilient as he could be in a main stream world.
- it meant becoming PUSHY.
- PUSHY in a way that we had to PUSH our son out of his solitude, out of his comfort zone, into group situations, into making friends, into social places, sport, music……ALL of which were not his natural choice.
- but when he would get weepy, grumpy, upset, mixed up and want to stay indoors, or NOT go to football, not do sports day we would sit him down for “the talk”
- Me and Fionn on the sofa : and ask him “What do you WANT to be like at 18? Alone? Here?With me and dad?”…and he would answer “i want to be able to go down town and go out with my friends”- so we would ask HOW can you do that if you don’t mix, play, try……so we cleaned him up, hugged him, and off he went again!
- so we pushed him. WATCHED. stood not far away ready when needed.
- TONIGHT he has headed into town with his friends… Fionn has become what he wanted… aged 17 1/2 ,and it has been such a long journey he barely remembers a lot. But i could NOT be prouder. of course my phone is on. he is phoning when he needs collecting….my socializing son. who has aspergers.
how i learned to MIX with people?
for me it was NOT easy to understand people. And it takes times.
And i don’t think you ever you ever really stop learning about people.
normal people know how to MIX easily.
they know how to make friends.
they know what to say and the then know when to say it and everything.
for autistic people it is difficult.
when i go into a room i still can something that is wrong – i mean something that is unrelated to what they were saying, or related to the situation. Like i want to talk ALL THE TIME about things that interest me but might not interest everybody. BUT i try not to, and sometimes i need reminders from mum or dad that i am being a bit ME…unrelated… and it’s ok to say it, cos i have it, a bit autistic. The wee reminder is usually enough to make me “shh” far a while – but if i am feeling uncomfortable i might try it again.
Its just about learning the rules of people.
Most people are born knowing how to:
- BE in conversation,
- how to talk to people
- where to look in conversation
- what to look like (like not awkward)
- what to about about .
- they know what to say that sounds ok to friends of their own age and to adults they meet at school and in other places.
i know i wasn’t MADE like that. for me when i was VERY young i didn’t know HOW to make friends. A crowd of people felt overwhelming . I may not be able to go into the room at all. I used to find a spot on my own and that was easier.
When I went to school first, I was what you might call a loner. My class didn’t know about me, they thought I was just weird, so that didn’t make it any easier. So mummy and daddy got me tested for autism, which suddenly made it easier for US in my family to understand. I felt for the first year that i was a piece of JIGSAW in the wrong box.
That improved when mum and dad made the decision for me to repeat nursery and they started to try to help me understand myself and to learn to make friends.
It wasn’t easy. It took 3 years of my life to learn to make friends. That was my IEP- my education plan.
The repeating the year made it really made it better because I knew somebody in the class really well. She was a family friend. Jenny introduced me to her friends, so for the first year or two I just stayed with Jenny, Zoë (my cousin joined the class) and spent play time the girls.
I used to think boys looked scary and big because they played quite aggressively, so in P2 mom and the teacher got me first to play with one boy- Mattie, with my classroom assistant watching and helping me. We picked Matthew because he seemed nice and friendly. Lorna used to bring us out of class to do wee jobs, or plat in sand-tray , or play football. and it wasn’t easy but I got used to it. Soon I had a small good group of friends i felt comfortable with.
When i was about 9 or 10 in P5 my ADHD was a bit more noticeable – I was never badly behaved but I started to get unorganised and a bit sloppy at looking after my stuff ad fidgetty to sit beside and talkative. So i knew i was annoying people a bit. When i got a bit bigger i wanted to extend the group of people i felt comfortable to hang out with. So i though it would help people if they understood a bit about my autism -so they would be able to “get me”- and maybe keep an eye for me getting into difficulties with older pupils. So In small groups I took out my friends and Mr Murphy (the Principal) and me told the group more about my autism.
Just the main points at that time:
- i am not sick
- i am able to do all the things they can but i am wired differently
- i fidget.
- i sit on my right knee with the left up.
- or SOMETIMES if i am feeling weird i put the knees the other way round.
- i don’t mean to be talkative or fidgety.
- i can upset if i don’t understand why someone shouts at me.
- i am very untidy.
- sometimes i don’t understand what people say- as they use sarcasm, idioms and metaphors and similes etc
- told the clues to look out for which meant i was in need of help – like twitchy mouth, lots and lots of fidgeting, talking even faster. tapping hands or feet, walking away from a group.
At that stage they were fine with it, cos they were my close friends. That made me feel protected and safe too.
My mum and dad understood how hard it was for an aspergers boy to play a TEAM sport…because of the difficulty socialising and also close contact was not easy. BUT hey decided to MAKE me do it. cos it would be better for me in the long term.
Mum used to keep asking what do i want ME to be like when i am a teenager, and i always said “i want to be able to hang out with my friends and all” so then she’d say so how would i be able to do that if i didn’t know how to get on with them.
When my parents wanted me to start Gaelic we decided to explain to some of the players from other classes and the coach about my autism. Now they are fine with it too. Now I can easily and comfortably go with teams out on trips to play games. But at first i was finding it REALLY difficult to deal with people shouting at me on a Gaelic pitch. In my head it meant they hated me. So i would come off very upset and mum would explain it was about the football- maybe just a bad shot, and NOT about them liking or not liking me. So i would try again.
It also wasn’t long before i realised that being OUTFIELD was quite difficult for me because and the contact and the tackling. (i have now improved a LOT at that )…BUT it was a great idea for me to decide to be in GOALS.
in goals aspergers is an advantage as i don’t feel much pain, and also i don’t feel much fear so i dive for any ball. And now i have got much more comfortable with my group/squad
in P7 i could manage people well enough to go to Manchester with my year group and was away from home for 4 days! I was proud of myself. I stayed in a room with my closest two friends. Obviously Lorna was there if i needed her. But i did much better that i thought.
moving to grammar school was scary. I was going to be one of the new boys and i knew hardly anybody else in the YEAR i was going into. I was nervous …like 9 or 10 out of 10 nervous!
so we had to plan things to HELP me. We met with the Special needs coordinator in the school. And my form teacher. I was allowed to be in a class with my two friends who were also going up to St Micks. I met my new Classroom assistant Mrs H. i got to know her a bit- well enough. But i really missed Lorna!
In my new school I recognised a few boys from other towns who I played matches against- so i felt quite safe.
Really early in the year my form teacher Mrs Nethercott played this game that we had agreed she would do – in order for me to be able to tell my class about my autism…..where we had to say something about ourselves that made us different. I said I had Asperger’s – one boy said he had a cousin who was autistic and non-verbal and nobody else really minded.
i still learn about people in every new situation.
i have a new classroom assistant Mrs D who i have learned to know well cos i can tell her things when i am in bother, confused or upset about a test or a situation i found tough. She doesn’t have to do things FOR me but she is aware of when i am annoyed about something. I feel a lot more secure with her around although i don’t have to walk about beside her. She KNOWS my disorganisation and other things!
BUT one of the tricks i do have to say that helped me, was that i take part in group things like after school activities. At first when mum said i had to stay for choir and band, i whinged and complained. and was gonna feel such a geek cos i was it would be uncool to be into music. I was WRONG. there were loads of older boys at music after-schools, and they were fine and friendly when they met me on the corridors and that helps me feel safe too. And NOBODY takes the Mick from me doing music.
I have a few close friends, a few friends and few boys who I prefer to avoid.
Sometimes I find being in groups tricky. Cos I find it hard to just create a conversation with more than one person. When I notice that happening I walk away. Or if isee them look at me funny i know i am talking weird ME stuff so i shut up.
I am 14 now:
- I have learnt “banter”.
- Its kind of a bit of fun.
- A bit of slagging but it doesn’t really mean anything nasty
- I have now got to understand some idioms and sarcasm but am still AWFUL at that stuff.
- i know now that i do need to be close friends with everybody…but just really to get on with most people is pretty good.
Overall mum says you should just have a group of close friends who will look out for you. But you need a few that you just have craic with. And its okay to just manage some more tricky other people. But sometimes I still talk to mum about the friends groups and all, and I want to keep trying mixing cos when I am 18 I will have a bunch of deadly mates to go to discos with.
I amn’t ready yet to do the girlfriend relationship thing, but that will come soon. And I guess we will have a lot of chatting to do before that. But anyway for now….i have friends …and that’s the important bit!
I did the local Pantomime for the 3rd year in a row.
First time mum said it i was NOT doing it..so she brought me out with her to sit and ddo messages… the next year i went into it, cos all the people were LOVELY to me. I found it really fun just to be there.
In panto there are about 50 kids- all from different schools, boys and girls of different ages. And i still am good friends with some of them from the first time i did it, and we all keep in touch. And the friends part is easy in the panto cos you do ALL have to wear crap costumes, and make-up and do embarrassing choreography. So nobody laughs at anybody else. It’s just all friends like.
Next weekend we have the end of panto Party, and i can’t WAIT to see everyone again.
So that proves i have come a LONG way learning how to mix with people, cos i find myself dying to meet them 🙂
So it is definitely possible to learn how to make friends.
It is not EASY…but i think it is the right thing to do…even if it is hard at the time.
this blog was written as a favour to Adam harris of Asiam.ie.
i hope that it helps other children with aspergers to get along with people, and their parents to feel that it is not so scary to have aspergers, as i have aspergers and i am usually very happy!