As you have read in my previous entries, social skills groups really didn’t help me learn the social skills I needed to know for life. The staff members tended to focus on the negative things about me, such as the minor noise making, and not being “verbal”. I talked about situations where I’ve tried to be verbal, but they prevent me from doing it by telling me not to talk to them. One thing that irritated me about this group was that they complained to me about a small noise when the other members were displaying worse behaviors, such as making insulting comments to the other group members. When I was in the younger group, I had some troubles with depression because I wasn’t fitting in. It seemed like no matter where I went, I didn’t fit in with anybody. The director of Wesley thought it would be appropriate to hire a mobile therapist for me. She seemed to think that it would help improve my confidence in socializing with my peers.
The person she recommended for me was a man named Mike. One thing that concerned me from the start was that the director of Wesley never told me about this person. I dreaded having these sessions with him because of his very pushy and “in your face” type of personality. During his sessions with me, I tended to resist everything he wanted me to do. People on the Autistic spectrum tend to take longer to process information than neurotypical peers do, and when Mike would ask me a question, it took me a while to process an answer. An example of this would be if an autistic child falls and bruises their ankle, it takes them a few seconds longer to verbalize “ouch, that hurts”. A typical peer would be able to verbalize it as soon as it happens. In my case with Mike, when I was trying to process a response to his question, he would ask another question. He seemed to think that I was trying to avoid answering him altogether. It overwhelmed me so much that I dreaded having sessions with him. Another thing Mike did to overwhelm me was that he met with me two days a week instead of just one. His reason for that was because I wasn’t being “verbal and open enough”. He did that during the summer, and he pushed me even more then. During our summer sessions, he would have me do things like yard work outside, which was something I absolutely hated doing, and still is now. He thought that making me do something I hated doing was going to magically make me “come out of my shell”. He would also put me in social situations which made me feel very uncomfortable. One of which was when he came to observe me at my Computing Workshop summer camp. One situation which made me real uncomfortable was that he tried to get me to introduce him to four people at the computing workshop. The one thing I didn’t want the students and staff at Computing Workshop to know was that he was my therapist. He wanted me to tell them that he was my “friend”. I could either just tell them that he was my therapist, or tell them that he was my “friend”. I didn’t want him to get to know me, so why would I want my friends at Computing Workshop to know him. I refused to do it because I was angry at him about pushing me to the limit until I refused to cooperate with him at all. I felt that Mike was trying to punish me by putting me in social situations where I felt very uncomfortable. Therapy is supposed to be something that you enjoy, and that helps you with whatever your problems are. This obviously wasn’t the case with Mike. Because of this, I think that pushiness is uncalled for in social services. The more a client is pushed, the more they are going to resist what the therapist wants them to do. Mike’s therapy didn’t improve my confidence making friends, it made it even worse.
To me, Mike’s style of counseling was to make the client feel therapy was supposed to be a punishment, and not something that would help you. How is someone going to learn social skills when they are overwhelmed by the person that is supposed to be helping them? That’s just like a teacher berating student for not paying attention to their lesson when they barely know how to teach the material themselves, I’ve been through that many times. Going back to social skills groups, I’m also appalled by when they try very hard to teach social skills, when they demonstrate behaviors that show a lack of social skills. (Look at my blog about social skills groups to find out what I mean by that). I am hopeful that when parents try to find someone to counsel their kids, that they find out more information about the person. Find other therapists that may know the person, and have them give you their thoughts about the person. I am a person who likes to know information about something before it happens, and I knew nothing about Mike before he started working with me. And yes, I do understand that sometimes things don’t go as they were supposed to be planned. Only one person gave us information about him, and they only thing they said was that he was “highly recommended”. I wish I could have gotten other peoples opinions about him beforehand. Spontaneity leads to disaster.
In November 2008, my parents finally decided to discharge with him, and to find another therapist to work with. I was obviously hopeful that this person was going to be a lot less pushy and “in your face” than Mike was. He recommended a different organization. The organization Mike worked with was not allowed to drive their client to places, and he recommended another organization where the therapist was allowed to take the client places around the community. If I Mike wanted to meet in public with me, my mother would have to provide transportation for me. My mom wanted to me to learn social skills so that I needed in order to make friends. When you have a friend, they will offer to go places with you. Like I said, I was pushed to the limit with Mike and it made it very difficult to learn social skills because I was too overwhelmed. The person they recommended for me was named Darren. Darren is a more low key, and laid back kind of person, sort of like how Aaron was. Instead of sitting around at home talking about feelings, weaknesses and all of the other negative things about me, we go out in the real world and practice social skills. I am still trying to get used to him, but I’m doing it a lot better than I did when I was with Mike. I’ve said before that therapy is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, and something that helps you. I however am glad that I have the people in my life to teach me social skills that I need to know, without them I wouldn’t have the confidence to reach out to people like Aaron. Darren actually did get a chance to meet Aaron, and I was glad about that. He mentioned to me that Aaron made a compliment about how he enjoys reading my emails, and how I put a lot of thought into writing them. I am hopeful that Aaron and I will be able to get together throughout the year, and I am hopeful that he will reach out to other people that may need help, whatever problem the person may be having. I myself am going to try that when I go to Lenape Vo Tech. I am not going to let my Aspergers Syndrome prevent me from being the person I want to be in life, which is the kind of person I was when I went to Freeport. I am going to forget about those people that tried to bring me down and make fun of me. It makes no use to worry about a bully who is insecure about themselves, whatever the reason may be. I hope that people will use that the next time they feel down about themselves.