Aspergers Syndrome and understanding others

Many people often don’t understand what goes on in the mind of a person with Aspergers Syndrome. Because of their lack of social skills, there are many things that they don’t understand when relating with people. One of the important skills someone on the autistic spectrum needs to learn is insight. A simple definition of the word insight is understanding another person’s actions, thoughts or behavior. One question you might ask when you notice a person doing something unusual is “why do they do that”? For example, at the Computing Workshop summer camp I worked at this summer, I noticed that one of our students would ask if he could be excused to go to the restroom. I noticed that he would ask to be excused when he was working with a staff member that he wasn’t used to working with. My assumption of this situation was that he would ask to go to the bathroom to get out of the stress from working with a different staff member. I also thought that he feared the person would make fun of him for whatever reason. This is one of the things that many kids with an Autistic Spectrum disorder may do to try to get out of a stressful situation. There are two reasons why I wish the staff members worked with this particular student on this issue. First off, in many public schools across America, you have to ask to go to the restroom before you could go. There is also a sign out sheet you have to fill out, and you had to include four things, your name, the time you left and returned, and the reason why you were leaving the room. If this student was in school, and he would constantly ask the teacher if he could go to the restroom, they would most likely say something like “no, go sit down and do your work”. At computing workshop we had a very similar situation with another student, but this particular student had a more severe case of autism, and was also diagnosed with Down Syndrome. He was not able to communicate like most people do, instead he would use a special computer device called a Dynavox.  This device gave him the ability to communicate his emotions and needs, such as when he needed a restroom break or a snack break. He had two therapists working with him the day the staff members noticed this incident, and during instruction time he used the Dynavox to communicate that he needed to go to the restroom. The one therapist rudely snapped at him and said “it’s not time to go to the restroom, it’s time to work”. We didn’t really understand what was going on in this students mind, and what if he really needed a restroom break? A few minutes passed, and he stated that he needed a restroom break on the dynavox again. The therapist then said her usual “it’s not time for a restroom break, it’s time to work”. I then noticed the student get up and try to walk to the restroom himself, then the therapist restrained him and told him to sit down.

As I have said many times before, there are people who push students on the spectrum to learn social skills, when they demonstrate ignorant behavior like this that shows a lack of social skills. I am going to tell you another real life example, it all began my freshman year in high school. Eighth period, the last class period of the day, I had this real grouchy and bitter math teacher. I noticed that everyday she would make a negative statement about her students, or work in general. An example of something she would say was “Out of all the students in this school, (student) is the one I hate working with the most.” At first I decided to just sit there and ignore her negative statements about the world. That changed until I noticed her say something very rude to a student with high special needs. It was the end of the class period, and the students were getting ready to leave school for the day. The teacher was sitting at her desk, not doing anything at the time. This student started a conversation, which sounded something like “I haven’t seen Mrs. (teacher) at all today”. The teacher responded with a real irritated tone of voice “Well, maybe they just didn’t want to see you”. I was shocked when I first heard her say that. I never imagined that a school teacher would say something like that. This student was only having a casual small talk conversation with the teacher, and she was doing nothing to offend her. And the question I was asking myself was “Why would she say something like that to a learning support student?” My guess was that she was in a bad mood, as usual. I mentioned this to my mother that night, and she emailed the principal about the situation. The next day I noticed she wasn’t in school, and my assumption was she got a one day suspension for her mess up. Weeks passed, and I still kept asking myself why she was so bitter and mean, and I came to think that some time along the line, bad kids may have taken advantage of her. That was the only explanation I could come up with about this situation. People that have been mistreated usually will turn mean, grouchy, bitter. This is obviously not an excuse to say something that rude to a learning support student, but it is the only explanation I can come up with.

Parents, you absolutely must teach your Autistic child about being insightful, it is a very important skill to learn. Not understanding someones actions or behavior may cause them to make fun of the person, which could get them into trouble in the near future. There are many things people don’t understand about Autism and Aspergers, and there are many things people with Autism and Aspergers don’t understand about interacting with other people. It really could benefit them in the long run.


One thought on “Aspergers Syndrome and understanding others

  1. This certainly is true: “Not understanding someones actions or behavior may cause them to make fun of the person, which could get them into trouble in the near future”. I would also add that if one makes fun of another person, and that person sees or hears it, or hears about it, the recipient may feel very sad or hurt. Kindness is always the best policy. It makes the commentor and the person commented upon respect themselves. Thanks for writing about the importance of insightfulness.

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