Throughout the many experiences I have been through in my life with Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the things I would expect to hear from people was “you’re not even trying”. I would hear this from teachers, therapists, my parents, other kids parents and even my peers at school. I would either ignore people when they would say this, or I would react by shrugging my shoulders, rolling my eyes or by simply stating “I don’t care”. I worked with a therapist who was extremely demanding and pushy, and he made coping with my diagnosis even worse.
I attended the Wesley Wonder Kids program in Gibsonia, PA for a few years, and I noticed several behaviors coming from the staff members that I thought were pretty unprofessional for qualified and trained counselors. When we had a group member that was difficult to deal with, I noticed some of the staff members would whisper about them and laugh at them while they were not looking. That was something that really bothered me, because I really knew how it felt to be teased and whispered about. I thought about telling the coördinator about it, but I figured I should only tell them if I knew they were whispering and laughing at me. While gossip is something you can’t stop, this kind of behavior is the reason I believe that counselors need to be evaluated on how they demonstrate the “social skills” they constantly preach to their clients.
From the many behaviors I noticed in these “qualified counselors”, one made me decide it was time to quit Wesley Wonder Kids. There was a social activity we had each week called coffee talk. Each group member was assigned a date to pick a topic and bring a snack to share with the group. They had to choose a topic that would keep a conversation going for the entire duration of the activity. One night, a group member chose plans after high school. The girl sitting beside me stated she wanted to attend CCAC (Community College of Allegheny County). Just then, a kid sitting across the table blurted out “CCAC is where all the retards go to school”. The only thing the staff members ever did was reprimand him. I thought that was pretty unfair, because the staff members treated me in a way that made me feel like I was being singled out.
I was in the older teen group for about four or five months, and I became frustrated at how I was always put on the spot during the “coffee talk” social activity. The coordinator called the staff members on the phone and wanted them to speak with me about this issue. They explained to me that I was “not being verbal enough” during group and that I needed to “stop making noises”. She told me that if I didn’t start being more verbal and stop making noises the coordinator was going to demote me to the younger group. Difficulty with verbal communication and noise making is a common characteristic in kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. In other words, they threatened to demote me to the younger group for being Autistic. My mom talked to her a few days later, and we both finally decided it was time to quit Wesley Wonder Kids. I am pretty happy that I made the immediate decision to do so, because I don’t need anybody telling me to stop being who I am.
I always hated doing role plays with therapists because they didn’t really seem to help me improve my social skills. The reasons why I am so against role-playing is because you can’t really predict how people will react when you try to initiate a “real world” conversation. My social goal at the Wonder Kids club was to “initiate spontaneous social communication with peers”. There was one thing about role plays that most therapists don’t know about, and it is they are not spontaneous. I wanted real interaction with people besides a therapist or my parents. It seemed like everybody in my school had it all and I had nothing. Everybody else had friends to hang out with at the football games, friends to take to the mall and who they can trust. I felt like I was worthless.
I quit Wesley Wonder Kids at the beginning of the summer before my junior year in high school. Lenape Tech gave me plenty of social opportunities because I was not around the same people I have known since kindergarten. I have lived in the Freeport Area School district my whole life, and I have heard many of the gossip and rumors that were constantly spread about me. If you remember my last blog about negativity, people used to say I would end up becoming a serial killer when I grew up. I later came to realize that I should either ignore those kinds of comments or just laugh at them. I have realized that people do it to make themselves look cooler, when most of the people who were friends with the people who bullied me either ignored them or tried to change the subject.
I have noticed that some of the problems in education are the reason why we have kids that really aren’t trying in school. I have noticed that most public high schools are shoving standardized tests and numbers down their throats. In my blogs about Lenape, I have emphasized the fact that schools need to start teaching their students that algebra, geometry and trigonometry don’t go away after you graduate from high school. There are tons of career fields out there who use these skills in their typical work day. When students complain about these classes, the teacher usually says it’s a graduation requirement or it’s going to be on the P.S.S.A tests. Most typical high school teachers are only required to teach students how these skills will benefit them on a test, and they forget about it after the test is over with. I was one of the kids that wasn’t challenged at Freeport, and I was put in the basic math class. It was pretty much a repeat of everything I learned in elementary school. The teacher absolutely hated her job, and the kids didn’t take the class seriously.
To sum things up, the point I am trying to make in this blog is something that anybody should be able to understand. Attitude is something that makes a difference in a teenager’s success in high school, college and the real world. I hope that is something people consider when they see somebody who may have a bad attitude about schoolwork or have trouble making friends. I started to wonder if comments like the “future serial killer” would become reality for me after I graduated. I have learned that you should either brush it off, or go the extra mile and prove them wrong. That is the message I hope people get after reading this.