“You’re Not Even Trying”

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 co√∂rdinator 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.

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7 thoughts on ““You’re Not Even Trying”

  1. Very good insights into what you had to deal with. Boy, you had a lot to overcome, and you have done a beautiful job of it. Your basic understanding of why kids do what they do has helped you to shrug off a lot of stuff. Kids that age are just cruel–they maybe don’t really mean to be, but their judgement in how to handle their life is very immature and most times quite unacceptable. There is also hope for them–they will grow up, mature, and learn to graciously accept and see the worth in all sorts of people. They’re just having a very hard time growing up themselves. It sure would be nice if they wouldn’t make such a hardship on others in the process!

  2. I really like how you wrote out your feelings and thoughts on how difficult and complicated living up to now has affected how you live your life and how you think. However, I really want to give you some constructive criticism on a couple of matters you wrote about here. First off, I have to disagree with you on the fact that you did not talk to the coordinator right away, on the account that they were not listening or laughing at you. If this was truly the older teenager group, you should have taken the initiative to talk to him on the fact that these “counselors” were not being professional. I do agree that they should not have had the right to &quote& “put you on the spot” &unquote&. On the other hand, not taking the initiative to report them on the basis that they were not targeting you does make me wonder…

    Another thing that bothers me is that, you should know that not a single person likes criticism. Be it positive or negative, constructive or destructive, not a single person like the fact that someone is telling them something is wrong. I want to point out to you, that even though you didn’t like being “put on the spot”, the fact remains that they were trying to help you. You writing about them like they did something wrong is not going well with me. I agree that them telling you to stop sounds a bit mean, but the fact remains that Humans in general have the ability to change and adapt. I get the feeling that you telling them that “you being more verbal and for you to stop making noises” will in fact erase the existence known as Derek, is not a good reason to not try to change those habits. I’m positive that you interacting more with people and you being more verbal, will in no ways make you disappear. Also, the fact that you make noises can be changed to you making those noises into words, changing it this way is like “hitting two birds with one stone” (don’t want to kill the little birdies). Let me reiterate, we as a species have the ability to change and adapt to our surroundings, meaning that you as a person and you as an individual will not be affected by the fact that you learning to change your habits will not affect who you are. In fact, the fact that you change them and the fact that you can say that you change is proclaiming that you yourself are you, Derek. Proving your existence, the existence of Derek Warren, will have a bigger affect by showing that you can change, for only by changing yourself can you illustrate and show others the ability and person known as Derek. In the end, don’t think that changing yourself or changing your habits is the same as rewriting or destroying yourself. I like your blog and I hope that you can bring more insight to more people.

    Best wishes

    Your friend from CW.


  3. Derrek you have a very good temper to put up with all the trouble at school. It must have been hard to be disrespected by so many people at your own school. You got through it though and you also i am greatly impressed with how you did all that without getting upset. In school with the people at your school so hope things get better at school. nice blog you had gave the plain story so have fun and good luck.

  4. One of the books I read when younger was When Marnie was there which was about a foster girl named Anna, who was often told “You’re not even trying,” just like Derek, and for probably some of the same reasons. Her environment was not particularly warm or receptive.

    Thanks, Derek, for pointing out that role plays aren’t real. At least many of them aren’t. It takes skill to make a role play real … or at least plausible or convincing.

    Thanks, too, for showing how maths works in the real world and in careers.

    And also when I was a girl, I got told – and not told! – the opposite thing: “You’re trying too hard”.

    Really enjoyed [!] reading about Wesley Wonder Kids.

    Did the workers think whispering and laughing about them was like real life and a natural consequence?

    Gossip hurts [at least] 3 people: the one being gossiped about, the one who hears it and the one who gossips. And it helps no-one!

  5. Pingback: “Scary Stories From the Real World” (Engage and Teach, Don’t Preach!) « Dwarren57's Blog

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