“You Need To Stand Up For Yourself More” (Handling A Patronizer)


We know the bullying issue is prevalent in high schools across America. Both my peers and my high school teachers are guilty of it. During my two years at the Freeport Area Senior High school, my teachers pressured me into becoming a people pleaser. Do you remember the one who tried to convince me into believing there was a mandatory fee to attend Lenape Tech? She was also the same one who tried to come up with the story the state of Pennsylvania was going to eliminate cyber school from the curriculum next year. It was her last ditch effort to prevent the school board from paying dollars for students to attend the full day vocational technical school that has been serving Armstrong county since 1965. I started my first week of classes at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The Electro Optics program at the Northpointe regional campus provides students with employment opportunities in a wide variety of technological skills. An Associates Degree in this growing field can pay about a $30,000 annual starting salary, while a Bachelors degree can pay an approximate $60,00.00 starting salary.

The burning question is “how do I stand up to people who speak to me like that?” Well, this is not an easy question for many Asperger’s type teenagers to answer. This could possibly have something to do with the differences in the Asperger’s brain. Every person’s brain is equipped with equipped with cell’s called neurons. They are located in the premotor cortex. These cells “fire” both when you perform an action and when you watch somebody else do the same thing. This article from science daily.com explained the theory behind how these neurons do not work properly in the Autistic mind. It was believed that dysfunctional neurons were the culprit behind the difficulty understanding the actions of others and the lack of empathy. However, another Science Daily article was published in the year 2010. It argued the mirror neuron systems function normally in the Autistic brain. So, if it isn’t weak neurons, what is it?

I want you to take a look at this clip from the Kathie Lee Gifford show. Every week they do a contest called “Everyone Has A Story.” This particular segment was about a high school senior named Zach Hirsch and his younger friend Gram Jackson. Zach was a high school athlete. He was attractive and popular. One day when Gram was a freshman, he was sitting in the cafeteria by himself. Zach noticed it and he decided to sit with Gram and talk to him. As time went on, they initiated a friendship and started getting together after school. The friendship had a very positive effect on Gram, and so his mother wrote a letter to Kathie Lee about it. The letter basically described everything I just said. At first I was very happy to hear about this story. I was happy to hear that somebody like Zach would step out of his comfort zone and go out of his way to help somebody who was “different.” His (Zach’s) mother stated how this friendship caused him to gain the confidence to reach out to other people. However, my mood changed from a happy to furious at about six minutes into the video

This “thing” that happened actually caused an outrage in the Autism community. Opera singer Kate Baldwin sang a song about their story on national television. The song was titled “All Alone”. Just by reading the title, you can tell why this song makes me angry. This song was written by Kathie Lee! 

We see them everyday, but to often look away from the ones who are sitting alone. 

We seldom hear their voice because we make the choice to leave them right there all alone 

We see them everywhere, but to often we don’t care. We’re lost in a world of our own. 

We rarely realize, they’re angels in disguise, so we leave them right there all alone. 

Can you imagine if hello was a word you’d never heard? Can you imagine if you’ve never had a friend? 

Can you imagine if loneliness was all you’d ever known?  

It’s more than we could ever comprehend. A world, a silent world, without a friend. 

But miracles can happen, sometimes they really do. 

And sometimes, the miracle turns out to be you. 

When you embrace a stranger and show love you’ve never shown, you will make the greatest friend that you have ever known. 

Someone who used to be, someone who used to be, but now will never be all alone. 

If you thought the song was bad, just wait until you see the next part of the video. I transcribed what happened next.

Kathie Lee: You know, we’ve been doing this now since October of last year, and I was wondering if we were every time I say to myself “gee, are we ever gonna be able to capture it you know?” But, I looked over and there was Gram and you had tears in your eyes buddy did you like your song? 

Gram: Well, it was a little to sad. 

(Everyone in the room laughs, including Zach’s and Gram’s family)  

Kathie Lee reminds me of the annoying “drill Sargent” therapist who thought forcing the Asperger’s out of me would make me a “brand new person”. Here is a little glimpse on how our sessions would begin. Obvious question after obvious question, irritable answer after irritable answer.

(The therapist pulls into our driveway. Penny, our dog starts barking and whining, letting us know someone is here. We wait a few seconds until he comes up to the door. My mother or I open the door to let him in.) 

Therapist: So Derek, are you happy to see me? 

Me: (Irritably) No? 

Therapist: Why not? Penny is happy to see me.

(about a 5 second pause.)

Therapist: One of these days, I expect you to give me a big hug! What would you do if I gave you a big hug? 

Me: (Irritably) Push you away?

Therapist: Why not? I’m only trying to help you. Don’t you want that special friend who you trust? 

Howard Stern gave a hilarious reaction to Kathie Lee’s actions on his radio show.  (Don’t watch if you are offended by coarse language!) He said how Kathie Lee made “different” kids look like “angels disguised as monsters.” Also, when they laughed at him for saying the song was “too sad”, he was speaking the honest truth. He was trying to emphasize how his life doesn’t revolve around being this “angel disguised as a monster.” Gram is not the only one I feel bad for in this video, I feel bad for Zach. She made him look like a complete idiot by rewarding him with all of these sporting goods while all Gram get’s is their two tickets to a Chicago Cubs Game. She made him look like he came on TV to brag about how great of a guy he is. He should have denied the TV interview! He only did this because he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and make a difference in Gram’s life. I still do believe there should be more teens who are willing to step out of their comfort zone. 

There is a word that describes what Kathie Lee Gifford did to this Autistic boy, and it is called patronizing. It simply means behaving in an undignified, superior and/or offensive way towards a person. Patronizers often convince others they are trying to be kind. Some are bullies who want to see an angry reaction, while others don’t have an intent to offend you. Either way they are really frustrating to be around. It seemed to me that teacher who discouraged me from going to Lenape Tech wanted to get a reaction out of me. She wanted me to get into trouble then rub into my face how much of a dismal failure I would be if I went to Lenape, the “school with the terrible P.S.S.A test scores.”

I remember my mother emailed the school about how she did not appreciate them bullying me into making the decision to go forward with what they wanted me to do. It was great to know that my mother wanted to support me, but the title of this post is absolutely true. If you want to prevent your emotions from interfering with your job,  here are some tips I hope you found helpful.

1.) You must “nip it in the bud” before it becomes a serious issue. Rehearse what you are going to say to the person by speaking into a mirror. You will find out why later on. (Try to remember the situation in as much detail as possible.) 1.) What did the person do or say to make you upset? 2.) What tone of voice and body language did they use? 3.) Why did their actions upset you? 4.) From your perspective, did they or did they not intend to offend you?

2.) Refrain from being emotional. Expressing sadness or anger will cause others to think you are weak, therefore they will not take you seriously. However, you must be firm and make it clear that you don’t appreciate whatever they may be doing to make you feel bad. Being firm with somebody means that you should be polite. Politeness is something that shows you are a mature person that is capable of handling any type of conflict that may ensue, regardless of whether it is at work, school or in your own family life. This is why you should rehearse what you are going to say.

Never use foul language, slurs and by all means do not even think about putting your hands on the person! Many schools and employment organizations have zero tolerance policies towards verbal and/or physical abuse towards anyone! In the long run, this worth much more than being fired or even having assault charges filed against you.

3.) If the patronizing behavior continues, it should be discussed with whoever is in charge of the administration of the organization. Like I said, patronizers who continue to make a person upset are bullies! This is really the only time where I think it would be appropriate to discuss the issue via email. When you do so, be sure to keep in mind everything I said from the previous steps. (Stop it before it becomes a big issue, be polite but firm) Reiterate their actions, the steps you took to resolve the situation and the results. 

It should not be difficult for an administrator to understand why the person’s actions are offending you. Administrators who do not address disrespectful behavior in the workplace are not skilled enough to enforce rules of conduct for all employees. If this becomes the case, then I would consider looking for another job and resigning from the organization (while following their resignation procedure. See this article “How to Resign Gracefully”). 

(This tip can also be helpful for handling situations with your friends and family. After you have asked the person to stop, and they do not listen and understand why you are offended it is best to walk away from the situation.)

My former therapists approach which I described above was not the appropriate method towards helping me deal with issues in school, however I do believe that he wanted to help me. After all, he could tell that I didn’t want to participate in the sessions and he knew I didn’t like being asked question after question. He wanted me to step out of my comfort zone and stand up for myself. The truth was, it made me even more anxious and more uncomfortable. Going back to the Kathie Lee Gifford clip, I wonder how the friendship between Zach and Gram is going now. If that were me, I would definitely have some choice words for Ms. Kathie Lee after that hideous song. The refreshing thing about college has been that I have experienced no bullying situations yet. It is great to know that people are generally more mature and know that such disrespect is not acceptable.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Thank you for reading!

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“They’re Such A Pain To Talk To” (Relating To other Aspies)


You know that throughout my life, I have experienced feelings of not “fitting in” with the rest of the crowd. My life as a freshman and sophomore at the Freeport Area Senior High School felt like a number. It felt like the unhappy nurses assistant calling patients out of the waiting room and escorting them to the doctor’s office. Instead of addressing the patients by name, they assign everybody in the crowded room a number. The assistant calls everyone’s names in a monotonous manner. My frequent visits to the guidance counselor felt like this. I remember one visit I was upset about a student who harassed me in the hallway. He would purposely invade my personal space and ask me why I never talked to people, then he would rudely tell me to “get some friends.” The thing is, I couldn’t connect with anybody in school. The typical students were too involved in their own social group to include a new person and I didn’t feel like I could function with many of the students in the learning support program. The guidance counselor was horrible at listening to my problems. During my frequent visits to his office, I would tell him I had problems “fitting in”, and he would say “we’re gonna work on it” or the same “advice” I would hear from everybody “you need to come out of your shell and talk to people more.” This obviously didn’t help that much.

“Normals” Not Taking Me Seriously:

Every learning support student in the United States is entitled to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). My mother felt it was appropriate to add a social into my plan for my freshman year. My goal was to “initiate spontaneous social communication among peers without prompting.” The truth is it is not easy for a person on the Autistic Spectrum to meet this goal. This was simply because “neurotypcials” (people not diagnosed with a form of Autism) didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Halfway into my freshman year my “drill Sargent” therapist wanted me to practice conversations with my peers in school. He wanted me to start working on this during my learning support class period. The teacher would ask a student to come over and we would pretend we saw each other in public. The other student would say the greeting, and I was to continue the conversation. However, this student decided to pull a “Mr. Clown” act. He talked to me in the same tone of voice of which a person would speak when giving attention to a baby or a cute puppy or kitten. “Hello! How are you doin today little freshman?” he said. I then heard the teacher say “don’t be silly.” I was obviously not the least bit amused by his attempt to entertain everybody in the classroom. I became aggravated, so I reluctantly said “uh, hi?” It was amazing how my teacher couldn’t figure out how my eyes getting big and the irritated look on my face showed that I did not have the desire to interact with this “comic genius”. After all, it was obvious he really didn’t have the desire to interact with me. I don’t socialize with people who treat me like I am stupid.

Feeling Lost Around My Own Kind:

This post is about something I have mentioned in my other posts before, but I never really thought about building on this topic until I read a post from somebody on Wrongplanet.net, a forum website for people on the Autistic Spectrum. This person complained about how he felt his Aspie peers were a “pain to talk to.” This post caught my eye because I experienced similar emotions myself. The Wesley Wonder Kids club really tried to push social interaction on me, but I also felt the group members were a “pain to talk to.” They were infatuated with topics that I felt were extremely “weird.” They varied from video games, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon. We had others who loved television cartoons and comic books, and another would always talk about gardening, reptiles and history. There was another group member who seemed to have a new cut or bruise on his arms or legs every single day the group met. At the beginning of each session, all group members were given the opportunity to share news in their lives. They would enthusiastically share stories about their new Game Boy, Xbox or Playstation games. The student who loved reptiles and gardening would share stories about his lizard and the vegetables he picked from his garden in the summer time. The clumsy kid would share stories about the new cuts and bruises he would get from horsing around with his friends at home. They expected the group members to ask questions about the news which came from the particular group member.

Me Not Taking My Own Kind Seriously:

Depending on the nature of the news, they would either ask questions right away or the staff members would have to prompt them. I would very rarely ask questions right away because most of the things they shared were about their “obsession”. There were also occasions where the staff members would put me on the spot and prompt me to ask with the whole group looking at me. They would say “Derek, we haven’t heard from you yet. Why don’t you ask ________ a question about his garden?” This was the thing which I loathed the most, because after all I knew very little about video games, cartoons, comic books, gardening and reptiles. High school was the time in which I loathed myself and other people. Why? It was because they didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Here were the many thoughts that went through my mind when the other group members shared their introductory news stories:

“Oh my god, what is this kid, five? Who the f*** watches cartoons in high school? He needs to watch normal, age appropriate TV shows!”

“Does he ever talk about anything besides video games? No wonder this kid is unemployed and has no friends in school!”

“What kind of a teenager wants to plant a garden in their spare time? That sounds really stupid!”

“Something is wrong with a teenager who likes history. It happened hundreds of years ago, who cares about it now?”

I never blurted my opinions to those people, but they could probably tell I didn’t really have much of an interest to sit and listen to their “weird obsession.” In fact, I remember one time at the end of the session I put my headphones in my ears so I could ignore “Mr. Dirt Worshiping Treehugger History Geek” and his stories about the ancient something others and homegrown zucchini.

Trying To Understand My Own Kind:

My bitterness in high school really took a toll on my social life outside of school. The main reason I felt I couldn’t relate to the other kids in the group was that I felt they couldn’t function in the real world as well as I could. Therefore, I resorted to making snide comments about them behind their backs. I happen to know this emotion is common among many groups of people. Take the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community for an example. They are a unique group of people among themselves. They all have different shapes, sizes, hobbies, interests, ethnicities and personalities. The main reason I brought them up is because very many of them know how it feels to not “fit in” and be harassed by people. They hate the many stereotypes they receive from the heterosexual community, just as we hate the stereotypes that come from the neurotypical (Non Autistic) community. Far to often you hear a gay man making fun of another gay man because he is too feminine. You hear about an Aspie making fun of another because they exhibit repetitive hand motions.

I completely agree with the statement that it is unacceptable to make fun of somebody, however it is understandable to feel disconnected from somebody in your own group because they fit the negative stereotypes that are given from society. When the staff members caught me making comments about the other students from Wesley, they would just say “We don’t talk about people like that!” or “That’s innapropriate!” One of the general reasons people may decide to make fun of another person is simply because they don’t understand. Just because you have Asperger’s doesn’t always mean you understand somebody else who may have it. The Wesley staff members could have helped me develop social skills by helping me understand my Aspie peers.

It’s been almost three years since I left that program. I know that many Aspies use their “obsession” as an outlet for the pain of not “fitting in.” I remember my obsession with fans when I was little, and back then I knew nothing about Autism and Asperger’s. I know how it felt to have people pressure me into becoming the illusion known as “normal.” I knew no other way than to ignore and make fun of other Aspies during high school because I wanted to eliminate my bitterness somehow. Writing has become my own outlet because it helps members of the “neurotypical” community understand me, and it hopefully helps kids who have previously experienced or may be experiencing many of these same emotions now.

I am not a huge “bible thumper” as many people call it, but I quoted a bible verse that I put in a previous post titled “Teachers, Counselors and Parents: Practice What You Preach!” because it relates to the topic I am covering today.

Matthew 7 vs 1-5

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be judged, and the measure you get is the measure you get. Why do you seek the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbors eye.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, feel free to leave a comment!

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Does “Normal” Exist? (John Elder Robison’s Book “Be Different”)


Synopsis of selected chapters from “Be Different”:

Part 1: “Rituals, Manners and Quirks”

Part 2: “Emotions”

I will blog about parts 3, 4 and 5 in the near future!

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate reading clinical reports about Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things they really focus on are the symptoms and treating methods. I urge you to take a look at this article on Web MD.com. It is a perfect example of something that absolutely drives me crazy. These reports only show a list of symptoms in childhood, adolescence and adult hood. I have tried my hardest to explain the emotions I have experienced in my life through the writing of my blogs. This brings me to another reason I can’t stand articles like this. It mainly focuses on the “cant’s” of Asperger’s. I am the proud owner of John Elder Robison’s new book “Be Different”. There have been people in the Asperger’s community who have given his first effort “Look Me In The Eye” negative reviews. It is hard to describe experiences throughout a person’s life, then explain how they overcame them in just one book. This weeks blog is going to describe how I can relate to my favorite chapters of this book.

John would probably agree with my statement that we have come along way when it comes to understanding Asperger’s. However, we still have much farther to go. The chapter “Asperger’s and Me” mentioned his son Jack Robison (nicknamed “Cubby), who is now twenty-one years old. He was officially diagnosed when he was sixteen. John was not officially diagnosed until twenty-four years later. A quote from the chapter reads “I look at him today, and see how much he’s benefited from understanding how and why his brain is different from other folks. In many ways, he’s the young man I could have been if only I had known what I had.”

Social skills groups did not work for me, because they focused on “fixing” my weaknesses instead of building on them using my strengths. They seemed to think threatening and scaring tactics would magically cause me to become “reborn” into a “socialite who had lots of friends”. My last blog was about teachers, counselors and parents who don’t “practice what they preach.” It showed how they all push students to learn more about “social skills”, while they behave in a way that shows a lack of social skills. The teacher at Freeport who tried to convince me into believing there was a fee to attend Lenape was a prime example. Remember the situation where they purposely put me on the spot in front of everybody? I liked the chapter Finding Your Path to “Fitting In” because there was one thing that showed me why I didn’t function in the Wesley Wonder Kids “social skills” group. A quote from the chapter read “competence excuses strange behavior. That’s a very important point for those of us on the spectrum, because our special interests can make us competent in whatever we find fascinating”. Wesley Wonder Kids only focused on “fixing” my quirks, not building on my strengths to improve my social skills.

With that in mind, I want to draw your attention to a story about Florida mother Melissa Barton and teacher Wendy Portillo. She is a kindergarten teacher at Port Saint Lucie elementary school. Her son’s teacher allowed her students to vote him out of class. Alex, was five years old when his teacher allegedly asked each student stand up and say something they didn’t like about him. They commented “Alex is disgusting”, “Alex is annoying”, “Alex sits under the table”, “Alex spins in circles” and “Alex eats his crayons”. After each student spoke, she asked him. Fourteen classmates voted him out of the classroom and two voted to let him stay in the class. In this CBS interview with Melissa, she talked about  Alex’s only friend in his kindergarten class. Mrs. Portillo asked the little boy if Alex should be allowed to stay in the class. This happened not once, but twice! The first time he said Alex should be allowed to stay, but Mrs. Portillo sternly said his name. The boy eventually decided to vote him out of the class to prevent the teacher from potentially being punished for disagreeing with him.

Wendy Portillo’s punishment was originally a year suspension without pay and loss of tenure. However, the West Palm Beach school board decided to change that punishment and give her tenure back. In September 2010, she behaved discriminatory to another student with a disability. This teacher is now working at Allapattah Flats in She and two other West Palm Beach teachers were discriminative to a partially deaf girl. The two teachers were supposed to wear microphones so the female student could hear them, but the female student claimed they would “sometimes would not wear them”. According to this news article, the mother filed a complaint with the department of education. There was a claim in the report that said “that one teacher never wore the microphone and screamed and yelled at the student to pay closer attention.” The report also stated another teacher wore the microphone but did not turn it on and “laughed sarcastically in the face of the student”. When Alex Barton’s mother heard about this incident she commented “I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’ve fought very hard to correct this district and this teacher, and here we are again!”

Alex’s mother was very lucky the school board took any action about this teacher’s behavior, however Mrs. Portillo should not have received her tenure back. Discrimination against people is something that we unfortunately can’t erase, but society has a long way to go when it comes to enforcing the laws regarding it. However, we still have a long way to go. During John’s upbringing, anybody who exhibited these characteristics was perceived as “bad”, “ignorant”, “selfish” and “self-absorbed”, just to name a few. I am sure his mother was also very worried about his self-esteem after this unfortunate incident.

Let’s take a look at the chapter “A Reason To Care. John’s mother suffered from Bipolar disorder and his father was a raging alcoholic. As a result, he dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. A quote from the chapter read “I loved computers and electronics, so I naturally imagined myself becoming an engineer. Yet, even with that dream secured, it was difficult for me to see a clear path from high school through college to professional engineerhood in my head. There were just too many problems. My home life was awful, with a drunken father and a mentally ill mother. And I didn’t seem to focus on what my teachers wanted.” Nobody was really there to motivate him and push him in the right direction. His behavior caused resulted in frequent trips to the principal’s office. A school like Lenape Tech sounds like something John really could have benefited from. I hated most of my classes, and my grades started to plummet because of my many issues with self-esteem. I was so bitter about the fact that nobody liked me and truly appreciated me for who I was. Just like John I felt “I wasn’t getting a thing out of class. No one wanted me there. There was no good reason to be in school”. 

My freshman and sophomore years at Freeport were dreadful because I simply because I had to be there for about 6 hours every day. The teachers were not motivated to fit my needs, and they didn’t do a very good job motivating me because none of my classes really interested me. Most public high schools hire teachers for the sole purpose of filling employment vacancies. They don’t consider matters like their ability to teach the material in a way the students will understand. I urge you to search for your school on the website Rate My Teachers. Reasons like what I just described are why this website has sparked such a controversy. Every school out there has at least one teacher who seems to think that giving assignment after assignment out of a  textbook will “light the spark” and help them truly understand the material and want to learn more about it. The thing that annoys me about teachers who give nothing but book work is the fact they never explain any of the terms or (if you are in a class that involves math) formulas in the chapter you they assign you. It is also really no use to ask the teacher for help, because they just tell you how to do the steps instead of showing the steps in a way the average student can grasp it. A “bad” teacher would say “Derek, I’ve told you the steps countless times. Why aren’t you paying attention?” A “good” teacher would say “Derek, let me explain the steps in another way. You don’t seem to be getting it.” The simple fact about teaching is they have to get used to the fact that every student has a different learning style.

A visual learner needs to be taught how to take notes, remember important ideas and they need to have notes and a visual to look at and help them remember information that is going to be on a test. Visual learners would most likely excel in classes like geometry and trigonometry. Algebra can be very challenging for these learners because it is a very abstract

A kinesthetic (hands on)  learner should be allowed to make models of the topic they are learning about. Field trips are a great way to show real world applications of the topic you are covering. They should have the opportunity to use tools and put their skills to the test.

An auditory learner may have difficulty reading passages in a textbook or handouts and they may take longer to get the work completed. They often have high confidence to contribute to class discussions and they are good with words and language. Both oral and written instruction are essential.  

The problem with many teachers is they are unwilling to adapt to the many different learning styles of each student. I am mostly a visual learner, but the hands on an auditory approach towards learning can be helpful for me. It is also important to remember that not every single Aspergian learns the same way. I am a person who needs specific instruction when it comes to performing a task.

Let’s skip forward to the chapter “(Not) Reading People”. Awareness of things like facial expressions and tone of voice can be very difficult for people like me. The chapter opened with John describing how his grandma Richter would make faces at him when he was a toddler. Instead of smiling and laughing at his grandmother, he would just stare. He had absolutely no idea what to make of her action. The circus clown faces coming from his grandmother caused him to wonder if they were supposed to be “funny” or “dangerous.” This agrivated her, so she asked “Why aren’t you smiling at me? You are just a mean little boy.” She finally had enough and plopped John onto the ground. His initial reaction “I was not able to fully grasp what had just happened, but I got the message that she didn’t like me very much.” The therapist I described in many of my former posts (especially “You Need To Laugh More”) seemed to think that pushing me would magically cure me of this problem. He took a similar approach to how Elaine Hall handled her son Neal. He would mimic my facial expressions, film them with my video camera and laugh at them in the process. After we watched the video tapes, he would sit there and tell me how I needed to fix them “immediately”. I am surprised I “kept my cool” and didn’t punch him after I encountered that whole experience. That was an approach that caused me to put even more of a wall. I most certainly didn’t think it was funny, so I refused to open up to him. The fact is, I will not open up to somebody who tries to push me to the limit. To me, it seemed like he was trying to blame me being me for the fact that I had self esteem issues and was bullied a lot. I was emotionally drained by the end of every session with him. I am gradually improving on my ability to recognize facial expressions in people, but never again will I let anybody shove them down my throat! 

If grown-ups are aware, they can do a whole lot to help by explaining what the kids are missing.” 

John Elder Robison

Friendships in high school have been very difficult for me. This was because of my difficulty with facial expressions. The chapter “Making and Keeping Friends” illustrated how his views of friendships have changed. Social skills groups like Wesley Wonder Kids weren’t very helpful when it came to making friendships. The group members were lost in their own worlds and I was lost in mine. I could not figure out how to interact with them because I was not into the same things they were. I met my good friend Aaron from the Computing Workshop program, and we automatically got along because he was a very laid back guy who wasn’t interested in normalizing me. The group members from Wesley Wonder Kids seemed to be lost in their own world of video games, cartoons, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon. When they would talk about their interests, the staff members would put me on the spot and make me ask questions about it. I had no idea what to ask them because I am not interested in any of those things. I was just to stressed about the whole social pressure of high school that I didn’t really want friends. Mom would try to encourage me to find out more about the things they were interested in, but I chose not to because I feared I would get even more lost into my world. Reading this chapter described how I felt at just about any social event with people close to my age. There was another thing about friendships that really frustrated me during junior high and high school. The following is another quote from this chapter “Like anyone, it cuts me when a friend I care about turns on me, but if someone I just met fades from the scene, I’ve learned not to be troubled.” I know now that friends who come and go are not true friends. I’ve come to realize that it is their problem if they don’t want to truly get to know me. Very much like John, I thought of friendships as “all or nothing”. People have different groups of friends and not every category of friends share their deepest darkest secrets.

There is one more chapter that I want to talk about in part 2. “Keeping Cool In A Crisis” can be very difficult for many people. People often joke about tragedies like car accidents and school shootings because they don’t realize the seriousness of the situation until it actually happens to them or somebody they care about. John was involved in a serious car accident, but he and the passenger were not injured. The following is a quote that described the situation “Everything happened in slow motion, though the crash played out in a fraction of a second in real-time. Jim saw a rainbow as the other car’s window glass exploded in our headlights. I remember a tremendous jolt, and struggling to twist my wrecked steering wheel as our car slid to a stop. When we stopped moving we both looked back and forth for a moment, and wiggled our arms and legs to ascertain that we were still alive and intact.”  The driver of the other vehicle was killed on impact. Head on collisions are among of the most serious types of car accidents because they involve more than one vehicle. I honestly don’t know how I would react if I encountered a crisis situation because I have never experienced it before. Instead of screaming and panicking, he did his best to rescue the passenger trapped inside the other vehicle. He took the logical approach and solved the problem while helping somebody who was in danger. Fire, severe weather and lockdown drills in school are necessary in schools because they are intended to prepare for the unthinkable. Before I leave you for today, I urge you to look at this video. It contains rare evidence that was found from the shooting at Columbine High School in April 1999. The evidence was put there to help people reconnect with what happened that day.

I hope you enjoyed reading my perceptions of John Elder Robison’s book.

I will review parts 3, 4 and 5 next week!

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Teachers, Counselors and Parents: “Practice What You Preach”!


I was looking online for a quote based on the idiom “Practice What You Preach”. Out of all the quotes I came across, the one I am about to share is probably my favorite one I have come across in a long time. The quote read “It is always easier to fight for your principals than to live up to them”. The term for people who don’t “practice what they preach” is a hypocrite. Here is one of my favorite bible verses about hypocrisy.

Matthew 7 vs 1-5

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be judged, and the measure you get is the measure you get. Why do you seek the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbors eye.

I don’t normally bring discussion about the bible into my blogs, but this perfectly describes the many experiences I have been through with therapists, teachers and other adults who have preached “social skills” to me. I want to start with describing a teacher I had during my sophomore year at the Freeport Area Senior High School. For those of you who know me and/or who are frequent readers of my blog know that I have attended the Lenape Technical School for my junior and senior year. Freeport put me in the learning support classes since I was in the fifth grade. I was in the support room at the high school, and we were handed a scheduling paper for our junior year. My most recent blog post before this one described a math class with this teacher. I saw the optical electronics program at Lenape, and I was so bitter about the whole experience at Freeport that I knew there was only one way to make me feel better about school. I had to get out of there.

The teacher asked me what classes I wanted to take and I said “I don’t know”. She told me “You better decide quickly because if you don’t, you will have to take what we picked for you.” I responded “Then I’ll just go into cyber school if I don’t get accepted into Lenape”. The teacher obnoxiously responded “Derek, the state of Pennsylvania is eliminating cyber school next year. Also, there is now a fee to attend Lenape. Your parents are now required to pay half. You will not be admitted into the school if your parents don’t pay before the end of this school year”. That evening, I brought it up to my parents. My mother told me not to worry, because both of those ignorant statements were not true. Lenape is the comprehensive vocational technical school for Armstrong county. The school district pays the money for students to attend. What baffled me about this situation was how the teacher would try to convince me into believing her even though she knew her statements were false. She always reprimanded me for not interacting “appropriately”, while she bullied me into making the decision to stay at Freeport and be educated to become a janitor. I obviously did not let her bully me into what Freeport wanted me to do, so I went to Lenape and for the most part I feel happier and more fulfilled.

I have described my experiences with traditional “social skills” groups. Wesley Wonder Kids didn’t really work for me because it was mainly focused on teaching kids appropriate ways to interact with people. They used several teaching materials such as role plays and social stories. Before I go into more detail, I know there are many kids who would benefit from this program. I wasn’t very fond of it because it was the same routine every session. At the beginning of the session, each group member was asked to share news stories from their week. They would all talk about their favorite video games, movies, music and activities they participated in throughout the week. When my turn came, I didn’t really know what to share. I hated school, so I didn’t want to talk about that. I am not an avid movie fan. I was and still am a weightlifter, but they already knew that. They were not particularly interested in exercising, so I figured I shouldn’t talk about that. I didn’t do much else besides going to school and going to the gym. I would take my dog on occasional walks and go on errands with my parents on occasions but that was it.

The staff members would put me on the spot and pressure me into sharing something. I remember one sessions somebody asked “what did you have for lunch today?” I reluctantly responded “pizza”. Let’s go back to another post that described a situation during an activity during coffee talk.

Each group member was assigned a date on the calendar, and on that specific date you were supposed to bring a desert type snack and choose a topic the group can easily discuss for fifteen minutes. On one particular day, it was another group member’s turn to choose a topic. When it came time for coffee talk, he didn’t have his topic chosen like he was supposed to. It took him five minutes to finally choose one, and he finally chose “pop culture”. Everybody had their favorite movie, band or television show to talk about and I had absolutely no idea what to say. All of the group members would talk over each other, and the parents could hear them in the lobby next door over the air conditioning vent. Because coffee talk was the last activity of the night, I was only focused on going home and going to bed. Then a voice from one of the staff members rang out “Derek, we haven’t heard from you yet. What do you have to contribute to this discussion?” I responded by saying “I don’t know”. The group members turned around and started pressuring me to say something, similar to most of my peers in school when they would ask me things like “Why Are You So Quiet”? When it finally became time to leave, I muttered in disgust “I hate being put on the spot”. Another staff member heard my remark and said “You have to suck it up, you are going to be put on the spot for the rest of your life”.

I would have been much happier at Wesley Wonder Kids if the staff members would have listened to me and tried to understand how I was personally effected by Asperger’s. A true person with “social skills” will listen to them and do whatever they can to help them get through a problem. I was a very reserved person at Freeport. Wesley told me I should not be judgmental, when made comments towards me regarding how much of a failure I would be if I didn’t make friends “immediately”.

I am going to be graduating from high school in six weeks. I know college is going to be different from high school in many ways, but I still have no idea what it is really going to have in store for me. I am going to try my hardest not to let judgmental people bring me down, because I know I may encounter them. I think the only “therapy” I need is to learn about Electro Optics, a career field with many different job opportunities. Another “therapy” will be to publish a book about my life. I hope I will “shed some more light” about Asperger’s. We need to teach people that every kids with Asperger’s is different, and we should encourage them to use their gifts in order to build on their weaknesses.

I hope you enjoyed reading!

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Four Misconceptions About Asperger’s Syndrome (Written By An Aspie Teen)


Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism will never be fully understood. We will never know what causes it. I highly doubt there will be a cure, and I most certainly do not believe there will be a need for one. However, I do believe writing about ones experiences and emotions will  make people become more aware about my diagnosis. I am absolutely through with therapists trying to “fix” me, and trying to “fit in” and be “like everybody else”. I’ve written blogs in the past about stereotypes, which are common beliefs about groups of people or certain types of individuals.

Stereotypes are the reason people don’t give us Aspies the respect and understanding we deserve. I am going to cover some of the most common misconceptions about Asperger’s Syndrome.

1.) “Teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome prefer to be alone”

There is a movie out that I haven’t had the opportunity to see yet, but it’s called “If You Could Say It In Words”. I recently viewed an Autism Talk TV interview with Alex plank (founder of Wrong Planet) Nicholas Gray (director), Alvin Keith (actor) and Marin Ireland (actress). The movie is a love story about two undiagnosed Aspies. Alex made a comment during this interview that completely explains why Asperger’s is not understood. He explained that in many movies about people with Asperger’s, they look up a list of symptoms and only talk about how to portray them to show they have Asperger’s. They developed the relationships between the two characters instead of only focusing on the symptoms.

People can’t get the idea that we Aspies want social interaction with people just as much as anyone else does. We want friends who are understanding, loyal and trustworthy of us. I recently viewed a film named “Billy The Kid”, a documentary about Billy, a teenage boy with Asperger’s. The only thing this documentary really focused on was the fact that he has trouble interacting with people. It didn’t focus on the positive sides of Asperger’s Syndrome. There was one scene at the beginning of the documentary that showed Billy waking to the school cafeteria, constantly scanning the hallway for trouble. He was scared somebody might try to harass him. This scene brought back my memories of being a student at the Freeport Area Senior High School. I desperately wanted friends, but people were too rude and judgmental to even let me sit at their lunch table. Everybody had their own clique of friends, and they had no room for anyone new. I couldn’t bare to watch the rest of the documentary because it seemed to me the film directors would drag Billy into social situations. I was fed up with this documentary because it focused on all of the things we Aspies have so much trouble with in life. With that being said, Billy did seem like a very intelligent person. This documentary showed the painful aspects of having Asperger’s Syndrome, as a result I was offended. I am not going to go into detail about the whole film, but there was one scene that made me go back to the bad memories of my high school years. He described how he dated a girl, then she dumped him in front of a bunch of people in school. When I heard about this, I immediately flashed back to my memories of freshman and sophomore year at Freeport. It brought back memories of people setting me up, convincing me into believing they were trying to be my friend, then turning around and behaving in a way that completely humiliated me. Because of this, I would probably give “Billy The Kid” two out of five stars. The film director should have focused on the benefits of having Asperger’s Syndrome instead of the fact that he has trouble connecting with people and dealing with change.

2.) “Children and teens with Asperger’s are rebellious”

We can thank the morning news and society in general for this stereotype. When you get the chance, I encourage you to watch this YouTube video. It’s talks about Indiana State teacher Kristen Woodward who called five year old student Gabriel Ross “pathetic” in class. The student brought a tape recorder into the classroom, and recorded his verbal beating in front of the whole class. Her comments went as follows.

Ten people in this building you have tormented and tortured for 149 days, I’m done! You’ve been ignorant, selfish, self absorbed, the whole thing! I’m done!

The teacher then went as far as addressing the entire class,

He has made every wrong choice possible, and he has had more help to make the right choices and he has chose not to. So, you guys think, is that somebody in class you want to be with?

Class: Nooo.

See, your friends don’t even want to be with you now.

Woodward was suspended with pay. While I don’t know the entire story, it seemed to me the teacher did not communicate with the parents about Gabriel’s “talking problem” in class. After all, the mother said it kept happening for 149 days. The teacher should have either called or sat down with the parents to talk possible ways to handle the “talking problem”. Instead, she wrote negative comments on his behavior log. Some of them read “talked non stop interrupting the teachers”, “terrible day” and “talked non stop today”.

Since the very first summer I started at the Computing Workshop, I’ve heard many reports from parents about teachers treating their children like this. The coordinator told me about a bad encounter with teachers and administrators at an I.E.P meeting. This student wanted to attend our summer program a few years back, and they had to attend the meeting to decide whether or not the school was going to pay for his tuition in the program. The entire meeting, the teachers and administrators at this school kept berating him about how “annoying” he was. They were trying to threaten him and make him feel like he was a “terrible child”. This child obviously didn’t seem like a major trouble maker. Again, the teachers should have communicated with the parents in private if they thought his “annoying” behavior was such a problem.

3.) “Children and teenagers with Asperger’s are violent”.

This is another one of the stereotypes that we can thank the media and Hollywood for. Do you remember the kid in my TV production class who told me I looked “just like a serial killer”. This was due to the fact that I didn’t talk to anybody. I ignored him after he made this comment because he was purposely trying to get an angry reaction from me. I remember John Elder Robison’s book “Look Me In The Eye”, the very first chapter described how people would say the same things to him. People threatened him with the military and jail. they often called him a “sociopath” and a “psychopath” One quote from the book said “I’ve read about people like you. They have no expression because they have no feeling. Some of the worst murders in history were sociopaths”.

My sister was a senior when I was a freshman at Freeport. This was the time I worked with that pushy therapist who wanted to “fix” me. She often commented how I would walk around the hallway with a scowl on my face. One of the key characteristics of Autism is awkward facial expressions. My pushy therapist got a kick out of the habit that I couldn’t control. He would imitate my facial expressions and try to get me to laugh about it. As I stated in my last blog “You Need To Laugh More”, he finally gave up on me after year. Hurting somebody was not on my mind, but I was pretty angry because of all the prejudices I received from people. Aspies tend to become aware of their quirks as they grow older. It does not always take somebody demanding them to change in order to fix their habits.

4.) “Teens With Asperger’s Syndrome Can’t Express Empathy”

This is probably the most ridiculous stereotype out of the five I am going to cover today. Scroll back to the quote from John Elder Robison’s book. I have began to realize that kids with Asperger’s Syndrome are far more empathetic than most average high school students. People should not confuse the word empathy with sympathy. If the were to be a death in your friends family, you would feel sorry for them. Therefore, you might send them a card or a gift expressing your sympathy. However, empathy a little bit different. My blogs help me express my empathy towards people on the Autistic Spectrum or people who are different in general because they show they are not alone. I know how it feels to be misconceived and misused.

While I am not a fan of reality TV, I am a fan of the show “World’s Strictest Parents”. The show focuses on changing the lives of rebellious teenagers who’s lives revolve around things like drugs, sex, partying and violence. Two teenagers are sent away to live with another family and experience “strict parenting”. The family has strict rules, but they are used to teach them about responsibilities in life. However, they try their hardest to do it with compassion, love and understanding. This particular clip shows British teenagers Sevda and Andrew. They were sent to San Antonio, Texas. They lived with the Frazee family for a week. Randy is a pastor at a mega church and Rosanne, his wife is a “stay at home” mom. My favorite part of this episode was part four. The second half of the clip showed them going to the local Boys and Girls club. While the group members were hanging out during break, Sevda stayed inside. The classmate Carlton walked over and talked to her. Sevda was drawing on a piece of paper when he walked over. Here is what he said.

Carlton: You like art, you’re very stylish, you have a lot going for you! I wanna ask you something. Do you like to party? A lot?

Sevda: Yes.

Carlton: You wanna know where I just got back from? I just got done five months in jail!

Sevda: Really?

Carlton: Yeah, my mom’s an alcoholic, my dad.. I don’t know where he is. I’ve been in every school in this town because of moving. I’ve been through rough times.

Sevda: I just hate doing this.

Carlton: You don’t want to do this?

Sevda: I just don’t like school.

Carlton: I say you go for it.

Even though Carlton’s advice didn’t encourage Sevda to participate with the group, it was a great example of showing empathy to a person. He calmly walker over and tried to start a conversation with her.  He encouraged her by explaining he has been through similar experiences in his own life. I didn’t understand myself during my freshman and sophomore years at Freeport. Coming to Lenape has helped me become more open about my differences. Since then, I have received many comments from people thanking me. Therefore, we most certainly can express empathy! There are still many things I don’t know about Asperger’s. It just takes time for us to understand ourselves while we try understand other people at the same time.

I used this entry to go the extra mile. I have tried to prove my “favorites” of the many Asperger’s stereotypes wrong.

Whether or not you are an Aspie or just a person who is not understood, I encourage you to comment and write about misconceptions people have about you. Try your best to prove them wrong!

Thank you for reading!

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“The Angry WordPress Troll” (Trolls vs. Cyber-bullies)


Somebody posted a comment on my blog that actually amused me, because it shows the lack of knowledge in many people in America and throughout the world. My account is purposely set not to put comments on my blog until they are approved by me. I logged on WordPress, marked it as spam and deleted it as soon as I received the notification email. The comment read “All Autistic people are out of control animals who should be euthanized”. I immediately deleted it. I’ve unapproved comments that have been written by people before, but nothing downright ignorant like this. I think it is very important to not only address this issue, but to be insightful about why people “troll” on internet forums.

I want to start off by explaining what a troll is. A troll is a person who posts provocative comments on a message board just for the sole purpose of making people angry.  Trolls mainly post on forum websites where people express their opinions about controversial issues. For example, If a gay or lesbian person person talks about their life, they post derogatory words like “fagot” or “dyke”. They judgmentally quote bible verses and tell them how much they feel the person’s life is an “abomination”. Every single troll is different. There are some who are very smart and others are not so smart. Very many of them use their personal experiences as an excuse to disrespect other people’s opinions on an issue. I look back and think about the person who posted the comment on my blog, and they may have experienced problems with a sibling or family member on the severe side of the spectrum. I’ve stated before that kids on the severe side of the Autistic Spectrum can be very difficult to deal with, especially when they are part of the family. Kids on the severe end of the Autistic Spectrum don’t know how to speak, therefore they don’t know how to express their emotions. They resort to screaming, yelling and throwing objects because they don’t know how express what is bothering them. I wrote a post a few weeks ago that talked about a controversial video by Autism Speaks. It was titled “Autism Every Day”. One of the mothers told a story about how her son ran out to the middle of a busy city street without a shirt or shoes on. She actually had to call the police to look for him. With that being said, I most certainly am not trying to claim that issues with an Autistic family member is a good excuse. It will only make the person look worse.

Now, I want to explain why I made the decision to delete the comment. Trolls are like bullies in some ways, but you really can’t confront them because they are on the internet. I’ve had discussions with many people who may think it is rude to delete a troll comment, because they feel the person is entitled to their own opinion. That statement may be true, but the comment is going to be read by a lot of people and it will definitely make other people angry. Don’t understand? I am going to use an off topic example to help you. You are at a family member’s birthday party, and you grab a box of matches for the candles. You get the match lit when all of a sudden you bump into something, then the match falls out of your hand and catches the curtains on fire. You would be surprised how many people would try to fight the fire instead of getting out of the house. A troll wants to see you “start a fire” by saying something disrespectful back to them.

There is one thing a person should also keep in mind before you delete a troll from your blog or forum page. Most of them usually go away after a few days, but there are a few who will keep making disrespectful comments until the person can’t take it anymore. They are definitely what I consider a cyber bully. I never received any more thoughtless comments from this person or anybody else. This is really the only time they should be reported to an administrator of the website you are using. These types of trolls are cyber bullies. Most of the forums and social networking sites I use have policies against this, and people who violate them should have their account permanently deactivated. You should not only keep tabs of what the person said, but you should also keep tabs of the date and time it was written. If reporting the user to an administrator does not work, then local law enforcement should be contacted. This is especially true if the comments are of a threatening nature. Even if it is something as simple as “I’ll kick your butt!” Every computer is equipped with something called an IP (Internet Protocol) address. Law enforcement can track it and find exactly where the person accesses internet from, but they do not have the automatic capability to find out who they are. Internet threats should never be taken lightly, regardless of whether or not you know the person.

Trolls and cyber bullies are different in some ways, but similar in others. When I encounter trolls, I have learned that I should just shrug my shoulders and not respond to them. I have to realize that I am a better person than they will ever be, and I know they are taking their bitterness about an issue by disrespecting the person. Like I said at the beginning, there are some trolls who actually amuse me. They may be intelligent, but they write comments that make them sound like the complete opposite. With this in mind, hopefully you have have better understanding of trolls. Please pass this advice onto any person you know who may experience this.

Thank you for reading, and I will be back next week.

 

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“There’s Rules Everywhere! Suck it Up!”


I have written about many of my experiences with people who just didn’t know how to work with me. Some of these people were just plain mean, while others just didn’t understand me no matter how hard they tried. I want to emphasize one thing before I get started explaining the topic. Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome will never be fully understood. I am strongly against the controversial organization “Autism Speaks”, because they make Autism sound like it is a death sentence. The vast majority of people who support this organization do not have Autism themselves. Temple Grandin has strongly spoken against curing Autism.

I believe there’s a point where mild autistic traits are just normal human variation. Mild autism can give you a genius like Einstein. If you have severe autism, you could remain nonverbal. You don’t want people to be on the severe end of the spectrum. But if you got rid of all the autism genetics, you wouldn’t have science or art. All you would have is a bunch of social ‘yak yaks.’

I have come to realize that many of the parents who want to cure Autism do not have the skills and/or motivation to take care of them and help them. I watched a video on YouTube called “Autism Every Day”. It was pretty much a video of parents complaining about how difficult it is to raise a child with Autism. There was a comment made by one of the mothers that truly angered me. The mother allegedly talked about wanting to put her daughter in the car, and drive off of the George Washington bridge. Before anybody says anything, I am aware of how hard it is to raise a child with Autism. There are many Autistic children out there who are extremely difficult to control. The parents in the video explained how the child would do things like would climb on top of furniture, run out of the house into the middle of the street and throw objects around the house.  However, the parents on the “Autism Every Day” video are a lot like the one that have been on the show “Supernanny”. As I said, they don’t have the patience, skills and motivation to take care of them.

The fact is there is no cure for Autism. There is no magic pill that will erase all the child’s problems. I stated that Autism Speaks reminds me of the show “Supernanny” because the parents often try to take the easy way out of the situation. I saw one episode on YouTube where the parents were cooking dinner, and the child was complaining about wanting a doughnut. The mother asked “Can you wait until after you eat your pasta and your vegetables?” The child then kept on whining and the mother gave in. The mother took the easy way out and let the child eat a doughnut before dinner. Wishing for a so-called “magic pill” is like letting your screaming child have a doughnut because it will stop him or her from screaming. The mother should have said “You will not get a doughnut until you eat all of your pasta and vegetables”!

I have began to notice that maintaining structure in the household and in the classroom is the only way to help an Aspie child understand the real world. Therapists can certainly help with this. I had a therapist when I was around six years old who would draw a visual schedule of the activities we were going to do during the session, and the order we will perform them. We would do two or three different activities during the two-hour sessions. She would either draw a picture of each activity on paper, or print out clip arts pictures and write text below them. This is a great tool to teach time management skills, and it can also help them develop social skills. My mother taught me to write down possible activities I could do with a friend when they come over to my house. I would write down a few suggestions of things we would like to do. I would write it down on a small sheet of paper and keep it in my pocket. This is also a great skill for planning a party or other event. I am a senior this year, and I am planning my graduation party. I looked for catering companies online and I copied and pasted their street address, phone numbers and their website URL into a word document.

While structure is an essential component to develop into a successful adult, there are quite a few problems I experienced with structure during my adolescent years. From my freshman year into my sophomore year of high school I worked with a therapist who was very pushy and demanding. The coordinator at Wesley Wonder Kids recommended him because she felt it would help boost my confidence if somebody pushed me to “step out of my comfort zone”. I hated the fact that I was not “normal” and that I didn’t have friends to talk to and spend time with. Our sessions mainly consisted of role playing and talking about how my Autism effected my ability to connect with people in school. I hated doing role plays because they were just imaginary conversations. I didn’t see the point in asking somebody “what do you like to do”? or “what is your favorite color”? It takes quite a high level of socialization skills to recognize things like facial expressions or tone of voice. I was also extremely frustrated with Wesley Wonder Kids. I am going to refer back to my entry titled “Scary Stories From The Real World”. Here is the situation I am going to describe.

Each group member was assigned a date on the calendar, and on that specific date you were supposed to bring a desert type snack and choose a topic the group can easily discuss for fifteen minutes. On one particular day, it was another group member’s turn to choose a topic. When it came time for coffee talk, he didn’t have his topic chosen like he was supposed to. It took him five minutes to finally choose one, and he finally chose “pop culture”. Everybody had their favorite movie, band or television show to talk about and I had absolutely no idea what to say. All of the group members would talk over each other, and the parents could hear them in the lobby next door over the air conditioning vent. Because coffee talk was the last activity of the night, I was only focused on going home and going to bed. Then a voice from one of the staff members rang out “Derek, we haven’t heard from you yet. What do you have to contribute to this discussion?” I responded by saying “I don’t know”. The group members turned around and started pressuring me to say something, similar to most of my peers in school when they would ask me things like “Why Are You So Quiet”? When it finally became time to leave, I muttered in disgust “I hate being put on the spot”. Another staff member heard my remark and said “You have to suck it up, you are going to be put on the spot for the rest of your life”.

I was completely mortified when I heard that comment from the staff member. I came to the general consensus that most of the structured social skills groups are designed for kids with kids who can’t follow directions, demonstrate very poor social skills or have a lack of respect for people, especially authority figures. I was never the kind of person that would mouth off to a teacher or destroy property because of anger issues. While we were in that building for the entire group session, they would preach about the outside world instead of engaging and teaching.

I worked with a different person after I left Wonder Kids, and he was a Strength Based style therapist. I was glad he used by strengths and helped me build on them to improve my social skills. It helped me because I didn’t have somebody shoving social skills down my throat and forcing me to step out of my comfort zone. Lenape has helped me become a success in the real world rather than making me into a P.S.S.A test score or writing negative things about me on my IEP.

My final thought is that parents and teachers have to determine how much they trust an Asperger’s teenager before they shove rules down their throat. They have to talk to the child and listen to them if they are having an issue with something. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the Computing Workshop and meet my good friend Aaron, because it helped me improve my confidence to reach out to people. It gave me real world interaction with people without rules, structure and role plays being shoved down my throat. The Computing Workshop also gave me the confidence to stand up for the things I believe in. We need a lot more of those organizations designed for people with differences.

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