|CE Comments Etienne Wenger Trauma Couples Therapy Mary Jo Barrett The Future of Psychotherapy Linda Bacon Great Attachment Debate Clinical Mastery Symposium 2012 Diets Narcissistic Clients Challenging Cases Clinical Excellence Mind/Body Men in Therapy Community of Excellence Attachment Theory William Doherty Wendy Behary Future of Psychotherapy Alan Sroufe Ethics Anxiety Attachment Brain Science Couples Gender Issues Mindfulness David Schnarch|
The world is a baffling place for kids with Asperger's
by Diane Yapko
It's one of the first days of the school year in Mrs. Reed's fourth-grade class. Not yet used to being cooped up after summer vacation, the children are noisy, fidgety, bordering on rambunctious. They refuse to settle down, even after repeated requests from her. Finally, she raises her voice and asks sternly, "Do you all want to miss recess and stay indoors today?" Everybody in the class immediately quiets down—everybody except Aaron. To her question, he immediately answers with a loud "Yes!" Some children look at him angrily, others snicker at his cluelessness. The rest of the children understood that Mrs. Reed wasn't expecting an answer from them—of course she knew they didn't want to skip recess. But Aaron assumed that if a question was asked, a reply was expected. After all, what was the purpose of asking a question if you already knew the answer?
At first, Mrs. Reed thinks Aaron is simply being provocative "Fine, then," she says angrily, "You'll stay in during recess." And he does, but instead of yearning to go outside with the rest of the kids, he spends the time rereading his beloved Star Wars book, which he's practically memorized. He knows the minutest trait of every character, but still gets pleasure from reading the book over and over again.
Aaron, who has Asperger's syndrome (AS), has great difficulty intuitively understanding the intentions or feelings beneath the literal meanings of words. To him the world is a baffling place—he can't fathom why the other kids treat him the way they do, or what he might be doing that garners such consistently negative reactions.
Let's take a closer look at how he experiences recess. The typical cacophony of excited 9-year-olds getting ready to go outside is deafening to Aaron—the screeching noise of chairs being pushed under desks, the unruly commotion of children milling around as they line up to leave the class overload his senses. Beyond that, recess itself is filled with social stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. Who will he play with? Will he be able to find Joshua, who also likes to talk about Star Wars, or will Josh be off playing soccer with those other kids again? Can he join in the soccer game, as he's tried to do so many times before, or will the kids once again tell him he can't play?