I wrote this blog post to share the most important rule I learned for learning social skills with Asperger's syndrome. I've addressed this post to readers who have Asperger's themselves, but these tips can just as easily be used to help a loved one who has Asperger's.
The most important rule I've discovered is this: Learn social skills by understanding the reasons behind social situations, not through rote memorization.
The Problem With Rote Memorization
The most natural way that people with Asperger's learn social skills is through rote memorization. We learn a specific response that works for a specific situation, and so when that situation occurs, we deploy that response.
For instance, we learn through trial and error that if someone tells us their name, we should tell them our name in return or they will be upset. Easy enough.
But if the situation changes, our memorized response doesn't help us. Let's say Bob introduces Joe to us. Do we tell Joe our name, or is that Bob's job? We memorized what to do in one specific situation, but when the situation changes we are out of luck.
Of course, rote memorization is better than nothing. But there's a better way.
Learning To Understand
Instead of memorizing specific responses to specific situations, learn to understand the reasons behind a social situation. Train yourself to think through what other people expect from a situation, and ponder how you can help meet the expectations of others and make the interaction more positive.
When you learn to think through the reasons behind a social situation, you can use that knowledge to derive the correct response to the situation--even if you have no rote response memorized. All you need to do is ponder your understanding of what people expect from a situation, and then respond in a way that matches their expectations.
For instance, let’s dig deeper into introductions. What positive results do people expect from an introduction?
The obvious result is that an introduction allows people to share the data of what everyone's names are, but there's more than that. Some other desired results of an introduction might be:
- The sharing of relevant information about the people being introduced (for instance "Hi, I'm Dan, and I'm a friend of Bob’s)
- Giving everyone the chance to speak so they feel included.
- Creating a socially acceptable way to start a conversation from scratch
- Allows people to get a feel for each other before the conversation begins in earnest.
When we know the results that people expect from an introduction, we can use this knowledge to guide our actions.
For instance, if we see that one desired result of an introduction is to give everyone the chance to speak, we know that we shouldn't start telling a long story until everyone has been introduced.
If we see that introductions create a socially acceptable way to start a conversation, we know that if someone introduces themselves to us, they are trying to start a conversation and we should respond appropriately.
This concept applies to all situation situations, not just introductions. When we learn the desired results that people expect from a social situation, we can choose responses that help achieve the desired results for that situation. All you need to do is take a moment to think through the reasons behind a situation, and you can deduce what you should be doing in that situation.
By learning to understand the reasons behind a situation, we can free ourselves from the massive list of rote responses, and have a much greater ability to handle whatever social situation we find ourselves in. It really is that simple, and it really is that powerful.
I'll close with a few pieces of advice for how to apply this rule to your own lives.
First, please realize that you will not be able to create a comprehensive list of every desired result that people expect from an interaction, especially at first. But you should be able to think up at least a few, and you can ask friends and family to help you uncover more. You will also naturally discover more desired results of a given social situation simply by observing people in that social situation. So as time goes by, your understanding of social situations will grow more and more.
Second, if you are still having trouble understanding this idea, there is a metaphor that might help. Picture a classroom. The desired result of the classroom is for students to learn. A teacher has two options for trying to achieve this result. He can either make a lengthy list of rules--no talking in class, no chewing gum, raise your hand if you have a question, etc. Or, he can teach the students to think "If I do this action, will it disrupt the other students from learning?"
The lengthy list of rules is similar to the rote memorization. The problem with it is that it's impossible to make a rule that forbids every negative thing a student might do, and it's also no fun for students to have to memorize a huge list. The better option is for students to understand that their goal is to be non-disruptive, so they can think for themselves, and realize when a potential action would disrupt the classroom.
Third, if you need another example of understanding the reasons behind an interaction, take a look at my guide on how to make conversation. I explain the reasons behind conversation, and show you how you can use those reasons to guide your responses.
Finally, remember that like everything, this is a skill that grows with practice. If you learn to understand the reasons, you will not magically become a social superstar. It will take time, practice, and hard work for you to learn social skills in this way.
But it will take considerably more time, practice and hard work if you learn through rote memorization, and you will have much less success overall. When you learn to understand the reasons behind social situations and train yourself to react accordingly, you will dramatically multiply the benefit you receive from studying social skills. And as you continue to study social skills and grow in your understanding of social situations, you will find yourself increasingly able to thrive in social situations and build the deep, intimate relationships that you deserve.
This technique won't get you instant results. But if you start today, you'll be astonished by the changes you see over time. Good luck!
The Guide To Understanding Social Interaction
If you really want to dive into this idea of understanding the reasons behind social interaction, you're going to want my book Improve Your Social Skills. You'll learn:
- The reasons why people make small talk
- What people are saying with their body language
- Why certain people are way better at telling stories than others.
If that sounds good to you, grab the ebook on Amazon for just $5!
I agree that rote memorization does not work. One thing that has really helped me is realizing that a lot of people are uncomfortable in social situations, not just Aspies. It makes me feel less self-conscious.
I like this blog post and I tweeted it. I look forward to reading others, thanks.
What should you do if Bob does not introduce Joe to you (or vice versa), but rather they both launch straight into a conversation about people you don’t know, events you weren’t at or other subjects to which you have nothing to contribute?
If Bob and Joe do that, THEY are being rude. This time, they were the ones who messed up socially.
Regardless, what would be the correct response?
“Pardon me, but I didn’t catch your name. I’m _______________. Nice to meet you.” As you extend your hand. Be sure not to interrupt, but find a break in conversation. The point is to gently correct the mistake without making anyone feel badly.
Yes I agree with the above comment, social situations don’t go like clockwork, normal people are spontaneous & that’s something I’m definitely not.. it doesn’t matter if you understand what’s expected in social situations if you have nothing to talk about..Most people talk, joke & laugh about their jobs, kids, friends and experiences in life, all of which leave me out in the cold. Yes I have trouble knowing what’s acceptable in social situations but I don’t think trying to be normal is as simple as learning what is. I have very little emotional range in my voice & I also have a very expressionless face so it’s not like I can just pretend to be normal by learning some social tricks. A person who is paralyzed knows how to walk but that doesn’t mean they can. I hope somebody can prove me wrong in all this as I’m seriously depressed about my situation & not sure what the point is in carrying on in a life that I can never really take part in in any meaningful way.
It sounds like you’ve had a pretty rough time, and I’m sorry for the hardship you’ve been through. I have a few comments for you that you might find encouraging.
First, I want to let you know that it does get better. Speaking from very personal experience, I know what it’s like to be an outsider, and to be shunned, and to have no idea how to “act normal” or to fit in. That’s a really hard place to be in, and I understand why your outlook on life is pretty bleak.
But it gets better. Little by little, you can learn the skills you need to interact with people successfully. And little by little, you start having friendships and those friendships start growing deeper and deeper. You can learn to put emotion in your face and your words (just watch actors on TV and spend time practicing what they do!), and you can learn the other social skills you need.
Your situation is not hopeless, and you’re not paralyzed. If you get nothing else from Improve Your Social Skills, get the message that your social skills CAN improve, and you CAN find the relationships that you need and deserve.
Second, I want you to know that you matter very much (http://www.twloha.com/blog/you-matter-very-much/) and that the idea that your life is not worth living is flatly a lie. You are on earth for a purpose, and I fully believe that you will find the joy and relationships and meaning in life that you are looking for. You just need to keep looking, and not give up.
Third, don’t let anonymous blog comments be the only place where you share how you’re really feeling. Talk to someone–a family member, a pastor, a teacher. Let them know how you’re feeling. Pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with a counselor–or just call 1-800-SUICIDE to talk to someone for free. You can make it through this, and you don’t have to do it alone.
Dan, I am new to your site. I find your site very helpful.
Thanks for your response but I have talked to many people and it just left me feeling more hopeless to be honest.. I just find it really humiliating to be like this & talking about it to people makes me feel worse… The more I try to do anything about it the more I realize that there is no magic cure & it’s something I’ll have to deal with all my life. I’m not sure I believe everyone has a purpose in life, to me life is just pretty random & cruel as far as my experience tells me anyway.. And to be honest I did think it would get better but I’m nearly 35 years old now & can’t see how thing can possibly improve but don’t worry as I’m too much of a coward to commit suicide.. so far anyway.
I would encourage you not to give up 🙂 Just because you haven’t found a purpose in your life yet doesn’t mean that purpose doesn’t exist, and it’s worth looking for. You might be 35, but you still have a lot of years left, and every day is a chance at a fresh start.
I also wanted to share a new resource I found with you, called http://www.crisischat.org. Even if you don’t find that talking with people in person is helpful, perhaps you would have a better experience talking with a counselor online. That way there’s no commitment and you only share as much as you feel comfortable sharing.
Good luck Tommy! I am rooting for you.
You have made a difference!! I just discovered today, that I have this too! It is kind of relief, to know I am not from another planet! LOL. Because boy do I feel the same way as you! I have tried before and it never worked. I am glad. I saw different things in since I am still here. Have had some new experiences in going places and seeing different types of weather , trees and animals. I even got a Siamese cat! They talk a lot!! You should get one. He helps me. I named him Pyeong! Anyway, as you can clearly see, I am not good at trying to talk either. But because of you Tommy, I know there is someone namely YOU that’s out there that feels exactly like me! we are just biding our time here!! But we are not alone, even though we feel it and others are very different than us!!
Thank you Tommy
I see how old this comment is and so you probably won’t read this but here goes. I work with young people with Autism so I have come here for ideas. I always read the comments for real opinions. The people I work with are often some of the most genuine and thoughtful people to be around, I am involved in projects to try to get more neurodiverse people into the workplace as many have skills that make a huge contribution (commitment, attention to detail etc). It can be excrutiating for many neurotypical people to navigate social situations so I can only imagine how hard it must be if you feel you don’t have all the ‘tools.’ I remind the people I work with that even if it appears to come naturally a lot of us learn skills and put on a front in public, but I appreciate how exhausting it is if you are always second guessing everything. Tommy you made me stop and think today, there are not easy answers or simple solutions. You can only be you and try to find your niche. Maybe us ‘neurotypicals’ need to start meeting you halfway instead of expecting you to do all the work x
Dan, it’s a pleasure to read this article. You have some incredible insight into how to explain social skills in a way that’s easy to understand and apply. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of socialthinking.com, Michelle Garcia Winner’s site. She proposes some of the same concepts you’re talking about here. But I really like the way you put it: understanding the Why behind different situations.
Well, personally it was easier for a 5th grader and a 5th grader interacting. I went to middle school in a urban area of Omaha Nebraska, after I moved from a rural area of St. Louise. It was weird, because my friends were so laid back about my speech, and everyone else was too. It’s like rural is different from Missouri. I get here, and I say what i say to my friends, and they think it’s just weird. Darkness clouds my thoughts every so often, and the only despicable topic I can think of is football. All I hear is “The huskers lost against Colorado” and “That team sucks” and so on. I am the one dumbfounded. What ever happened to the magical forest where I can flourish, and say whatever I feel it’s undeniably relate-able to what seems only one person’s personality manifests into another. So what can I do. Well I studied up on foot ball. I even bought the book “foot ball for dummies.” So now every word (even related to football oddly enough), when I start talking, here is what I get without getting a word in “no one cares”, or “shut up before I slam you head to the ground,”(yea right just cause you can cut me short of my words, does not mean you have the guts or wits to take me) or “shut the fuck up, you don’t have any friends,” and the final, dreadful, horrifyingly, atrocious, heartless, uncaring, dick-head, rejecting, immature thing they do, THAT FUCKING NOISE, the planner is made of a layered material that makes everything pop out and follow you, and they scratch it and it’s absolutely horrible! Nails on a chalk board to normal people (and I hate that sound almost as much), and I ask them ‘why are you doing this’ and they say “cause’ it’s fun to see you shut your ears like a scociopath *laughter in the crowd*!” , and that is the only sound that will make me kick the pacifist shit out of my ass and throw them to the ground. They hit me, and it makes it worse (for them) and more, more, more ,more and I’m at the point of giving them broken limbs, and I think I just crossed the line. I know that sounds weird, and you can save the names for later. Urban school suck, and everyone who does not understand people like me can be hung publicly, burn on a stake, be thrown on the ditch, eaten alive, and left to burn in hell where they can see there actions from a standpoint of the helpless one.
Rote learning of social interactions is too much for me. I can’t do it. In high school I tried to learn social interactions by formula but eventually failed at it because my formulas were always flawed. I’ve gotten better at it over time and I’ve sense realized that most people are pointless to talk to. Or maybe I just was friends with a bunch of idiots who tortured me without my knowing it. My feelings were not hurt by this of course ’cause I didn’t know what they were doing and when I found out I didn’t care. I still find it comical that people focus so much attention on me, a socially awkward person who avoids social interactions because of the anxiety they cause. Now in college, people think I’m either stuck up or arrogant because I now willfully avoid interacting with them. There is no balance with most people. They hate you for being odd and trying to talk to them and then hate them for choosing not to talk to them. I’ve concluded that most humans are insecure morons who need to torture others for the sick joy of being “better”.
you have explained exactly what feel and think.
I’m a highschool freshman. I spent middle school with someone who helped me figure out social things and how to and how not to talk to others. Now I only get to see her arbitrarily. Usually talk with email. Its difficult. I have the most difficult time with teachers. Since they always want eye contact and smooth speech.
My friend Nate who is not autistic wants to know everything about AS.
Great article Dan!In general,we have to use our brains and think about reasons why something happens.We are not robots.We are amazing creatures and we can got everything what we want. 🙂
I agree with you that learning things by rote isn’t the best method but it seems to be automatic to me.
I’m in my mid 20’s and was only diagnosed with aspergers very recently having muddled along until now.
I have been having alot of social problems in the workplace and this has made me aware that I run off a subconscious rote list that has built up over the years.
Does anyone have any tips for trying to uncover and unlearn this list?
The issues at work have made me really ill and I just want to find some way of making it through all of this.
more articles please 🙂
Also how do I become a member to acces the advanced modules?
Hi everyone! I am in middle school now and I am just realizing that I have some serious social skill issues. Ever since I was in school, I had a friend that I felt I could talk to freely, but now that I just switched schools, I have no friends. I am in a small school, so I only have about 50 kids in my grade. There are a lot of cool kids and about 10 weird kids. I know that if I hang out with weird kids that the cool kids will not like me, so I just hang out with the cool kids instead. The problem is that I never say anything. They think I am so weird. I they actually say some pretty embarrassing things to me. I just don’t know how to socialize. Also, it would be cool if someone wrote an article about teenage socializing because when I try to find something to help, it always talks about what adults would like me to do. For example, they would tell me that if I wanted to hang out with another group of kids, I should say this, “Hi, my name is Jimmy, can I join your conversation?” or something like that. I know from watching other kids that that is not what other kids do. That is just one example, but I would really like if I could find an article about what is appropriate for teenagers.
Hi Daniel! I`m so happy cause I`ve found your page! Until last yer, I figured that there was sometihng wrong with me, but I never would know what. I asked myself much times why I just can`t to know being with other like the rest of world. So, few days ago I found a test in a facebook group about
shy, and I knew about Aspies syndrome. All the things become so clear, cause I had the most of all description about an Aspier. And now I found your page, with information that i really need, the first time in my life! Thank you very much! Excuse me the poor english, I`ve learned by myself, so please ignore some grammar errors 🙂
I need your guidance and possibly the tutorials for my wife who I guess is having asperger syndrome. As she is yet to realize about her category, it is very difficult to convince her and guide her for improving social skills. Her life is miserable when it comes about social interactions.
Hello folks! I just wanted to say that it is extremely interesting seeing the previous comments from you wonderful, misinterpreted individuals. When I was younger, I was diagnosed with a very mild form of Asperger’s syndrome, and as such, naturally, I am a complete introvert. We all know that finding the social norms for people like us is very difficult, but I just want everyone to keep hanging in there. Social interaction is a chaotic whirlwind, even on the best days, and it’s never an exact science, so don’t focus on formulas for specifics. Look for patterns in generalities. There are also a lot of people that are just not worth interacting with. You can kind of look at them as the opposite side of the same coin you are on. You don’t fully comprehend how to grasp social concepts fluently, but at least you want to. Some of these bullies that I read about in the comments above seem to know how to socially interract, but they just don’t care, and in the end, are they really worth your protracted effort at acceptance? Hell no, and make damn sure you stick up for yourself if they start abusing you, because no one deserves to be treated like that. Asperger’s or not. One final note on the milestone that really helped me break out of the anti-social bubble. Junior High and High School is akin to prisons for 12-18 year olds. There is a lot to take in regarding social clicks, what may or may not offend someone, legitimately stuck up people, and others that appear stuck up due to their own insecurities. After my first year of Junior High, I started playing guitar seriously, and got really good. Usually, if you are in a band, and you play some talent shows, or assemblies, or anything so people will listen to you, you’ve already opened up conversation starters with everyone, and most of the time they will come up to you and be very engaging and positive (ie. That was so bad ass, you guys were way better than the band last year etc. etc.) you start to get past the apprehensive initial acceptance phase, and start to connect with a lot of upbeat, motivational people that will actually make you WANT to interract more. Then with this increased social interaction, you can start to see patterns form in the chaos, and certain things just materialize socially. That was just my experience, but I’m sure any extra-curricular activity that your really interested in, combined with real passion and some hard work, you start to ease the social interactions with what you’re more comfortable with because other people interested in the same thing will spark the conversation for you. Once you get your initial few steps through the social door, I promise it gets easier. The ridicule severely stops, you start to make friends that will have your back on things, and your self confidence will build so that some of the ugly things are easier to just shrug off. Also don’t forget to grab the bull by the social horns. If your friend Bill or Bob are not polite to introduce you, then interject and introduce yourself so you can engage in the conversation, just because they were improper shouldn’t automatically hang you out to dry. In that example you took the initiative, and showed that you cared to be in the conversation. My last piece of advice, try not to care too much what other people think, because in all likelihood, it all evens out in the end. I’ve conquered a lot of the anxieties that I had. It’s still hard for me to engage in active conversation with just two or three people, but I can manage. The nice thing is that one-on-one is really easy, and if I need to talk to a large audience, I can own that too. Now if I could just talk to girls more easily, dammit. Oh we’ll, that’s why I’m here and what I’m trying to work on now. Hang in there guys. You rock!!!
Thank you for this article. As someone who only recently discovered he has Asperger’s, I am just now working on some of the areas that I am lacking in – mainly social skills. This article was very helpful and I loved the way you explained things. I would love to hear more on this topic as you have a good way of explaining things in a way that even slightly autistic individuals can understand.
Once you learn the motives behind people’s actions, you train your mind to become better at it. You can’t learn through memory because there are so many different situations, so many possibilities, and many of them are unexpected. But you get better at understanding people and what they expect through experience.
The reason why we don’t know what to say or do is because we don’t understand what goes on in someone else’s head. I once saw a movie in which a person helps out his ex wife and seems very concerned about her, and I was very surprised. I was in my late teens, but I thought the second the relationship/marriage is over, the person forgets all about it and the other person becomes a stranger.
I slowly learned what goes on in people’s head, as much as an aspie can, and learned to react the way that’s expected.
Thank you for posting this. I think , by far this is the most useful social skill startegy that i have come across with . I am trying to help mg son who is 8 y o ,struggling and hurting in school right now for being isolated coz the cool
Kids think he is weird. He is average in cognition and is speaking well. He is great in drawing so i try to help him shine on it. I am scared of the future for my son as a lot of people said it gets worse when they grow up. It breaks my heart to see him
unhappy everytime he is in school because of social rejection . I am thinking
Pulling him out and get him
Homeschooled.. I Get overwhelmed with info about aspergers …its just too
Much for me as well…reading day and night about it and not going anywhere really…i wish we were never born so hom
And me didn have this kind of problem. It seems unsolvable…
Please don’t become despondent about your son’s future. My daughter was diagnosed at the same age and because of that I worked hard at understanding Aspergers and how to help her (there was little understanding even 10 yrsago). I actually went on to retrain as a CBT therapist. My daughter was able to achieve at school & get through university with a lot of help from us. She is now in PR, which sounds odd with Aspergers being a socio-comm problem but she spends her working life writing which is her passion & her way of communicating. Find your son’s passion, work with it and overall keep talking & explaining how the world is & why we don’t see it their way. In therapy we have ‘Aspergers time’ as they say they get it but they don’t & usually we have to repeat the work so it takes double the length of time. Your son will learn to trust you but you will have many difficult times but you will all get through it. Aspie’s have amazing talents – they just need to help to discover them & to then keep them in control & curb the obsessions.
Keep talking to others through forums like this as there are people like me who can help & support you & your family :))
It’s so hard to watch my son be ostracized. He’s 10 and he doesn’t seem to get social skills no matter how many social skills and social thinking groups we put him in. We explain social “whys” all the time and he still doesn’t get it. I guess it’s gonna take what it takes but the toll on his self esteem is awful. The kids think he’s annoying.
I don’t have aspergers, but I have something very similar–similar enough that i deal with all the same social difficulties as your children do. I’m a senior in high school. I get bullied, i have a hard time communicating appropriately with other children and teachers, and the other kids think i’m annoying. However, I want you to know that it does get better.
It’s not easy to learn social skills. I find myself lamenting to my close friends that I have to keep a list of all these social rules, and wondering how other people expect us to just innately know these unwritten rules.
When in middle school and elementary, i had maybe one friend–outside of school, not inside school– other than that, i was alone. Once i got to high school, life was a little better. I had maybe one or two friends in middle school, but, other than that, people just thought i was annoying.
Life’s still confusing and people are still annoyed by me–and i’m almost 18. HOWEVER, I truly believe that ADHD meds are SO SO SO helpful. When I take them, they help me to interact with others better. So, talking to your kid’s doctor about ADHD meds is something you should take into serious consideration, because it helps some of us.
I have been taking notes on the articles on this website to try and understand social situations. That can definately help your child. You need to sit with him and go through the articles, explaining things that he needs to do so that he can get along with the other children.
Another thing my parents did that helped, was to sit down with me after each school day, and talk about my day–about the interactions i had with other people, any problems i encountered, and then discuss what i could have done better, so as to not irritate the other children or make them uncomfortable.
YES, i am STILL LEARNING and I am almost 18. BUT do NOT let this discourage you or your child. I PROMISE life will get better for him. What would probably be best is for you to take winter break to teach him these social rules in this website, going over them each day until he understands, maybe taking him out with close friends of yours after reviewing with him several times, so he can use the rules in real life, so as to help cement the information into his long-term memory. Then, if possible, i would move him to a new school, so he has a fresh start. Nobody will know about his social faux pas at his old school, and he’ll have a better chance of making friends.
I wish you luck with your son, I hope that life gets better for him.
I am truly sorry that he has been dealt this particular difficulty in life, but do not let that discourage you or him from striving to overcome it. 🙂
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My husband and I saw your video on youtube and were very moved by your story and we decided to write. Our 12 year old daughter seems to fit perfectly into your description of Asperger Syndrome, which is ironic because her complains these days are that she doesn’t fit in anywhere.
When Angelina (our daughter) was 5 years old starting Kindergarten, her teacher suggested that she must have adhd and wanted us to have her pediatrician medicate her. We were against this but they said she would be placed in a special class if we didn’t accept their decision. We have always felt like we were pushed into a corner with this decision. The medication did calm her down and kept her focused. As the years went by we noticed that she had classmates but noone that we would call a friend. She always played alone during recess and ate alone at lunch. She used to say that noone would want to sit with her. She seemed content but not happy. She did well (grades) in elementary school but as each year and teacher changed, her comments would be that the teacher didn’t like her and noone wanted to be in groups with her. Last year (fifth grade) she didn’t fit in any group and she did better staying by herself (teacher said she always wanted to take over the group and other kids didn’t care for it). She did go to a sleep over (group of 5 girls) and while she was sleeping that night, the other girls painted her face and laughed at her when she woke up. Even after that she wanted to stay the rest of the day, just to be there, eventhough she was isolating the whole time. We couldn’t understand why these things have been happening all her life because she is so smart, loving, caring and always willing to please. (for the most part).
Realizing that so many middle schoolers abuse adhd medications, we decided to see how Angelina did over the summer without medication to determine if she could function in middle school without the medication. We discussed this plan with her Pediatrician and started the summer. The summer went really well for her, she was very happy, she did have some issues with other kids at day camp. She said that some of the kids were picking on her and she spent a lot of time drawing. We didn’t give it to much thought and figured that maybe it was the age and kids being kids. During family outings (amuzement parks, boating, vacation) she seemed over the top happy, and would say things like:”this is the best day ever! and , “I wish this day would never end”- A lot of her reactions always seemed more child like than her age. This year she started going to middle school , new school, new kids, new teachers. The Pediatrician suggested we put her back in her medication because she wouldn’t be able to handle all the new changes and would become overwhelmed. Imediately we noticed Angelina become more somber and distant again. School started and right away she started struggling with classmates and teachers, same as the other years. “noobody likes me…, Am I weird? Am I crazy? What’s wrong with me?” It seems to us that she was realizing her differences but couldn’t describe them accurate to us. For the first time in her school life, her grades fell drastically and she was becoming more miserable than ever. She talked even more about not having any friends, she cried a lot and isolated with the computer, her drawing, her music and her cat. She is very talented in artwork and music…singing and violin We were becoming heartbroken with the situation and wondering how we could help her. She talked about find a way to get her pain from the inside and get it to the outside, we didn’t know how to take these comments and we tried to comfort her the best way we could, telling her how amazing and speial she is and that a lot of kids are mean. A week later she told my husband she needed to show him something and he was going to be mad. She showed him her wrists, she had cut herself (slightly) on the top side of her wrists. Of course we paniced. She said that it was the only way she could get the pain outside herself. We thought right away that the medication was making her depressed and engaged a meeting not only with the doctor but also with the academic group at school to get her off the medication and help her cope with the impulses of adhd with therapy instead. The academic team was very supportive with our decision, the doctor wanted to try different medications for adhd. We have decided to see if she could cope without medication first and move on with the therapy to monitor Angelina’s progress. Since our decision her grades have improved a little and the academic team is in contact with us daily, and at home we have been working with Angelina on her school work to try to help her stay organized. We now see how she is really struggling in social situations and trying even harder to fit in. It seems to us that whenever she makes a friend, she gets so obsessed with her (hugging, over the top excited, overly needy and possesive) that she might be driving them away. Her friends seem to come and go in a short period of time. Some of them group up with other kids and pick on her differences, telling each other to stay away from her. We are almost desperate to help her. After seeing the video…My life with Aspergers, we can see so many similarities. We also watched hours of blogs and videos made by children and adults with an Aspergers diagnosis. We are shocked with the dead on similarities. From facial expressions, or lack ther of . To the blank stair moments, not looking people in the eyes…all of it. We loved the relationship / conversation / sandwich comparison that you made, along with your whole story. We are writing, looking for sugestions and feed back to help our child to make progress with social skills and development as we feel strongly that she would benifit not only socially but also academicly ,with the confidence she would get with these gains… We hope that your forum can help us, to help Angelina. Thank you
What that teacher said to you is wrong. A teacher has no qualification to diagnose ADHD.
Probably should see a child/adolescent psychiatrist rather than a pediatrician on subjects related to mental health(This includes ADHD and aspergers, etc.). Ask your pediatrician for a referral. This is not to say anything against your pediatrician, it’s just that you might want to see a doctor who specializes in the field of mental health when the issue is about mental health. (and like a pediatrician, a psychiatrist is an M.D., so very qualified.).
Also, testing adhd meds over the summer is not usually going to be an accurate test of how well they will work during the school year. The demands on attention to topics that might not be the most interesting are much greater during the school year, after all.
Stopping medication because other people abuse it is not really a good thing. Don’t let the misdeeds of others get in the way of what could be a beneficial treatment for your daughter.
ADHD does not really ever go away, and school is not the only setting it affects. Consider all the distractions of driving a car. Frightening. Make sure that the cognitive therapy will do more than control symptoms related to performance in school related settings.
In short: If you are concerned, ask your pediatrician for a referral to an adolescent psychiatrist. Ask psychiatrist for neuropsych evaluation. Ask about medication and interactions, possible side effects, etc. So many disorders have similar symptoms as adhd, and if it is something other than adhd, you can talk with the psychiatrist about options and move on from that new knowledge.
Hi Dan, I am 42 years old and found out last year that I have Aspergers. I’ve lived through all the emotions described on this page and have dealt with them fairly negatively for the most part. Thankfully I somehow managed to hack my way through life. However, after realizing that I have Aspergers and after reasoning out the factors that contributed to my present condition, my outlook changed. My tone, my mindset, my sleeping habits …. all changed and have become more content and more at ease with my condition. I still have many of the same issues with dealing with people; but I don’t let it get to me as much as I used to.
I am married and have 2 children. After I realized I had Aspergers, I told my wife about it. But I also told her not to talk about it. Since then not only has she not talked abut it, but neither does she show any support. Perhaps I botched it when I told her about it, but I expected at least some degree of support from her. And this is what brings me to my question.
After being married for 17 years, for the first time in 2 weeks I will have to spend an entire week with her 2 sisters and their families. This makes me very very
uncomfortable. I am not familiar with all the social norms in my in-laws family and They are unforgiving in their critiquing of me. With that said, I don’t think they are bad. They just don’t understand me. I sometimes do sense a connection with her eldest sister (open & clear communication). But the sense is also there that she would easily put a knife in my back if she has to.
How do I deal with my situation. Are there 2-3 things that I can focus on?
This article is invaluable BTW. It helps to put things into perspective.
Thanks in advance.
very helpful, as a LPCA who is trying to find things for my Aspergers clients mostly children/teens. Thanks!
I’m looking forward to reading your book. My son has aspergers and I can’t wait to have a book on social skills that will help him written by someone who also has the syndrome. I was wondering if you would consider writing a book geared towards children. So many parents are desperate for help for their kids and I am one of them!
This post is so true! I was/am a fellow aspie, but in high school i decided i needed to get past my fear. While it might not work for everyone, i just accepted that i was a) different, b) often misunderstood, and c) sometimes out of the loop or offensive on accident. I often told people, “sorry, I’m just weird, get over it.” Eventually i actually became a really social person. In fact, most people that know me say i one of the most outgoing people they know. Which is nuts, by the way, because i still struggle all the time! My fiance is an absolute introvert, and she loves that i can speak up for her. But she also loves that i have absolutely no sense for when she’s being sarcastic. That bit irks me sometimes…
Long story short, i just tried to be more social, and with enough practice, I’ve mostly learned how.
Hi Aspergers community, I’ m a mum with Aspergers traits with a 10 year old girl with Aspergers traits. I adore my little professor, although it breaks my heart to see her as lonely as I was in school.
I wouldn’t change her for the world.
Its helpful in social situations if you remind yourself that most people get anxious about being accepted at times. Social interactions do take some time to get right but if your faking it to make it inner confidence makes it far far easier.
I think a lot of pain comes from comparing yourself to others, looking for ways you don’t measure up. This is a particular problem for all teenagers not just Aspergers ones. I don’t compare myself to others, it leads to insecurities and many destructive emotions. Life gets better when you look out for that thought and don’t indulge it at any level.
And that’s good advice for everyone.
Regards Who cares about normal anyway.
I was in a situation with a married couple I had been good friends with. She would introduce her husband to one of her friends when I was with her. Even though I was with her, she wouldn’t introduce me. What is up with that? I felt like the third wheel!
My grandson seems to have Aspergers qualities and we’re trying to learn how we can help him
I have Aspbergers myself and am about at the end of my rope. I tried taking courses in social skills and both times the therapists have said,”You’re trying hard.” No mention of my actual progress. I guess I’ll never learn. So I quit after trying to learn for years.
I’m very intelligent, my favorite subject is math and I’m very talented at it. I got As in Advanced Algebra and can understand logarithmic functions much better than the average person. But socializing is something I just don’t get.
I hold two college degrees and recently went to a day seminar as part of a continuing education course. The instructors had us work in groups. No one picked me, (not so unusual for me) and so I had to find a group. Each time I did, the others had looks on their face that said they’d rather have their eyes gauged out, they were so uncomfortable being around me. But they weren’t that way around each other.
When we were asked about our experience, I cried. I said, “You all hate me! What did I do wrong?”
I have this problem everytime I have to do stupid group work. It must be my rigid face, but I can’t help it.
When is the world going to accept us for who we are, look at our amazing brains, and stop trying to normalize us? Sometimes I think neurotypics don’t understand because they don’t care. They only think about themselves and what makes them feel “comfortable.” And obviously, people like us really do make them uncomfortable. We’re “different” and neurotypics hate “different.”
I’m a mother of a 18 year old son with asbergers…and I want to help him…help boost his communication skills…can u help me plz?…ty
I have an 18 yr.old grandson living with my husband & I to go to college. He has Aspergers. He is not making friends and says he dosn’t want too. Being in a crowd stresses him . How can I help him?
Hey Tommy, I’ve been where you are and almost wasted my life. I didn’t even know I had Asperger’s, so I had no clue as to why I was so different. I only had the strength to get better for real after I read a book that showed me the path to uncover the meaning of my life. Once I found that, I started getting better. It is not easy and it’s really little by little, but it worked for me. It is hard to get this book outside Brazil, but I could buy you one in English and ship it to you. It’s called Universe in Disenchantment. Just don’t download any ebooks you may find with this name online because it’s not the real one. Hit me up at ivnamei, on gmail.com so I can help you find it.
i struggle in college with the social skills. I won’t let other students get too close to me because I am sensitive to touch. I have special earphones in case there are loud noises around me; this is something else I am sensitive to. I just started doing classroom presentations for my club at school. This is something not many employers understand and we need to get the word out there. I have Asperger’s Syndrome. My special interest is the environment; I am in college to be an environmental Engineer. I struggle when another student sits next to me; I scoot into the aisle so they can’t touch me. I usually try to get to classes early for this reason; i know I’ll get an aisle seat then. Any advice on this?
I sensed i was different. Nobody liked me , not teachers , not peers.
I noticed when i pretended to be another Way :” DO what is the norm “ and talk “ the Way deemed “ acceptable “ it worked ( but i was MISERABLE doing that because i was NOT being ME, myself : MY AUTHENTIC SELF . And being liked for acting a certain Way is not As enjoyable !
I like authentic people : i like different people . I like people who say things out of the ordinary As long As they are Kind .
The social skills norm is SO boring in the long run that i am much happier being WHO I AM : Naturally. I do not like talking about the “ socially norm chat “ that most of This society spends their life talking about : it BORES me!
The only thing that improves quality of life is being who you are and loved for who you are . And if most of society does not like you. You Got to like you. I dont like most of the “ norm “ in society. So i have given up my need for society to like me . I like me atleast i am interesting and not regurgitating the same mindless chatter and “ socially accepted social skills” that “ normal society” have deemed “ normal.”
Fyi I have been to many average normal schools where popular normal peers ran around spitting in their foods while w other people , cuzzing , with no manners whats so ever ! And work colleques who would kick and throw insults and not even say HI when addressed with Good morning .
So …. in all fairness .. something Else , more subtle is going on too in the Real “ normal “ World that these “ improve your social skills “ do not even address.
AND quite frankly it is not people with Asbergers or who are deemed “ different “ that has to learn social skills . It is the “ norm “ of society that needs to learn to include , accept and see value in people who are different or out of the norm.
Thats what really is going on.
It is very easy to point at anything different As being not normal but i Think its the other Way around.
I agree with the above comment! I’m mum to an 8 yo with ASbergers and I’m an OT too so had experience of ASD/ASbergers before my kid was born. I am teaching him to be himself and that others must adapt to him as much as visa versa. He has so many strengths and luckily has some friends too (they are all neuro-diverse too or nearly)!!
We take it a day at a time, reach out for all support on offer and pay for anything else we want to add. He will always have ASbergers and I’m happy about it – he is so freaking awesome!! No, he’ll never have tonnes of friends but I’ll make it my mission to enable him enough to get by and feel happy about himself. He currently likes himself because we tell him how amazing he is! His school does the same.
I would like to read more about improving my social skills.
Ive just excepted that my life long social misery is becouse I have asburgerz. It makes me feel better knowing im not alone and its not my fault.
I’m a mother hurting. My child, now 31 is an aspie. I see her as a a beautiful, kind and talented young woman. She has no friends other than me. My spouse, not her dad, sees her as pushy, arrogant and disrespectful to her seniors because she is so well read and becomes eager to share her knowledge when conversations move into her expertise which are many. She wins the discussion but loses the war when she does this, people turn away. How may I help her? I’m getting older and do not want to leave this world without her having at least one close friend.
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I am the mom of a 20 year old with Asperger’s. Most of his friends are those he plays online games with, except one friend he’s had since middle school.
He just doesn’t like the effort it takes to make new friends, and most of them don’t have anything in common with him, anyway.
It’s both uplifting and heartbreaking reading these posts. But one thing I hope all these sweet people realize is that they are the “normal” ones. People with Asperger’s are the most insightful, intelligent, kind, and in my son’s case, wickedly funny people you can know. But they also need understand that sometimes it may seem that people are shunning them, when they really just don’t know how to act or what to say around anyone who is different from them. It can be hard for regular people to socialize, too. Most people are good people, don’t let the mean ones get you down!
Although I haven’t been properly diagnosed yet, I have been the odd one out especially in social situations, I have ‘friends’ as I like to think, but I barely talk, because every time I do, they say I’m wrong, and they try to correct me, or they would say something stupid after I finish talking, as if to mock me in a way, I also don’t understand most of the things they say, so everyone thinks I’m dumb, especially when everyone in my class passes a test easily, but I’m stuck on the 1st question and can’t concentrate, and start fidgeting, so I fail. I am obsessed with travel, and American, Mexican and British history, (though I don’t get taught any of that because of living in New Zealand, so I watch youtube, and write notes in a book) and i love learning languages and cooking, although I fail most tests (for things like science, Maths, English and health, also pretty bad at Japanese, despite having a 1/2 Japanese cousin) I get frustrated easily, and can’t be touched by family members or people I don’t know, or I would freak out and pull away. I am emotionless other than that, even at funerals i don’t care, no matter who had died, but I developed a big fear of paranormal activity at age 12, so if I hear any sound or see anything move at night, I have a mini panic attack and my heart beat becomes temporarily out of sync, and my temperature goes crazily out of control and i have to stay still for a while. I have known about Aspergers since I was 13 when my Dad told me he thought I might have it, and my uncle has it too. I’m now 15 and have taken so many online tests, all saying borderline Aspergers and Possible Autism or Autism is likely, but my friends think I’m pretty stupid doing that and think I’m self-diagnosing myself with a million different things. My parents have been refusing to get me tested by a psychiatrist because they think the cost isn’t worth it.
Wow! I’ve read through quite a few messages. I’m a mom and have a 16-year-old son who has never been diagnosed. But, since he started 1st grade his light and smile left him. We were told by his first-grade teacher we needed him to be more independent, read with him more and so on and so on. We were doing everything we were instructed to do, but our son was unique. Fast forward 11 years, tutors, brain balance therapy, ADD medication, now anxiety/depression medication. So as a parent what do you suggest we do for our 16-year-old son? It seems the deficits become more evident the older he gets. I want to provide whatever I can to help him along this journey of Asperger’s. Any suggestions? Are there social classes to learn how to interact? He doesn’t express being different or feeling inadequate, but I know he is and see the indifferences he experiences daily. He is adamant he isn’t bullied, but I know he is. In so many ways I feel like I’ve been fighting for him since first grade, for an answer as to why is he different and work so hard for everything. I think I have an answer, but I’m not sure how to help him or guide him, or even discuss the possibility that he has Asperger’s.
hi am the mother of a 42year old aspergers girl ,I always knew she was different and was always slow in communication skills ,I have only discovered in the past month or so ,she is without doubt aspegers,she works in an hospital as a licence practical nurse ,and although she is brilliant in her skills as a a lpn ,she struggles to be understood by her coworkers ,aften laughted at ,and been very hurt as she is looked upon as not funny ,and has no friends .she is unable to know how to deal ,with her problem .her superviser ,does not like her as she is not friendly enough ,and as usual misunderstood.knowing she will not want to be labeled as aspergers ,I have been unable to show her ,her weakness .is there a place on internet where I can find help for my beautiful daughter she lives in our basement apartment ,and has never had friends ,really hard to watch
can you please help me to help my forty two year daughter who is aspergers ,working with no friends ,and do not have good social skills
When I discovered you so many years ago, I didn’t know I had Asperger’s. The revelation via self-diagnosis shocked me. Thus it’s time I revisited your site to try to look at things from a new angle. Yes I bought your ebook. Because of my disability I don’t have the advantage of memorizing scripts and scenarios. But I do hope I can learn from your insight.
I am interested in learning about the process of having my insurance cover some of the cost of a neuropsychological evaluation.
I am a psychologist working closely with an adult client who presents with subtle Asperger’s traits. As her family wants me to ‘boost’ her self-esteem in the therapy process, they are dismissive of the label of any spectrum-type diagnosis, feeling that this would make it worse for their daughter. It is difficult for me to appropriately work with her and give her the correct guidance, while there is such denial in the extended family. I feel this isolates my client further as she is expected to survive in the working and social world, without at least some understanding and cushioning by her difficulties being acknowledged (if this ever exists in the world out there!). Although she copes, she is alone and confused, desperately wanting more from her life (especially in the form of a special someone or friend, and would also love to be a mother someday). It is heart-breaking and I am determined to give her the best chance that I can, with-or-without a formal diagnosis. To provide an example, she has recently changed jobs (against my opinion) and it has been a disaster. Again, I feel this was done based on the family advise, and they don’t seems to get the difficulty that she has interpreting nuances of a new social setting. This has been very detrimental to her self-esteem and has dire financial implications. I know they want the best for her, but I feel they set her up for failure in this way. I can’t even say the word “Aspergers”, so I skirt around the label. It’s a fine line, and she is my priority. I will continue to support, and impart my CBT and practical skills and work closely with her psychiatrist. She has also recently tried my suggestion of trying the ADHD stimulant medication route (via her psychiatrist) and has found this to help her (and in no way has it increased her anxiety). I wish I had more understanding from the family. It is hard to know how to always assist and the treatment options have varied success, but we have a warm and meaningful therapeutic connection and I hope the world becomes and easier place for this exceptional young lady.