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Autism, Asperger’s and making friends…

July 25, 2009

Some people have a much harder time of it than others, when it comes to making friends.   Indeed, for me, they cause me to rethink the whole idea of relationships because I get the sense that we need to be thinking differently about our expectations of what a relatonship is.   We get a calls every once in a while from family members wondering how to support their audlt child with aspergers to make friends.   All kinds of autism, now called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), have as a central feature of diagnosis difficulty communicating and engaging in relationships.   

From the Autism Society of America: “Asperger’s Disorder was first described in the 1940s by Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger who observed autistic-like behaviors and difficulties with social and communication skills in boys who had normal intelligence and language development.”  

And yet we’ve seen profound changes in folks with autism and Asperger’s who have, often over long periods of time, become connected with others.   One fellow that we know started attending a Special Olympics event every week, and I have to admit I was one of the people sitting with the parents wondering why he was there…  he didn’t seem to be even tracking the ball that was coming at him, and he kept getting distracted by the pattern of the baskeball hoop net (they weren’t playing basketball).    Now, having slowly learned the necessary skills for the sport, he’s actually a strong player on the team.   He also participates in all the rituals of the sport – high fives and group cheers and shaking hands with the opponents at the end.   You can see that these things are somewhat by rote, he knows he’s supposed to so he does.  

But last week I was at a picnic and when he arrived a lot of people who are on his team or involved in Special O locally or who go to the games turned around as he arrived and said “Hi!” “Hey there!” “Good to see you!”  He walked right past them without stopping, sat down at a picnic table and then he smiled.   It was so subtle, and so moving…

At one of our workshops recently a gentleman with Asperger’s said he wasn’t quite sure why he was there as he didn’t suppose he’d ever meet someone who also had Asperger’s, was interested in foreign languages and matched up to a bunch of other pretty refined criteria.   We said, well, stick around and let’s see what happens.   A lovely woman came in and they started chatting.   It turned out she was also interested in foreign languages; between them they knew about 8 languages, and both of them had been looking for someone to practise latin with…  and as he went through his list of things he was interested in, it turned out she was also interested in all those things.   She had her own list and it turned out he was interested in those things.   The rest of us just gaped.  “I don’t suppose you also have Asperger’s do you?”   “Why yes I do have Asperger’s,” she said.  “Do you?” 


One of our favourite neighbours has Asperger’s – it always amazes us how difficult it seems to be for the people around him to involve him in things, but if he knows that my partner will be somewhere, he’ll decide to show up.    His bravery in social situations is also constantly motivating…

For those who are on Facebook, one of my favourite social networking groups is the Asperger’s Awareness Page.   Here’s a typical day’s topic:

asperger’s awareness page Hello. Thanks for a great discussion last night. Tonight’s topic is Video Games, Computers and Networking. Why do some people find it easier to communicate through a computer? Do you have a job in Computers? Thank you all for supporting this page, and also our group. And also, thank you for your talents. Please keep them coming. Take care. =]

People with Asperger’s and their families write in with their thoughts and they almost always have a lively discussion about something.  

For an interview with Temple Grandin, in which she talks about her experiences as a person with autism, click here.  

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”   Jane Howard 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2009 11:23 pm

    I know nothing about Asperger’s, but I knew someone once who a friend said probably had undiagnosed Asperger’s. That’s all I really have to contribute.

  2. July 26, 2009 4:51 am

    Kelly would like you to know that on his own initiative, he organized a dinner party at the restaurant where he works. The guests included another person supported by Spectrum and his roommate, Kelly’s mother, and a staff member. He had invited more people who had to decline, but they arranged to reconnect with him at a later date.

    Kelly had called people he wanted to spend time with again. He called them again with a deadline to RVSP. He then made arrangements with “La Bretagne” to accommodate his party.

    Kelly described that a good time was had by all and that he felt really proud to have been able to facilitate this, as well as show off his wonderful place of employment!

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