Asperger and Driver’s License

We, the family, were beginning to wonder if this day would ever come. Ben did receive his driver’s license this week. For almost two years he has taken a driver’s education course twice and his mother paid for him to go back and just practice driving with the instructor. Ben has been uncomfortable driving with no self-confidence. Most teens are eager to start driving, but not Ben. It was at our insistence that he learn to drive. Now he is comfortable driving and even takes the car alone for short trips to the store etc. Ben is now twenty-two years old; so that gives us hope that he will eventually catch up and do things that other people his age are doing.

Setbacks/Autism-Asperger Syndrome

I haven’t written in quite a while mainly because I have not had anything new to write about. With hesitancy I have decided to tell the truth about what has been happening or about what has not been happening. I have learned that setbacks do happen.

For the past year I felt that Ben was making progress in learning how to seek employment, how to dress appropriately, how to make eye-contact and how to behave in a job interview. In fact, he did learn all of those things; but motivating him to do all of those things is quite another story.

I think I understand why it is so very difficult to motivate him to do the things we all know he should do. He is very aware of his handicap at all times. This includes the fact that he has no friends, and thus, almost no social life except with family. So he rapts himself in his most recent fixation which is playing video games.

Yes, we are at a stand-still now, but I must remind myself again that “giving up” is not an option. So Ben, the family and I will continue to search for ways to help him.

Autism, Asperger/Perseverance

It is very easy to become discouraged; however, we do observe improvement in some areas. Ben is very loving and comfortable with his family, but when others arrive on the scene he prefers to disappear into another room. We believe it is because he does not have the confidence to participate appropriately in conversations that may be going on.

We find it interesting that Ben goes to another room in the house where the computer is. He listens to all conversations that are going on in the living area. Sometimes, the conversation is about current events, history, or geography to which no one knows the answer. Ben, from the other room, answers the question with authority and, of course, it is the correct answer.

Today is November 26th, 2010. We are still working on table manners, personal hygiene, learning to drive, and hunting an appropriate job.
We are still hoping our perseverance and patience will pay off at some time down the road. Giving up is not an option. Ben will be twenty-one in March, 2011.

Asperger Syndrome/Medicines

Previously I have discussed the importance of Ben and anyone who has autism or Asperger’s Syndrome being under the care of a physician whose expertise is mental and emotional problems, a psychiatrist. Everyday I observe Ben when he is medicated and when he is not. There is a huge difference. As sad as this sounds, it is true. When he is medicated his behavior is perfectly normal. His conversations are on the level of an adult and he is happy with no mood swings.

I have explained to Ben that I never miss taking the medications that have been prescribed for me. I am a rheumatoid arthritis patient and I know the consequences of skipping even one dose. (I would be in pain and my ability to walk would certainly be affected.) I explain that taking his meds as prescribed is just as important for him as my meds are to me. Getting him to be responsible for taking his medications as prescribed is an on-going difficulty.

Asperger Syndrome/Traits

There is much hesitancy on my part to mention some negative traits that Ben exhibits. I am not sure if these behaviors are typical of all Asperger people; I just know these traits I am going to mention are real and problematic both to Ben and the entire family. Part of these behaviors may be due to his ongoing battle with depression.

At age twenty, Ben still must be told to take a shower, put on deodorant, and put on clean clothes everyday. Somewhere in the literature I think I read that he is about four years behind in maturity; so we keep hoping his behavior will catch up at some point.

Ben is very stubborn. If his mind is made up about some subject, there is little hope of changing it. This problem was reflected in school especially if he did not see the necessity to do some homework assignment that seemed pointless to him. He caught on immediately if he thought some teacher was giving him “busy work” which he already knew how to do.

It is very easy for Ben to lie to us. We have discovered these lies are about things which he does not want to do. For example, we might say, “Ben, have you brushed your teeth?” He will automatically say, “Yes” when we know he has not done it. And he is like many children in that he will lie if he thinks the truth will get him into trouble. Many times a quick answer of “Yes” is to get us to hush and leave him alone which is what he prefers.

Asperger Syndrome/Jobs

Ben has had several part-time jobs, but none has been the kind of job he would want for a long period of time. His first job was retrieving shopping carts from the parking lot and returning them to the store. This job was fine for the first job he had ever had. But now that he is twenty years old, we believe that he is smart enough to do much more than bringing shopping carts back to the store. The difficulty is trying to show employers that he is very smart and can do many things. Sometimes the personnel managers cannot get past the fact that he has had only menial jobs in the past. We wish that they knew more about Asperger’s Syndrome and understood the condition.
We realize more than ever before that having a job is much more important than just making money. Ben needs a reason to get up and get ready for the day. He needs to have a job that will give him self-confidence and pride in doing a “job well done.”

Asperger Syndrome/College

After Ben graduated from high school, he wanted to go to the local community college. He was enrolled at the downtown campus, so he learned to take the city bus. Taking the bus was a big step for him because he had never gone anywhere without at least one family member with him. Riding the bus alone seems so insignificant to most of us, but it was a big thing to Ben. I rode with him one day to make sure he knew how to change to another bus downtown which would then take him to the campus. Learning to ride the bus alone to the campus and getting off at the right place gave him a huge amount of confidence which he had never had before.
After visiting with a counselor, it was decided that Ben would take only three courses, a total of seven hours. We were hoping he would do well in those three courses which would again give him a great deal of self confidence. He was very happy going to college every day just like the other kids his age. Unfortunately, he did not pass either of the three hour courses he took. It is difficult to understand why someone as intelligent as he is could not pass the beginning computer course and a history course. He had been using the computer effectively for several years and Ben loves history and reads history books for fun. It proved to me again that there is a disconnect for him in processing oral language.

Asperger Syndrome/Patience

This week I was reminded again that we should not assume that Ben understands how to do certain things. In the past I gave him an alarm clock and encouraged him to set the alarm. I explained that it is time for him to accept the responsibility of getting himself up each morning. He had not set the alarm on his clock yet and the reason was that he did not know how to do it. After I very slowly showed him how to do it, he did set the alarm and got himself up and dressed the next morning. His mother was very surprised and pleased that he had done it himself.
Being patient in teaching is extremely important. I have found that telling him one time how to do something usually is not enough. So we must never tire of repeating instructions as many times as it may take. Remember, Ben’s worst handicap is being able to talk and express his thoughts. He could have told me he did not know how to set the alarm clock, but he did not. I had to discover it.

Asperger Syndrome/Look for Strengths

I have already talked about difficulties that Ben has daily. Now I want to stress his strengths. Is that not what each of us should do-look for and stress the particular talents or strengths that each of us has?
I have mentioned on another post that Ben is an excellent writer. He also has a wonderful sense of humor which pops out when we least expect it.
Ben is very generous. When he hears of a special need that someone has, he quickly offers some of his money to help. He is much more sensitive to the needs of others than he has been given credit for. He is aware of a particular health problem that I have, arthritis. Often he will offer to do something for me so that I will not have to walk which he knows is painful for me.
We are thankful to have Ben in our family because he has taught us much about patience, about understanding, and about loving people just the way God made them.

Asperger Syndrome/Medicines

We have found that it is essential to have a good psychiatrist whom we trust to give Ben the meds he needs with the correct dosages. We decided not to depend on negative news about certain drugs that we hear through the news media. We completely have faith in Ben’s doctor to decide the correct treatment for him.
It is also essential that the doctor see Ben periodically to make any adjustments that might be needed. One problem that we dealt with often was the effect of the meds seemed to wear off before Ben could get his homework done in the evenings. If we gave the meds too late in the evening, then his sleep would be interrupted.
Negative reports about some of the meds that Ben takes still appear in the news from time to time. Perhaps some people abuse these drugs or some may prescribe them when they are not necessary. Our family is grateful to the pharmaceutical companies who provide wonderful drugs to make Ben’s life more normal.

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