Archive for September, 2010

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Asperger Syndrome/Literal Language

Ben is an intelligent young man and has a wider vocabulary than many older adults. He thinks in concrete terms; so we have discovered he does not immediately understand idioms, sarcasm or some phrases that are meant to be funny. For example, he did not understand the phrase, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Since he is now twenty years old, he has learned to recognize some of the common sayings. It is best to use plain language with him if we want him to completely understand what we are saying.
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Communicating with words is still difficult for Ben. Sometimes when we ask him, “What are you doing?” He will quickly say, “Nothing.” It is much easier to say “Nothing” than to use words to describe what he is doing. His short answers would be interpreted as lies by some people. But we have learned that it is much easier for him to say one short word than for him to go into detail. There are times when he is willing to communicate at length and we cherish those times.

Asperger Syndrome/What’s Next?

Ben functions much better when he knows what is going to happen next. That is one reason the schedule taped to his binder was very helpful. Even today, when I pick him up at the bus stop, he wants to know, “What are we going to do now?” If I mention that we need to go shopping he immediately rebels. However, if I say, “Ben, tomorrow when I pick you up at the bus stop, we need to go shopping.” He is much more willing to cooperate if he knows well ahead of time what is going to happen next. He definitely does not like “spur of the moment” plans.
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The same is true about touching Ben. He does not like to be surprised by a touch. Before I learned this fact, I poked him with my finger to get his attention. He said, “Don’t touch me like that!” Some might think he was being disrespectful, but I now know he was only protecting himself. Now I ask permission if I want to hug him and I get his attention in other ways.

Asperger Syndrome/Depression

I want to reiterate that not all Asperger’s Syndrome children are alike. I am simply telling my experiences with Ben, my grandson.
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Ben has suffered from depression since he was a young child. He struggles with it even today as a twenty-year old. Today I will include one of his own writings and each time I read it, I am grieved again when I think of his world.
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Ben’s Thoughts Written 11/6/05
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The Suffering: MY SCHOOL STORIES
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Remember in elementary school whenever you only had one teacher to worry about? I do, and right now, I know high schools across the U.S. are taking a beating, because apparently, high schoolers have to do 10 times the amount of work, and it is also 10X more frequent. My life is a constant barrage of not knowing what work to do, not knowing how to do the work I am aware of, not understanding how to keep up with my work, not understanding how and why I can’t do the work while expressing my opinions in it or about it, not being able to express while even sorting out through the whole mess…and OH YEAH! My social problems like, I don’t
know KNOWING I’M NEVER GOING TO BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR
ANYONE! NOT EVEN A GIRLFRIEND! Not to mention the fact that while Tm rotting my brain looking at the computer, all other kids my age are probably seeing movies with their friends or girlfriends. Til never experience that! I feel SO INCOMPLETE. I don’t even feel human anymore. Name one thing I could use to cure this….drugs, movies, happiness, ANYTHING! If all else fails, I will fail. Stress is like a sponge that soaks up your sanity. And mine is on the line. I can think about how things could be for me, but I never do! With only a few drops of sanity left, I’m not sure how much more “work” I can take. This, all of this, is just psychological torture solidified into hundreds of worksheets, projects, and tests I have to make up. I am on the edge of a gigantic cliff, and the work I have to do is the bulldozer that will push me all the way to the bottom which represents me losing the last of my sanity. If I have to stay at school until 10:00, let me stay! I will work. Or at least try.
I would sell my possessions – everything, even my bed – just to have a normal life. I know too much to be considered a teen. Disturbing things. Extremely pessimistic things. Nothing the “normal” teen could call common sense. But the one bit of knowledge I happen to lack is the one most important factor in growing up!! What they know is how to talk to other people without becoming shy, and talking to girls- everything normal males my age do. What I know is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. And that makes me bitter towards the people, everyone, regardless of gender, age, or stability. I am literally mentally decaying, and I’m the only one who sees it. I’m going to work full time to at least try to change it.

Helpful Hints for Asperger Children

One thing Ben’s mother learned to do was to print his schedule of classes and tape it to the outside of his binder. This definitely helped him get to the correct class and get there on time.
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Those specialists who work with Asperger students suggested we make detailed lists and post them where needed. This suggestion definitely helped. You may think that such a detailed list would not be necessary, but I assure you, it is necessary. Here is an example that was placed on the bathroom mirror:
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1. Get a clean towel and washcloth.
2. Get into shower and soap body thoroughly and rinse well.
3. Shampoo your hair.
4. Dry body completely with towel.
5. Brush your teeth.
6. Use deodorant under arms.
7. Get dressed using clean clothes.

Asperger Syndrome/The Umbrella

In Ben’s case, the diagnosis is Asperger’s Syndrome which can be understood as an umbrella. Underneath the umbrella he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. The ADD is very troublesome for him because he has trouble remembering important things, has a tendency to lose things, and is very unorganized.
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One teacher asked Ben to write a paragraph explaining why he did not bring his book nor his homework to class. Here is Ben’s paragraph:
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“I don’t have the work because lately I haven’t been
keeping track of my book. I’m sure it’s not lost. I
had so much things on my mind, I forgot. I really
should start keeping track of my things. There’s just
too much to do. I’m not really good at remembering
things, but I’ll try harder. It’s just after seven hours
of school, I get really tired. Then I watch TV or play
on the computer. I really do want to get good grades.
I just don’t try hard enough.”

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