Aspie’s Self Esteem Boosted.

Daniel is a little lad who’s outgoing nature at home belies fragile confidence and self esteem away from the home. Even at home at times he’ll tell us how he is rubbish at everything, despite the fact that’s clearly nonsense. Its hard work lifting his self confidence and self esteem as he’s heard it all before from us. What we tell him is true – he’s a loveable, affectionate, clever, funny, serious little man. He’s got a complex nature and a deep mind.

But its been at school lately where his self esteem and confidence have taken a lift. When he lines up at school waiting to get in, there’s often a girl he’s friendly with in front of him. While Daniel interacts with us in the line, this girl just gazes at Daniel, with a beaming smile on her face. The affection she has for Daniel is so obvious that its touching. Daniel seems to know what to say and what to do to make her laugh. Its lovely that there’s someone in his class that sees past his labels and quirky behaviour to the beautiful little boy that he is.

Last night I spoke to him about this girl. I told him how she looks at him in the line at school, and how obvious it was that she liked him. He beamed instantly. All our attempts at helping him think better about himself went for nothing. But telling him about the smiles of one little girl, and what she thought of him did the trick in an instant. He did make me laugh when I asked if he liked her, and he said, “I’m 99% sure that she’s the right woman for me” – I managed not to laugh, but it was a lovely moment.

Jane spoke to this girl’s mum today to tell her what Daniel said. She laughed, and said that she hear Daniel’s name several times a day from her daughter. It seems she does indeed adore Daniel! It might only be a classmate friendship, but Daniel is being accepted for who he is, and its done him the world of good. Jane told her mum and the mums of a few of Daniel’s closest friends that they were more than welcome to come round in the holidays. Daniel is thrilled by the prospect. It might make our house a real madhouse the next couple of weeks, but if it makes Daniel feels better about himself, it will be more than worth it.

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Autism and Friendship – The Mystery Continues

Friendship is something that many ASD children find difficult to understand. The process of forming lasting bonds with others is a process that they find a mystery, and Matthew is no different to that. Matthew gave me the inspiration for today’s post when I was talking to him last night about his day at school and I asked him who he played with during break times. “No one” came the reply. This isn’t unusual from Matthew. On occasions where we’ve been round by the school at lunchtimes taking Daniel back to school where he’s had a home lunch, Matthew will be by himself. He makes no attempt to join in with the play of his peers.

What is more concerning though was the response I got when I asked him who he was friends with in his class. Again it was a negative response. I think a part of it is a trust issue with his peers after being on the receiving end from the class bully in P3, which ended up with Matthew being branded the aggressor when he eventually snapped and belted the bully. After being the victim, it was Matthew in the wrong, and Matthew who had to be moved out of the class. So if would be understandable for Matthew to think he can trust no one. The trouble with Matthew and ASD children in general is that they find it difficult to read social signals given out by others. Because Matthew is generally quiet and sensitive, I think he draws others to him. Several of the girls he’s encountered in class have a lot of time for him, but he’s unable to determine that they are being genuine in their attempts to befriend him, but crucially he’s unaware of the nuances of creating a long term bond. If someone makes friendship overtures towards us, and we like them, we are able to respond to that and create a bond. Matthew can’t. In four and a half years of being at school (including nursery) he hasn’t really bonded with any of his peers.

A lot of that has to do with the school policy of rotating the make up of classes from year to year. Now, the thinking behind that is to help kids make a wide circle of friends. For children who easily understand the friendship game, they are able to retain previously formed friendships while making new ones. This policy has been a disaster for Matthew. He may form a temporary bond with someone before the classes are changed and he’s back to square one. To him, a person he knows should be in the same place – which is why he ignores classmates that are seen outside the school setting. So, take a person he is getting to know out of the class he is in, and they are outside of his daily experiences, and any budding friendship is discarded by Matthew.

We’ve asked at review meetings that Matthew has familiar faces retained when he moves class, and I’m beginning to wonder if its understood that he isn’t like other children, and changing the faces he’s familiar with is a disaster for him. People he’s familiar with are taken away from him. I think that eventually others may tire of Matthew not reciprocating offers of friendship and move on to the new bonds they’ve made. In the end, Matthew is left on his own. While he is getting better educational support this year, he’s not getting support from friends that most of us experience on a daily basis. If, as Daniel has found out this last few weeks, he had friends he could rely on then perhaps they could have supported him through the tough time he went through in P3.

School is a part of our lives where make life-long bonds. Our lives post-education often make it difficult to make lasting bonds and often we don’t really want to. We’ve got our circle of friends and are happy to make do with that. But Matthew is halfway through primary school, and he has made no lasting friendships. He hasn’t had anyone round to the house for a couple of years, and it must be that at least when he last visited the house of a classmate. He isn’t often invited to birthday parties either. As a result, his support network is being severely limited and he is suffering as a result. Sometimes its not easy to go to an adult with our problems when we’re at school as more often its our friends that really understand. That’s not being addressed, and Matthew is being failed socially. It does make me wonder if mainstream education is for him in a social sense. That he’s achieving as much as he is says a lot for him, but he’s seeing more of the SEN teacher, who is excellent for him.

But mainstream or not, friendship is a minefield for the ASD child. Matthew is none-the-wiser with how to proceed, and while yesterday’s chat with him was no surprise, its sad that a little lad is drifting along without the strength friendship gives us all.

Sunny Side Up Again

This last week has taken a bit of a toll on Daniel as I’ve mentioned in other posts (https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/bullied-daniel-again/ and https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/tired-aspie/) When it all came to a head at school, he was anxious that he may be jeopardised his friend ship with one of his close circle of friends when he went to their teacher to tell her his friend was scared by another boy in the class. But it turned out his friend was relieved it was all out, and his parents were given the opportunity to decide how they wanted to approach it. Daniel was so grown up, and Jane & I are so proud about how Daniel handled the whole thing ( https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/doing-the-right-thing/)

Although he has his ASD moments, Daniel, though serious too on occasion, is quite a sunny boy. He can be quite cheeky, funny, but lovely with it all. There’s often a smile on his face, and this last week has got him down to the extent that his usually sunny personality has been submerged and temporarily defeated by events of the week. But seeing that his friend is pleased its come out and can be dealt with has been a relief to Daniel. The reaction of his friend’s parents will also help him, and I wonder if more of his classmates will look up to him and in return, look out for him. The outcome though is that Daniel’s funny side is beginning to reassert itself.

Last evening before getting them ready for bed, Daniel and I went upstairs, and sat on our bed while he watched Disney Junior on his iPad. He was enjoying it entirely, and would give me smiles and kisses! It was good to see, and it was a bit of confirmation that he was recovering from the last week. There are times when Daniel can talk absolute nonsense, but that is very much part of his charm. He’s a deep thinker too, but he has got a lovely sense of humour that he does allow to come out a lot. He’s funny, but it is always that you laugh with him as a result, not at him.

Its a sign of his complex personality though that he’s able to take some things so very seriously. He’s got quite a sense of duty and responsibility that when he sees something wrong, he feels that it is important that somebody does something to sort it. That’s good to see, but he needs to get a balance between serious responsibility and the light-hearted Daniel we all love. When he gets the balance right, he will be such a lovely boy to know, and everyone at school who is his friend will realise how lucky they are to have our lovely little aspie in their lives.

San Francisco, Music & Memories

“San Francisco Bay, past pier 39, early PM can’t remember what time.” So starts “Have a Nice Day” by the Stereophonics. Its one of my favourite songs, and is one of those songs capable of evoking strong memories. For me, the memories are kicked off by the great opening line which take me back to one of the good times for me. It’s the reference to San Francisco that does it, and is a reminder of a great long weekend I had there in 1998 with my two closest friends.

We were right in the middle of a three-week holiday in the United States, having travelled from Chicago to San Francisco by train via Lincoln NE, Denver CO, Flagstaff AZ & Los Angeles CA. All of the stops were fantastic and are memories I’ll treasure, but the weekend we had in the Bay Area will always be in my mind. It started off by arriving in Oakland at 10pm on the Friday after a 12. hour train ride from LA. The train bypasses San Francisco and continues up the west coast to Seattle (we resumed our trip after San Francisco by catching the train in Emeryville, the stop up from Oakland to get to Seattle via Portland OR & Olympia WA.) A bus service completed the journey into San Francisco. My first sight of SF was from that bus coming over the top level of the Bay Bridge. San Francisco was glorious. The view from the bridge was, to use an Americanism, awesome. Surely the city by the bay has never looked so good as it did that night.

Our first experience of San Fran was quite an exciting one. We arrived in Union Square at 1030pm or so, and we were staying at the top of Geary Boulevard, a taxi was in order. First taxi hailed stopped – success! – then when we told him where we wanted to go to, he asked, “where is that?” Not a good start! Fortunately I knew it was (roughly) in the direction of Golden Gate Park, and after a journey of nearly getting killed (he just about ran into the back of a stationary car at red light) we made it. Check-in was fine. We were in San Francisco.

The weekend was one of the finest I’ve had. After a morning or rooting about in downtown San Francisco, it was time for me to be able to indulge in one of my American passions – baseball. America’s pastime is a wonderful experience, and I’d already got myself & my friend tickets for the Giants Saturday game against the Dodgers. The afternoon was lost in a haze of Californian sunshine, Giants homeruns (2 grand slams) and Barry Bonds in an 18-4 Giants win. In the midst of it all, after a Giants homerun, beers in hand, my closest friend and I exchanged the iconic American high five. It really was a perfect moment in time, and I won’t forget that. My friend took his own life in 2003 and those memories of San Francisco will always be precious.

The Sunday was just as good. Again we braved public transport and took the BART train over to Oakland for the Raiders/Broncos NFL game. My friend was a Broncos fan, but decided against wearing his Denver shirt to the game! Probably a wise move with Denver fans there being subjected to (generally) light hearted abuse and being showered with beer. It was another great sun-kissed afternoon spent in the company of friends. Its one of life’s greatest pleasures. Denver won the game 34-17 and it topped off a true bit of Americana. Back to San Francisco on BART (the BART station was right outside the Coliseum in Oakland – take note UK!)

The weekend was extended to Tuesday, and it left us time to be proper tourists! It was a trip out to the Golden Gate Bridge on late Monday afternoon that brought the reality of it all home to me. I can still clearly remember standing on the GG bridge looking out over the Pacific Ocean when it struck me – what was I doing on the west coast of America? I was 8,000 miles from home. Although I’d had a good childhood, we were never lucky enough to experience foreign holidays, and I didn’t go abroad until I was 15 on a school trip to Switzerland. But her I was on America’s Pacific coast in the middle of the experience of a lifetime for me. I loved the baseball, and the NFL, but standing on the GG Bridge looking at the Pacific is a memory to treasure.

Alcatraz was visited on the Tuesday, our last act before moving on. We were in San Francisco for just four days, but Lombard Street (the steep windy road), Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, Candlestick Park & the Oakland Coliseum were all squeezed in. Maybe no surprise its stayed with me really, and it’s the reason I love hearing that Stereophonics song. I’m so glad my friends and I took the chance when we could and had a great road trip together. Chicago and Seattle were other highlights, but the weekend in San Francisco was unforgettable. San Francisco Bay, past pier 39, early PM can’t remember what time. What I will remember is the fantastic City by the Bay and the company of great friends. It was a blast.