Aspie Gaining Confidence

I posted yesterday about the boost to his self-esteem Daniel got thanks to the friendship of one of the girls in has class (https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/aspies-self-esteem-boosted/) He’s always been reluctant though to interact with classmates away from the school setting. This year that has been slowly changing. He’s quite close to four or five kids in his class, all of whom live close to us. He’s understood friendship much more than Matthew ever has, and as a result, he’s been willing to venture away from the house to engage with his friends.

His best friend is a little lad who lives over the back from us. He and Daniel have been friends since nursery. His friend has a bit of trouble with allergies, which affect what he can eat therefore I think that Daniel, knowing about his own “special brain” see his friend as a kindred spirit. Oh, and they both love Start Wars! Initially, they would bump into each other at the adventure park out the back, where Daniel’s friend’s mum would keep an eye on them. His friend’s older sister also keeps a close eye on them. Then they got round to house visits, and Daniel became comfortable about how their friendship had expanded.

A couple of doors down from his friend is another classmate. She and Daniel were friends in class – probably thanks to Daniel’s friendship with her neighbour more than anything. Again, Daniel didn’t play with her until one day early this summer, she was playing on the swings out back while Daniel & I were on the trampoline. I suggested to Daniel he shout her over. She came down, into the garden, then onto the trampoline with Daniel. Friendship sealed. Since then, he’s been to her house for tea, and she’s been over here – a lot!

But today showed us how his confidence has grown. He went to see his friends. His little girlfriend was about to go out with her dog (along with her Dad & her brother) – now Daniel has always had a bit of a problem with his confidence around adults away from the house. But today, he was quite happy to help his friend walk their dog with her Dad. Daniel is so focussed on his friendships that he’s learning to accept being around other adults. He’s getting to know them, and who doesn’t love Daniel it seems!

Its a slow road, with many miles to go. Daniel is still way more comfortable at home, but through developing friendships with his peers, his confidence is growing, and that can only be to his benefit.

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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.

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.

ASD and Kissing

Matthew’s autism has meant he’s never liked physical contact. Any contact has to be on his terms, or not at all. It took some time before he gave Jane a kiss. Kissing is something deeply personal to most of us, but our brain is capable of deciding when its appropriate, and if we’re comfortable about being on the receiving end. Matthew isn’t capable of making those judgements however, and it has the potential to lead to major explosions from him, or to get him into trouble.

Daniel is the complete opposite. He loves kisses, and will let you know how he feels – he often finds in hard to verbalise how he feels about you – so we get lots of kisses from Daniel and its his way of letting us know he loves us. He often tries to kiss Matthew of course, who can’t handle that kind of physical contact. Daniel is invading his personal space, and that’s all Matthew sees it as. He doesn’t understand its only Daniel’s way of showing him he cares. Matthew’s reaction of course is typical for him – he’ll lash out at Daniel. That’s manageable at home, but what if it happens at school? Thankfully Daniel quite literally tales it on the chin. He still cares for Matthew, and doesn’t let Matthew’s reaction put him off from delivering kisses!

Matthew’s problem with personal space of others is that – as I said – he can’t interpret when its appropriate to enter someone’s personal space. We often see him interacting with school mates end route to/from school. He’ll quite literally get in their faces – he just thinks being friendly – and often they don’t like it, but he doesn’t know its a signal to back off.

But recently, Matthew has shown some interesting behaviour with regards to personal space and kissing. There’s a girl in his class who has taken a shine to him. Both Matthew and Daniel find friendship difficult to comprehend, but they certainly manage to attract people to them. Matthew won’t always reciprocate that, but I hope he realises that there are people there that are looking out for him. He’s less rowdy than other boys his age. He’s a sensitive wee soul, and maybe that makes him popular with the girls. There are a few that have taken the time to get to know him and understand him. This girl asks Jane questions about Matthew’s behaviour and is so accepting of the answers. I think she’s a good friend for him.

But recently he’s reciprocating her obvious affection. At their after school jazzercise Matthew will play chasing with this girl. There’s a lot of physical contact involved. She accepts it, and I think its a way of communicating to Matthew that she likes him that he understands. Well, now Matthew has started kissing her! Its quite strange, but he kisses her on the arms. Sometimes she will look at him as if asking, “what are you doing?” Its not always appreciated – signs that Matthew can’t read. She asked Jane about Matthew kissing her. Jane said Matthew doesn’t like kisses, and that it was a sign that he really liked her. This went down well! M was doing it again at jazzercise today. She asked me about Matthew not liking kisses. I said to her that he didn’t even kiss his mum much, and that she should be honoured. I said that it just meant that he liked her. She seemed happy with that.  Then she said Matthew was a really good friend. Its a good feeling to know that Matthew has people like her around him at school.

Matthew may not understand about friendships and personal space, but at least he’s got people around him to look out for him.