While reading about some of the social challenges that young people with Aspergers face, I came across a letter written by a young man in a private high school. He wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper. He realized that he was different from his peers, and he was embarrassed that he had no girlfriend.
“I feel so miserable that I want to sit down and cry. I have considered using alcohol and amphetamines to overcome my shyness but the first makes me sick and the other is a Class B substance. My thoughts are often violent, resentful and increasingly suicidal.
Is there anything else I can do? I don’t think I can live my life like this: no social satisfaction and no prospect of happiness or starting a family.”
This young man’s cry for help is speaks for thousands of young people across the nation and across the world. Professor Tanya Byron, a clinical psychologist in England, provided some very helpful strategies to help this young man turn things around. I would like to share some of them with you.
- Define yourself in terms of your thoughts, feelings, strengths, and beliefs, rather than by your diagnosis. In other words, realize that young people everywhere, with and without the diagnosis of Aspergers, struggle with making social connections. Yes, it will be more of a challenge to young people with diagnoses of Autism and Aspergers, but there are solutions available.
- Seek out help in the form of professional counseling, if and when your discouragement over your social difficulties leads to depression or anxiety, as with the example of the young man at the outset of this post. You need to have constructive ways to think about your challenges, as well as specific social strategies and ways to manage your emotions. All of this can be obtained with a collaborative partnership with a skilled therapist who is well acquainted with Aspergers syndrome. Patricia Robinson is one example of many compassionate and competent therapists and coaches who increasingly offer specific help and tips both in person and online, to young people and adults with Aspergers. She writes a blogs tailored to both children and adults.
- Your social skill challenges are likely to be around communication; inflexibility of thought and behavior; difficulties with relationships and empathy; and discomfort with eye and body contact. Here are some suggestions and resources offered by Dr. Byron: Socialeyes: Exploring the Social World with People on the Autism Spectrum. This resource is a program that can help young people with Aspergers acquire skills such as how to start and carry on a conversation, as well as maintain eye contact. In the course of watching the teaching and the DVD’s, you can start to re-train your brain to think in ways that will help you relate to others.
- Dr. Byron also recommends two very useful books that you should obtain, read, and study. The first resource, by Dr. Jed Baker, is called Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome and Social-Communications Problems. This workbook contains a wealth of information for you, if you are diagnosed with Aspergers, and for those who are working with you, such as a coach or a therapist. The second great resource is called The Asperger Love Guide: A Practical Guide for Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome to Seeking, Establishing and Maintaining Successful Relationships (Lucky Duck Books), written by Genevieve Edmonds and Dean Worton.
In my next post, I will include more resources, tips, and solutions to help you bridge the seeming divide between yourself and meaningful friendships. Until then, I do hope that you will check out these resources and apply them!