First page of Bullying
First page of Meltdowns
Sample chapter Rudeness
Table of Contents of Quirky, Yes
Bullying and Bullies (first page of the chapter)
Anyone with Asperger’s is a bully magnet. Their inability to read others' intentions and their lack of awareness make them very easy targets.
This problem is so prevalent among our Friends that it is one of the main trigger events for parents to seek out the Friends’ Club®. There is a more in-depth section addressing bullies and bullying in Part Three: Resources.
Here is an overview of our approach to teaching Asperger’s kids and teens how to recognize bullying in all its forms, since they do not correctly perceive others’ motivations, and how to stop it.
First, we discuss and identify the three types of bullying:
(1) Physical bullying: this includes hitting, tripping, throwing things at you, taking things away from you, sexual harassment, etc.
(2) Verbal bullying: this is teasing, taunting, name-calling, insulting, making fun of, writing nasty comments or spreading rumors, making threats, etc.
(3) Insincere, “taking advantage of you” bullying: Usually the hardest for our Friends to detect because the bully is smiling and seems so friendly, which confuses Asperger’s kids. When bullies smile and laugh as they’re doing the mean thing, this tricks Aspies because they don’t see the bully’s hidden intentions.
Next, we discuss how to handle being bullied and that different situations need different strategies. The main points that you must teach your child boil down to this:...(more)
Meltdowns (first page of the chapter)
The sudden, unexpected meltdowns of children and teens who have Asperger’s Syndrome are probably the trickiest to handle of all their quirky behavior. Meltdowns are certainly the most explosive and upsetting.
A meltdown strikes like an earthquake, fiercely and without warning, shaking up everybody who’s around. These emotional outbursts blindside the child as much as they blindside parents, grandparents, babysitters, teachers or whoever is with the child.
Because meltdowns come out of nowhere, there’s no way to know how long they will last, what will calm your child this time, or when they will be over.
An Aspie’s meltdown is no mere tantrum. This is not a behavioral issue. This is not a battle of wills. The source may be sensory, but it could just as easily be from the child’s expectations being dashed and his inability to cope with the disappointment, or from unexamined emotions.
Meltdowns go beyond sobbing and shouting. There can be head rubbing and hair pulling, whacking pillows over and over, knocking things down, slamming doors, or punching walls. Meltdowns turn a rather docile, gentle child into an absolutely inconsolable, raving, quivering wreck.
If you're lucky, the meltdown is from an overload of sensory stimulation. Once the source is figured out, it can be addressed. If it's too noisy, go to a quiet place. Too many people? Leave to find a less crowded spot for you and your child to regroup.
Too hot? Find a cooler spot. Too cold? Give him a sweater.
Feed your child if he is having a hunger-induced meltdown. Sometimes the solution is as simple as giving him a small snack....(more)
Rudeness (complete chapter)
On a rudeness scale of one to ten, Asperger’s folks can quickly reach seven or eight without saying a word, and then hit nine or ten once they do.
It’s never intentional.
There is no cruelty or malice behind their behavior or comments. Nothing they say or do is meant to hurt or offend other people. But it does.
Our Friends’ rudeness stems from their unawareness of others. They don’t realize that it’s not okay to be totally honest about what they think or feel. They see, they speak—they do not filter. They do not have the intuition to figure out the code of conduct that dictates good manners. This can be a social nightmare.
Unaware that, to spare someone’s feelings, you wouldn’t say something that way or you wouldn’t say it at all, our Friends hurt their parents’, siblings’ and total strangers’ feelings by saying exactly what they think. To them, the truth is the truth—why shouldn’t they say it?
For example, one mother told us about an episode while she was volunteering one morning in the library at her son’s middle school. Lots of students were milling about before the bell rang. She was standing next to her eighth grader when a girl came up to her son and said, “You’re the one who called me and my friend stupid the other day in English class.”
Mortified, the mother said to the girl, “Well, I’m sure he didn’t mean it. He apologized, right?”
“No,” said the girl.
The mother turned to her son. “You need to apologize, right now.”
“Why?” said her son. “They are stupid.”
Cringing even more, the mother sternly told her son, “That is rude, and you need to apologize because you’ve hurt her feelings.”
Unmoved, the son stood there, looking confused. “But they didn’t even know that more questions were on the back of the worksheet.”
The mother shook her head. “Not everyone knows the same things you know. That doesn’t make them stupid. You need to apologize right now.”
While her son did say he was sorry, and the girl moved on, it wasn’t until after school that the mother could talk with her son. She made him realize how much it hurts people’s feelings to be called names, even if it seems to be the truth to him.
Once he understood what he had done, and remembered being called names himself and how much it had hurt, then her son felt terrible about it. He went back to school the next day and apologized again, more sincerely, to both girls.
This is very typical for our Asperger’s Friends—they are purveyors of truth. Their truth. So they do not understand how bad their comments sound because it’s just the truth to them. They have no inkling of their rudeness. And it’s only after the fact that they can be made to understand how much words can hurt, which is surprising since they have been called names before and been hurt themselves.
Sometimes such episodes come out in Friends’ Club® sessions. We welcome these unplanned opportunities to talk about being too blunt and hurting others’ feelings. We teach them a catchphrase: “Stop and think before you speak.”
We have also dubbed such moments of making a mistake or saying something that we wished we could take back as “rubber chicken moments”. This is based on a humorous prop used by Michelle Garcia Winner with her groups. It’s a lot like when we hit ourselves in the forehead with our hand after a blunder.
A toy rubber chicken (or any funny-looking substitute) is tapped on the head of the Friend who made a mistake. Everyone laughs, including the boy or girl who made the mistake. This helps them see the humor in blunders and that the world does not end if they are not right or perfect all the time.
Just as important, we talk about how that person can “repair” the error that was made. Is an apology enough? Is an explanation in order? How much should they say about why they said or did? Would a compliment be appropriate to soften things? All of these are unknowns to our Friends. They need help figuring out how to mend the damage, if possible. They also need to know how to get over having made the mistake so it doesn’t replay in their head over and over, which such blunders are prone to do.
As one of our young men said, “I just have to try to forget it or I get angry.” This was great insight from one of our members! Anger is an issue because Asperger’s kids expect perfection of themselves and others. The best way to avoid getting angry is to apologize and explain the unintended mistake, learn from it, and then move on.
If they’ve made an unintentional insult, it often takes a long conversation to pierce their rigid view that they are right. It takes even more effort to get them to see how socially unacceptable their comments can be, but it does sink in eventually. Repetition and practice are the keys to all the social skills training that we do at the Friends’ Club®.
Asperger’s social cluelessness also makes it tough for them to learn even the basic manners of polite society. They don’t think burping, nose picking, sneezing without covering your mouth, and talking with your mouth full is a big deal or offensive. They just don’t think about it at all. The importance of good manners, personal grooming and good hygiene is lost on them.
Facts and truth are what are paramount, not the niceties of acceptable behavior. But for other people to want to be their friends, these kids need to learn the basics. That knowledge comes from being taught and practicing.
One very effective tool is the book that we’ve used with our tween and teen groups, HOW RUDE!: The Teenagers’ Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out by Alex J. Packer, Ph.D. With hefty doses of humor, this practical book covers so many of the
social skills and relationship questions that our kids have that it always stirs up lively conversations.
I highly recommend getting your own copy of HOW RUDE! for your tween or teen to read or for you to share with them. It covers all sorts of social situations that your child will encounter, public and private, whether they’re with family or out in the real world. The book satisfies our Friends’ craving for rules, offering invaluable facts and guidance to help our Friends understand social intricacies. The humorous approach makes them more receptive to the message.
Most of all, though, what works best is explaining the behavior that you want your child to learn. Remember, they don’t learn from being told what not to do. They need someone to tell them exactly what they should do.
For Asperger’s kids, even the simplest social skill must be broken down into small steps for them to understand it. What the rest of us do unconsciously and intuitively is what they need to be made conscious of and taught in small pieces. Spell it out. It’s okay. They need clarity and specifics.
The good news—there is hope! They can become less rude, eventually. As you know by now, every Asperger’s person is different and there is no fixed timetable, no guarantees, but there is always hope.
Table of Contents (complete)
Note to the Reader
Introduction: How the Friends’ Club® Began
About the Experts Cited
Part One: Asperger’s Syndrome and Your Child
What Are the Signs of Asperger’s Syndrome?
Frequently Asked Questions about Asperger’s Syndrome
Getting Through to Your Asperger’s Child or Teen
Parental Sainthood and the Need for Support
Part Two: 85 Lessons for Decoding Your Asperger’s Child
Acquaintance Versus Friend
Admitting When You’re Scared
Anger and Frustration
Asking for Help
Bluntness and Unintentional Insults
Bullying and Bullies
Calming Down and Focusing
Change and “Change-ups”
Curiosity About People
Dating and Gender Talk
Giving and Handling Money
Grooming and Personal Hygiene
Leaving the House
Letting Go and Refocusing
Listening to Others
Looking Like You’re Paying Attention
Moving On to New Things
Obsessions and Obsessive Behavior
Peer Pressure and Avoiding Dares
Perfectionism and Unrealistic Expectations
Perspectives and Point of View
Reading Minds and Faces
Responding to Others
Self-Regulation and “Stimming”
Slang and Idioms
Strengths and How to Cultivate Them
Taking One’s Leave
Talking With Peers
Telling Your Child that He or She Has Asperger’s Syndrome
Thinking in Pictures and Patterns
Vacations and School Breaks
“White Lies” and Sparing Others’ Feelings
Writing Things Down
Part Three: Resources
DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic Criteria for Asperger's Disorder
Glossary of Terms
Sample E-mail from Parent to Teacher at the Beginning of the School Year
Further Information About Bullying