Heather smiles gently as she watches the video about a celebration in Africa. To be fascinated by something means that it captures your imagination and you want to give it your full attention. Heather leans forward (always a sign of interest) towards the TV screen.
She stares intently at the screen, following the action with her eyes. Active thinking is a central part of fascination. We can see thinking going on in the way she strokes her lip with her little finger. We get the sense that she is ‘in the moment’, giving her complete attention to the screen.
In a split second when she’s intensely interested her eyes close a little and then widen. If you look carefully you will also see an intake of breath.
Too often, neurotypicals expect a perfect useful relationship from a friend. They like friendships to be easygoing with as much similarity between two people as possible. Therefore, they hold higher expectations for the other side, even though the other side shares that same expectation. Due to the absence of fulfillment, neither person makes connections or sometimes people can become unreasonably selective in the friendship process. The reason for this is that both neurotypicals and aspies often feel like outcasts around certain groups of people.
If this happens too frequently, the inclination to make friends declines. However, this shared dilemma can actually help to foster the relationship between an aspie and a neurotypical or an aspie and another aspie, if they are willing to give a chance for that to happen. After all, few things feel more reassuring than being able to take up your worst fears and issues with others, knowing that they will not condemn you for them.
This summer Aspergers101 hosted a free informational series on Aspergers at the San Antonio Public Library. We have recorded each of these valuable sessions in video and powerpoint format so that you can have access to them at any time. Below, watch the second workshop from our Informational Summer Series on Aspergers focusing on social development.
First, Jennifer and Sam Allen discuss important strategies for parents, professionals, and peers to utilize when socializing with those with Aspergers. Next, Louise O’Donnell, Ph.D. Neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor at UT Health Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics talks about the neurological aspects of social development for those with Aspergers and Autism.
The following are excerpts from Jennifer and Sam Allen’s powerpoint presentation on social development.
Interview with Stuart Quinn, a filmmaker with Asperger’s Syndrome. Stuart made a short film about what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome from a personal perspective.
AS101: Hello Stuart, thank you for sharing your film short with our Aspergers101 audience. First, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey I’m Stuart, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 15 years and I am a filmmaker based in the UK.
AS101: How did you come to make your film titled “A. Syndrome” about living with Aspergers?
The film came about during my 2nd year of Drama School which in the first term we had to make a short film. The short had to be something about ourselves. It didn’t have to be directly about ourselves but maybe a theme or something that personally about us. I chose to explore what the world is like from my subjective point of view with Asperger’s.
AS101: Who is the actor and is he also on the Autism Spectrum?
Although lead character is based on me I wanted to keep an open mind when it came to casting and just find the right person. During the casting I needed to find someone who could bring the emotional qualities to the character but also do it without speaking and his eyes tell the story. Mario Pace who is the lead actor brought what I needed to the film and I was thrilled when came in to audition and gave a brilliant performance. Mario isn’t on the spectrum but he brought the emotional core to the character more than anyone else.
AS101: How is your film being distributed and what are you hopes for people who view it?
The film is available to view on YouTube with my YouTube channel for free as I want everyone to have access to view it. I would like the audience to make their own mind up when viewing the film because I have always felt the best stories I have loved always leave it up to the audience how they feel about the story and subject matter. I do hope that maybe it will inspire anyone who wants to make a movie to make one and don’t listen to negative people who say otherwise.
AS101: What would you like to say to those reading who are trying to better understand Asperger Syndrome?
Because the spectrum is so huge it’s very hard to totally understand it. Although information can be found by talking to doctors or information online etc, I think it comes down to understanding the person and who they are. Everyone who is on the spectrum will not act or respond in the same and others have different needs than others etc.
AS101: Lastly, how could someone get in touch with you if they would like more information about you or your film?
You can find me on my twitter account at @SQUINN85 and Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC06CcKLNR2YLvgP8yXVQfkw
For much of my life, I have had a hard time understanding not only the non-verbal communication of others, but how my own non-verbal communication affected others. Sometimes, if I was irritated at someone, I would simply keep my mouth shut, the rationale being “They can’t hold me accountable for something I didn’t say.”
What I failed to realize was that sometimes silence speaks louder than anything you could say, or that you could say one thing, but your facial expressions, actions, and certainly body language tell the real story.
One of the most important job skills every employee, including those on the autism spectrum, must learn is how to greet a customer properly. If employees learn this valuable skill, they will be way ahead of the pack. Their employer will notice and customers will become life-long evangelists.
Many employees (and business owners!) fail miserably at this simple task, turning customers off forever and losing them to the competition, or to the online marketplace, often without even realizing it.
Volunteering at an animal shelter is a great way for tweens, teens and young adults on the autism spectrum to practice and improve social and job skills. They also learn responsibility and a respect for animals. As visitors come into animal shelters to look at animals available for adoption, it’s the perfect place for teens to improve face-to-face communication. The experience they gain volunteering at an animal shelter molds them into more effective volunteers and prepares them for the work force.
In addition to the changes related to individuals with Aspergers and HFA, the DSM-V introduced a new condition in the diagnostic category of communication disorders: Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder (SCD). SCD is marked by difficulties with pragmatics—aka practical everyday use—or the social use of language and communication. Therefore, SCD is concerned with an individual’s use of verbal and nonverbal social communication in everyday life.
The condition is of particular interest to individuals with Aspergers or HFA because, in the DSM-V, it specifically states that individuals who have marked deficits in social communication but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet the criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.
I had a lot of problems growing up because I felt socially awkward and did not fit in with my peers. My challenges mainly were with social issues. Getting along with people, reading facial expressions, and body language all seemed completely foreign to me.
I was finally diagnosed with High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 17 years old. Most people in Texas didn’t know what Asperger’s Syndrome was at that time. I’ll be 32 in December so over ½ my life I didn’t even know I had Asperger’s. Since then I have learned how to function in a world with people.
Social skills are especially difficult for teens on the autism spectrum, but many of these skills can be learned, and with practice, can become habit. Social skills are critical to make friends, get a job, and to live a fulfilling life. Research from Harvard University says social skills are the top factor for getting a job.
Share the following book excerpt with your son or daughter to give them a head start in mastering these important social skills.