A circle of friends

Because we have three children who need a great deal of attention and we both exhibit serious introverted/ hermit proclivities, the Cabana Boy and I are probably terrible examples of one of the skills our children need to learn: how to make close friends.

Now that Captain Oblivious is off to junior high, we are of course probably uber-focused on his social life, trying to ward off an assortment of bad things. Junior high is all about social, you know? The one thing he likes–musicals–is not something that young men are usually focused on at that age. At least not the kind that go to his school.

So the MIL suggests a program called Circle of Friends, where the guidance counselor can actually create people who the Captain can depend on at school. The Intro explains:

The Circle of Friends is not a mere social skills group; it goes beyond that to a more specific focus, developing friendships and providing a quality education for a child with special needs, one that includes learning about social skills through peer relationships and direct instruction. A regularly scheduled Circle of Friends group will help a child in need of social skills develop an idea of what friendship can be about.

But somehow this sounds familiar…why is that?  Oh yeah. This is the reason that the school system wouldn’t transfer the Captain to his home school for sixth grade when we wanted him to be out of his “special” school for a year before junior high so he was better prepared. They said that if he stayed at the school where he’d been for four years, that these people would be friends that would help him transition into the junior high. They specially invited these kids to have lunch with the Captain each week one-on-one to get to know him. This was supposed to create those wonderful bonds.

Well, we saw a number of these ‘friends’ over the summer and at school orientation. The Captain would greet them with enthusiasm and they’d roll their eyes, or worse just walk by and make a comment to whoever they were with. Some friends. He’s even come clean now with reports that some of these ‘friends’ have threatened him if he speaks to them in front of anyone else.

Maybe the concept of peer mentors isn’t a bad one.  This story using the program has kids fighting over themselves to be the child’s friends.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But I can’t see it as realistic.

So we consider home school at the same time we acknowledge it will likely damage his social abilities even farther not to be forced to deal with other children his age for five days a week. It’s so ironic that Little Miss was always more severely impaired, with her dx of classic autism, but she’s come so much farther on the social scale than the Aspie.  We’re open to suggestions. Fire away…

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8 thoughts on “A circle of friends

  1. is there a community theater/youth program? we’ve got one going in my little burg, and it’s helped a few young men who ‘don’t fit’ with the athletics/sk8ter/punk crowds…

  2. My son is not an Aspie but I know that other kids who are really enjoy our local Game Club. It is held once a month for kids on the spectrum and their families to just play computer/non- computer games and hang out. The one here in Vancouver, WA was modeled on the one in Portland, see this link: http://www.aspergersnet.org/gameclub.html

    We know you don’t have enough to do (ha!!) but maybe you or a group of parents could start a group? I’m sure the Portland contact could help, or I could send you the the e-mail of the mom who started the one here.

  3. Hello Barb,

    I’m really sorry about the Captain’s experience. I’ve thought, and I still think, that a properly run peer mentor/”social coaches”/”circle of friends” program can be the best thing to happen to an autistic or Aspie kid. I wish there was something like that when I was growing up (late 1970s, 1980s).

    Perhaps no one can be forced to volunteer for such a program. But a good teacher or school principal can let them know that, like it or lump it, they’ll be going to school every day with the Aspie – and they will treat him with a minumum of decency or suffer severely for it. S/he could then suggest that they might find it in their best interests to designate somebody to help the Aspie, on the spot, to act in ways that don’t annoy them so much.

    What do you think?

    Jeff Deutsch

    PS: In any case, do encourage the Captain to immediately let you know of anything like threats or bullying. Also, by all means find some social activities for the Captain to engage in, at just above his own pace, on a regular basis. You don’t have to go to school for those.

  4. I really wish I had some suggestions, but I’m in the same boat. My 16-year-old son has asperger’s. Developing friendships has been so hard for him. I used to think that his interests, football and hockey, would serve him well and they have to some extent. Sometimes I think his ability to tune out the world has kept him relatively content.

  5. I am an adult with aspergers who has a son with aspergers. My teen life was filled with false friends and I quickly learned that an unknown person was more than likely someone I didn’t want to know rather than a potential friend.

    The social pressures in school is unlike anything in the real world. The asperger child is surrounded by kids who lack the basic social skills of compassion, politeness, and consideration. Interestingly enough, the asperger child is always the one who gets singled out as being ‘un-social’ when often it it the other kids who are acting in anti-social ways! Such is the situation that Captain was in. Who was acting in the ‘un-social’ manner, Captain or the other children who were rolling eyes and being cruel?! Generally, the other kids grow up when they get into the real world and the asperger person fits in fairly well.

    Compare the social pressures between the ‘real adult world’ and the artificial ‘school world’. The school world is a social pressure cooker that is unmatched anywhere in the adult world. The asperger child is ready at a much younger age to work with other adults in the adult world. Don’t get me wrong, they are not adults and still need the protection of their parents, but their thinking is much more adult than their age related peers. There are several benefits to drawing the aspie child into the adult world.

    1) An aspie’s logic fits better with the interests of adults rather than the petty interests of their age mates.

    2)By interacting with other adults, they learn the social mannerisms of the adult world. Isn’t that the goal of raising children, to launch them into the adult world? Aspie kids have trouble learning social interaction skills. So why do we put them into different enviorments where the social expectations change with each different school they attend; elementary, junior high, and high school? Can we make learning social skills any more harder?! And they won'[t even need the crazy skills that are needed to survive in school! They need the skills needed in the ADULT world! Invite them into your adult world and watch them thrive. Then watch them take off as young adults while their age mates are trying to figure out how to function in the adult world as they adjust between the high school scene and the responsibilities of the adult world.

    3)This opens the door to volunteerism in a wide variety of areas, teaching patience, compassion, consideration, work ethic, etc. All these subjects involve real life social skills while introducting them to a wide variety of people, situations, and learning opportunities.

    4)Homeschooling is an excellent venue for bringing kids into the adult world in a controlled manner. The parent can create a balance between interactions with adults and peers and can better control the social situation so that the aspie child isn’t treated with contempt by peers. Aspie children have a hard time telling the difference between real friendship and when another child is setting him up for a stab in the back for the sick amusement of other class mates. Generally, this type of set up only occurs in the school world. Personally, I have never encountered it among the adults that I regularly interact with but it was a common occurance through my school life.

    What has your experience been as you recall your school years? Do you see the difference between social interactions in school and in the adult world? Has any of this made sense? Remember that the goal of parenting is to launch your child into the adult world. We are working our way out of a job! The path to becoming an adult is different for different people. Explore your options and lead your child into the future.

  6. WOW! Bernie you are a tremendous person! As a mom of a 14 year old Aspie I take heart in your confidence, your understanding of “life” and your positive attitude. Congratulations! I can only hope my son develops to the extent you have. Thank you so much for sharing your own valuable perspective. I am seriously considering home schooling my 9th grade Aspie. I would love to find out if anyone out there has experience with any secular home school programs that have worked well with their Aspie.

    Again Bernie, thank you, truly, for sharing.

  7. Thanks for your marvelous posting on home schooling! I quite enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and will often come back from now on. I want to encourage continue your great writing on the importance of education, have a nice evening!

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