How Asperger’s Children Socialize Through Roles – The influence of structured roles on Asperger’s students and how progress can mean difficulty in pinpointing “typical” traits and symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome.
How Asperger’s Children Socialize Through Roles
Previously, I discussed that my husband and I were witnessing substantial progress in my son’s Asperger’s Syndrome symptoms. The progress extended beyond one area. We were seeing improvement in fine motor skills, communication skills with his peers and an overall comfort he felt in social situations. It has been impressive. My husband and I still work with him in various ways, but nothing too new or out of the ordinary. In a way I was back at square one hyper-analyzing every little thing he was up to in the pre-diagnosis days. As relieved as I am over the current progress, I found myself wondering more than usual and questioning everything I had previously learned about “typical” Aspberger’s personality traits.
My first inklings things were “different” were some notes home from one of my son’s teachers. She’d write progress reports that said my son was “showing class leadership abilities” and that he was a “popular and social boy”. Huh? My son had always previously been a bit socially awkward and timid which has been what I had been programmed to think were “typical” Asperger’s children traits.
I also couldn’t understand my son’s sudden need to join every sports team or school play/recital he could think of. A couple of year’s ago I had to physically limit his video game time and tearing him away from the TV was like pulling teeth. Now, he was signing up to be in plays, excited for Detroit Lions Youth Camp, basketball teams, little league baseball, School of Rock, golf lessons, church choir and school assembly presentations. Last year he was flatly rejecting my husband’s efforts to get him to shoot baskets at the park. I couldn’t figure it out.
I had a business meeting with a woman I call a friend recently. I found out that her son (older than mine) has Asperger’s and our business conversation went straight out the window. I was describing my son’s recent changes with typical Asperger’s traits. She told me (I’m paraphrasing slightly) “Those new traits are typical. Your son is thriving in the ‘roles’ created for him.” As she explained further, everything suddenly dawned on me as to what was effecting my son’s emerging Asperger’s personality.
Asperger’s kids thrive in roles. Early in the school year, my son’s teacher noticed he had some academic ability with spelling and math and sat him down. She told him she was going to increase his work in spelling and that he was a great student who needed to keep practicing. I commend her for challenging him. My son saw this increased “role” as a status label to live up to. He saw the increased workload as a role of a smart student. Same with sports. By putting on the uniform and working with a team, he sees himself playing the role of “teammate” or “athlete”. The role also applies to performer. My son’s love of the stage is becoming fixed in him because it’s easy for him to comprehend and identify with. He throws his efforts into performing because of the role he knows is defined as actor, singer or musician. When my son realized that strapping on a guitar meant becoming the role of a musician or performer, he embraced it quickly. My son is not a star athlete and he isn’t a prodigy musician. He enjoys the roles and aspires to better create them with his flourishing abilities. The more confidence he gains, the more he increases the role in his mind.
There is a certain, negative connotation with “labeling” kids. According to my friend I had lunch with, Asperger’s students look for easily identifiable roles to incorporate their interests. If a child shows interest or accepts a role, they strive to fulfill it often gaining confidence (progress) along the way. It turns out my son’s progress is more “typical” than I thought and this experience has been another valuable lesson for me.