By Dan Coulter
Does your child with Asperger Syndrome sometimes resist your guidance?
As the parents of an adult son with Asperger Syndrome, my wife and I have found that as a child gets older and feels the need to assert his or her independence, it may be harder and harder to take advice from mom or dad.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important for our children to learn to solve their own problems. Especially as they become our adult children.
Still, it’s tough to see the effectiveness of, “Because I said so,” recede into the distance.
If we see a continuing need to be involved in our children’s lives as they grow into adults, we need to acknowledge that they are becoming adults, and find appropriate ways to influence their decisions.
This can be a challenge.
People with Asperger Syndrome often have trouble with subtle distinctions. They may think, “Adults are independent. Being independent means making my own decisions. If I take my parents’ advice, I’m not acting like an adult.”
So, what do we do when we want to respect our children’s quest for independence and still help them over or around a metaphorical brick wall?
The answer may lie in something I was told in military history class as a college ROTC cadet. The class was taught by a captain with a true Army man’s loyalty and belief that his branch of the service was vastly superior to any other. One day in class, he was having fun at the expense of the Marines.
“In the Army, we believe in using strategy and tactics to capture an objective,” he grinned. “But the Marines, the Marines have another approach, which can best be summed up as, ‘Hey, diddle, diddle, straight up the middle, and the hell with everything else!’.”
Needless to say, there were no Marines present. Had a Marine been present, I suspect we would have been treated to an enthusiastic corps-a-corps as to the accuracy of the captain’s characterization. Not to mention speculations about the captain’s parentage back through several generations.
But even assuming the captain’s statement represented slander to the Marine Corps, the point is that the best tactic to use in providing counsel to your adult (or near adult) son or daughter may not be the direct approach.
Our 25 year-old son, Drew, was diagnosed with AS when he was 14. He has a B.A. in creative writing, but has gone back to school to complete a two-year college program in accounting. He hopes what he learns about accounting will help him land a full-time job. He’s living at home and working part-time at our public library.
While he’s done well in his accounting classes, Drew recently had difficulties with some long-term assignments for a complicated auditing course. He was frustrated and his mother and I were concerned. Drew made it clear that he wanted to prove he could handle this without his parents’ help.
The solution involved my wife engaging the assistance of Drew’s job coach. The coach met with Drew to work out a new plan, including studying in the library away from distractions. They came up with a schedule for completing parts of the assignments. This schedule included, if necessary, approaching the course’s professor before the projects were due, to request additional time.
On his own, Drew enlisted a fellow student to explain some of the difficult concepts involved and started breaking down the obstacles that had caused his frustration. His mother and I were relieved. We were also impressed with Drew’s initiative in seeking another student’s help.
As parents of children with Asperger Syndrome, many of us get used to constantly having our hands on the safety net. We spend a lot of time wondering when to deploy it and when to whip it behind our backs and say, “What net?”
But if we can gradually forgo the direct approach and guide our children to find the help they need, even if it’s not from us, we may just reach the Holy Grail point for parents. That’s the point where our children are competent and confident enough to ask our advice because they value it, and not because they’re afraid they can’t succeed without it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR -- Dan Coulter produces DVDs for people with Asperger Syndrome and autism and those who support them. He’s currently working on a DVD to help people with AS find and keep a job, which is scheduled for release in Summer, 2009. You can find more articles on his website: coultervideo.com.
Copyright 2009 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.