Asperger Syndrome: Alone By Choice?

December 2, 2011

By Dan Coulter

 Does your child with Asperger Syndrome really want to be alone?

     I have Asperger Syndrome, and I enjoyed being alone when I was little, mostly when I was in my own world reading.  But I also craved company and wanted to be with people. 

     While we should respect the wishes of someone who truly wants to be alone, I think a significant number of children with Asperger Syndrome who say they want to be by themselves are creating a protective cocoon.  They don’t really always want to be alone, they just prefer it to being teased or ignored.

     If you see this happening to your child, you may need to help him overcome his fear of rejection.  One way, is to make it easier for him to find an accepting playmate. 

     You can’t count on your child meeting someone compatible on his own.  When our son, Drew, who also has Asperger Syndrome, was little, he did make some friends.  Usually one at a time.  But at other times, his potential buddy pool of neighborhood kids and classmates just wasn’t properly stocked. 

     Drew, who is now 28, makes the point that your best bet is to put your child in situations where he can find others who share his interests.  We (and by we, I mean my wife, Julie) found a summer social skills class for Drew when he was 12.  After a move from Atlanta to New Jersey, Drew had not made friends at school.   At the social skills class, he met John, who shared his interest in Star Wars.  John lived in a town about 30 miles from ours, so we’d drive Drew over for visits and sleepovers, and John’s parents would reciprocate.

     Of course, parents also need to learn when to back off.   Drew notes that late middle school and early high school were tough for him.  Teasing and ridicule were frequent, often done out of the sight or hearing of teachers.  All he wanted to do when he first got home was to be left alone to watch TV and unwind.  Drew was not happy about his mom choosing that time to try to draw him out and talk with him about his day.  Not during Spiderman!

     Drew finally began making friends in high school when a teacher introduced him to a Dungeons and Dragons club that met after school.

     In college, Drew was drawn to other students who were into D&D and similar role-playing games and made friends from those interactions.  Now, graduated and working, Drew has a circle of friends who regularly meet at his condo for game nights. 

     Parents and teachers can save a lonely child from enforced solitude by helping him gain the skills to interact, and putting him in contact with children who share his interests – and sometimes, his challenges.  If you don’t always get the mix right, if you push too hard or your timing is off, you can always adjust your tactics. 

     You can’t make friends for your child or student who wants them, but you can set the stage and stand just far enough back so he has good opportunities to make them on his own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Dan Coulter is the author of ten DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including, “Asperger Syndrome for Dads: Becoming and Even Better Father to Your Child with Asperger Syndrome” and "Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills."  You can find more articles on his website: coultervideo.com.

       © Dan Coulter 2011   All Rights Reserved  Used by Permission

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