Tag Archive: aspergers


Aspergers Meets Sorority Rush

As a new freshman at a state university, my daughter’s totally engrossed in college classes and activities.  In addition to joining several organizations and interest groups, she decided to participate in sorority recruitment, otherwise known as “rush”.

As a sorority alumna, I’ve been though rush, although many years ago, so I wasn’t totally in the dark about how things operate.  However, this is 20 years later, at a different than I attended.  I found the process the same in many ways, but it was on a much larger scale, with over 500 girls participating.

Since she’s come a long way with her social skills over the past few years, and can carry on a conversation with almost anyone without them knowing anything’s amiss, she chose not to reveal her diagnosis during this process to avoid being labeled or ostracized.   However, Asperger’s Syndrome still presented some unique complications which didn’t mesh well with the process:

  • Impulsivity – she posted messages on Facebook talking about rush or certain sororities.  Although the messages were all positive, she didn’t think ahead to know that people she had friended on Facebook in other sororities, or at the college in general, might be offended by what she wrote.
  • Communication – She wasn’t able to adequately communicate with her rush counselor or her work manager about some scheduling conflicts.  This resulted in her having no choice but to withdraw from rush altogether, during the final stages.  This could have been avoided if she were more adept at handling this type of situation and necessary schedule negotiations.
  • Emotions – There’s a lot of pressure to impress the sororities because of the massive numbers of young women who are competing for a limited number of spots.  This, combined with long, late hours attending events, and the subsequent selection (or non-selection) results causes emotional overload, amplified by the effects of Asperger’s.
  • Timing – Sorority recruitment occurs during the second week of the school year, when freshmen are just adjusting to being in college for the first time, and in most cases, away from home with new-found independence.  It’s a stressful time even before you add rush activities.

Another thought to ponder is… is a sorority the right place for an Aspie?  I firmly believe that’s an individual decision, much like every activity an Aspie might be drawn to.  It depends on their comfort level and what their college goals are.  Although I didn’t have Asperger’s, I was a shy college freshman – the first one in my family to attend college.  Joining a sorority gave me an instant group of accepting friends, and great opportunities for leadership development and socializing.  I believe this would have advantages for someone who’s has very high functioning autism. Sororities strive for diversity within their ranks — people who complement each other and who share their ideals.   Perhaps there are some sororities who are on the superficial side (as depicted on TV and in movies), but by going through rush, a potential member can usually find a sorority they can identify and bond with.

Although it didn’t work out this time, she is considering trying again next fall (recruitment is only once per year).  At least she’ll know what to expect and what pitfalls to avoid.  In the meantime, she’s finding a ton of activities and causes that fit her interests and enjoying spreading her wings.

Anyone with suggestions or experiences?  Please share!

I’m killing time in Barnes & Noble since they’re open until 11pm and I have nowhere to be until 11:30 when I pick up my daughter at prom.  I want to stay close, but not too close, and it’s too far to drive all the way home and back anyway.

I guess I should explain that my daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome, diagnosed during her sophomore year.  She’s very smart, polite and pretty, but has always been a loner — left out, teased, bullied, marching to the beat of a different drummer.  The other students either think she’s extremely brainy, or just odd, because of her advanced vocabulary, deep thinking, and a demeanor which shouts, “I want to be alone” even though that’s not what she means at all.

This is the first dance she’s been to since freshman year.  That was a disaster.  My husband and I took her out to eat since she didn’t have a date and of course there were a bunch of other students with their dates at the same restaurant a few tables away from us.  We dropped her off at the dance, then went to the movies.  An hour later, got a call from her that she wanted to be picked up right away because she was having a terrible time.  All the kids were “bumping and grinding” and she was being ignored.  She has had no desire to go to any dance since then — until now — senior prom.

Thinking back to the freshman dance experience, and the numerous times we’ve had to pick her up early at school events when she was either uncomfortable or bored or just decided she was ready to leave, I’m hoping for the best – that she’ll have a fun and memorable evening – or at least make it through the whole dance until it ends at 11:30.  I’m also prepared for the worst – a call from her or a chaperone asking to pick her up.  That’s why I’m staying fairly close. So far, so good though.

She doesn’t have a date, but met up with a group of about 20 classmates at one of their homes where the parents were putting on dinner for all of them.  Some were going as couples, most were going “stag”.  I walked her in and chit-chatted with some of the other parents as we took photos and complimented the young adults in all their finery before taking our leave of them. Since she doesn’t have her own car yet, she was to get a ride to the dance from a classmate.

Texts… dance started at 8:30 pm
8:44 pm   Hey
8:44 pm   Everything ok?
9:34 pm   Yes I guess

No more since then, and it’s now 10:02.  I’ll figure no news is good news.  Fingers crossed that she’ll have a positively memorable evening.

I was just reading about an inspirational project in Prospect Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, aimed at helping young adult students with Aspergers and other disabilities transition to independent living.  The article by Alex Holmquist originated in Minnesota Daily.

The project led by ANSWER Aspergers Network Support, began when developer Dawn Chapman, from Firm Ground Architects and Engineers was discussing her own son’s learning disability with a psychologist, who said there is a huge housing shortage for people with autism spectrum disorders. Stepping Stone House will provide transitional housing for people between ages 18 and 26 with Asperger’s syndrome and other learning disabilities.

The dormitory style complex is intended to give residents the opportunity to learn how to live on their own while still providing them with 24-hour support.  It will be managed by staff from by staff from The Cooperating Community Programs, an organization that specializes in residential home care for people with disabilities.

Construction will begin as soon as funding is in place.

Aspies certainly have their own way of thinking things through.  One specific example I can remember is when we were at a Pony Club competition in Brooksville, Florida.  My jaw dropped in disbelief as I saw my 16 year old daughter traipsing across the field towards the stables in nothing but her bikini.

A little background…

In the tradition of Pony Club, parents are relegated to the sidelines during youth equestrian competitions where the kids are supposed to work as a team and learn to do things for themselves, including being on time, caring for their horses and tack, and competing with minimal coaching.  There are some very black-and-white rules they are to follow for stable management and safety.  Although there are adults present to supervise for safety reasons, they are not allowed to give “unauthorized assistance.”  This is in stark contrast to many of the typical horse shows we have attended where there are grooms, trainers, moms and dads all scrambling to make sure little Sally brings home a ribbon.  I’ve been there, done that, got that t-shirt.

The experience of having horses and being a member of Pony Club has helped my daughter, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, to excel at a sport, form friendships, and enjoy a healthy outdoor activity, not to mention learning how to advocate for herself, be part of a team, and deal with both success and disappointment.

At this particular competition, we had a wonderful competition experience.  Good scores, no meltdowns, no falls or injuries, generally happy, but tired, kids.  Just before the awards ceremony which caps the competition before we all leave, the heavens opened and it started pouring rain.  Kids huddled in their tack stalls with snacks and sodas, and occasionally snuck out to the trailers to begin loading supplies for the trip home.  Parents huddled under eaves, umbrellas, and large, shady oak trees.

At the moment I saw my daughter making her way to the stables from our trailer in the parking area, scantily clad in a bikini with bare feet, I could not believe my eyes.  I was in quite the quandary.  Although I knew this was a huge safety violation and very inappropriate attire for the surroundings, but I was glued to the spot, also knowing that if I (as a parent) ran over there to stop her, she could face much worse consequences for the “unauthorized assistance.” So, I had to stand there and watch other parents staring in disbelief.  Shortly afterward, a rally official took her aside and I was called in to the officials’ tent to address the situation.

When we asked her why she made that decision, she was very matter-of-fact, “It’s raining and I didn’t want my clothes and shoes to get soaking wet, so I figured why not just put on my bathing suit?”  Although this was entirely inappropriate at a competition where she should have remembered how important the safety of shoes and clothing are in the stable area, it made perfect sense to her.  She was reminded of the safety rules and sent back to the trailer to change into more suitable clothing and paddock boots.  Afterward, I explained her Asperger’s Syndrome to the official. Luckily, since the scores were already completed, the rally was almost over and people wanted to get on the road home, she was let off the hook quietly.

Just goes to show how Aspies have a different way of thinking!

These are a collection of symptoms listed in various sources, put into “layman’s terms”.  Those with Aspergers may not exhibit all of these symptoms – it’s a very individualized condition.

  • preoccupied with a favorite subject
  • possibly gifted in a particular skill
  • one-sided conversations, usually about their particular subject of interest
  • speech marked by a lack of rhythm, an odd inflection, or a monotone pitch
  • isolated from others because of poor social skills and narrow interests
  • eccentric behavior and interests
  • developmental delays in motor skills
  • awkwardness, poor coordination
  • a walk that can appear either stilted or bouncy
  • unable to read body language or understand social cues in conversation
  • dislike changes in routine
  • appear to lack empathy or portray the correct emotion in facial expressions
  • taking things literally; not understanding jokes
  • a formal speaking style, advanced for their age, making them seem like little professors
  • inappropriate eye contact – either avoiding it as if it’s painful or staring too much
  • unusual facial expressions or posture
  • heightened sensitivity – easily overstimulated by loud noises, lights, strong tastes or textures (sensory integration dysfunction)
  • singled out by others as weird or strange
  • difficulty forming friendships with people their own age

This list is for informational purposes only.  Never self-diagnose – always seek the professional assistance of a psychologist or other licensed specialist.  If you know of other symptoms that I have left off – please comment on this post.

House Rules Jodi PicoultBest-selling author Jodi Picoult’s newest book to be released March 2, 2010 is called HOUSE RULES.  The fictional work is about a single mom Emma Hunt, her 18-year old son Jacob who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and her 15-year old son Theo. Jacob has a hard time reading social cues or expressing himself. Like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special interest in one subject – in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do…and he’s usually right.  His fascination with forensics leads him into trouble when one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him.  The typical behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect – can resemble signs of guilt — and suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder.  According to the synopsis on Picoult’s web site, “HOUSE RULES looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way – but lousy for those who don’t.”

Read the book review by Christine Ma on philly.com

A conversation with author Jodi Picoult about HOUSE RULES

TV Characters Who Exhibit Aspergian Traits

Maybe it’s the attempted mainstreaming of those with Asperger’s or the entertainment industry’s quest for quirky characters, but it seems like the Syndrome is popping up everywhere.  Hopefully, this will create not only a better understanding of the typical traits (social ineptness, unusual special interests, giftedness, literal interpretations, etc), but also the knowledge that each individual with Asperger’s is vastly different in their strengths and weaknesses. Asperger’s is definitely not a cookie cutter diagnosis – it’s on the spectrum.

Here’s a list of some characters who seem to exhibit many of the common Asperger’s traits, if not actually being identified as such:

  • Temperance Brennan (Bones)
  • Zack Addy (Bones)
  • Spencer Reid (Criminal Minds)
  • Detective Goren (Law & Order)
  • Michael Scott (The Office)
  • Gil Grissom (CSI)
  • Charlie Eppes (Numbers)
  • Kevin Stark (Eureka)
  • Connor (Degrassi)

Next time you see an episode, try looking at these characters for Aspie traits – it’s very interesting. I’m sure there’s many more.  If you have to add, please comment!

Promising Pathways: The Road to Best Practice in Autism
A National Conference on Autism for Physicians, Parents and Educators

Saturday, April 10, 2010, 8 am – 4 pm
Florida Gulf Coast University Student Union Ballroom
Fort Myers, Florida

This is the second year FGCU has hosted this community sponsored conference that is FREE to attend.  National experts in the research and study of autism and autism spectrum disorders will address a variety of topics such as the causes of autism, evaluation and treatment, early identification and intervention, and treatments for symptoms associated with autism.  Click here to go to the event web site. Space is limited!