Tag Archive: Aspies

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!


Aspergers + Prom = One Rough Night

After my daughter’s disastrous night at her Senior Prom, I’m left wondering, “Is taking these risks really worth it?”

When my daughter had her heart set on going to the Prom, I knew it was risky based on previous outcomes of dances and other school functions.  (See my other post about Prom for the back story.) And, I’m not talking about what most people associate as Prom risks – drinking, drugs, sex or wild parties.  My biggest fear was that she would be isolated, alone and miserable.

I tried to reduce the risk by counseling her about what to expect, ensuring she was going with a group of nice kids, getting her a nice dress and making her look great so she’d fit in, at least on the outside.  She’d been coached on what to do. The rest was up to her, since beyond those aforementioned factors, the situation was out of my control. The evening started well when meeting up at a friend’s house for a dinner, taking photos, everyone complimenting each other. I had high hopes.

However, my biggest fear was confirmed when I picked her up after Prom at 11:30, and she was in tears, not wanting to talk about it.  The only things I could confirm were that a) she was so nervous at the pre-party she didn’t eat; b) she was by herself most of the night; and c) she didn’t dance or actually enjoy herself at all once she got to the dance.  After an emotional, insomniac night spent with my sobbing daughter, I’m left feeling guilty and broken-hearted. I hurt for her and for my own shattered expectations.

Every parent instinctively wants to protect their children from disappointment and unpleasantness. However, we can’t be around them 24/7 and the training wheels have to come off eventually.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from each experience, whether dealing with success or disappointment.  With that said, it doesn’t make it any easier when things go wrong.

Thankfully, this morning she’s in a better frame of mind and can look back on her Prom experience a little more objectively.  Rough night though. Thankfully, she’s looking ahead towards graduation.

If you have experiences to share, please do!  Comment below.  Would love to hear from other parents who are also going through challenges, whether Asperger’s-related or not.

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!

Tomorrow, we’re attending the Florida state championships for high school boys’ soccer.  My daughter’s school is competing in the championships.  For the semi-finals yesterday – over 450 of her fellow students crowded onto 7 buses for the 2-hour trip to Tampa to support the team.  Sounds like a lot of fun, right?  For most people yes, but for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome the noise and celebrating could quickly become overwhelming.

My daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome during her sophomore year and we deal on a regular basis with what I call “crowd based anxiety”.  She simply cannot stand to be in loud, crowded places and most of the time, feels the urge to escape these situations.

This poses a big challenge for fitting in to high school which is the epitome of “loud and crowded.”  Pep rallies, sports events, cafeteria, dances, assemblies and even changing classes can be unnerving to someone with Asperger’s whose senses are hyper sensitive.

Here are five different ways I thought I’d share, as to how we deal with this:

  1. Keep written permission on file with the school to be excused from class or activities to the clinic in times of feeling overly anxious.
  2. Determine participation based on how the Aspergian is feeling that particular day.  If there’s a confident, positive attitude, things are usually work out fine.  If not, it’s a mess.
  3. Keep a charged cell phone to call or text for a pick up in case it’s after school hours but before the event was scheduled to end.
  4. Define a quiet place or friend the Aspergian can go to in order to calm themselves.  In #1, it was the school clinic.  Depends on the event/place.
  5. Or, simply avoid the situation, if you’re worried about these supports being unavailable or inaccessible, especially when far from home.  Just don’t go — do something else instead!

So what are we doing about the big game tomorrow?  Instead of signing up for the bus trip, or – God forbid – skipping the game, we’re going to the game, but taking our own car so that we have relative peace and quiet on the way to and from the game, a place to escape to, and the freedom to leave if the need arises.  Now… to figure out what to do about Grad Nite!

If you have tips to share, please do! I welcome your comments.