October 5, 2012

Should a teen with Asperger Syndrome try to be "normal?"

Lisa Jo Rudy

Question: Should a Teen with Asperger Syndrome Try to Be "Normal?"

I'm worried about how my bright, funny, imaginative 11-year-old daughter with Aspergers is going to cope with the pressures of middle school. That is a difficult age for any child and most people don't accept her as she is. My husband thinks we should focus on making her more acceptable to the majority, but I don't think she should have to change who she is. I haven't heard from anyone who has been through those middle & high school years and I am terrified!!

Answer: Hi Julia,

You have a raised a very tough but good question! This is a common fear that parents of spectrum kids have. Middle school, as we all know, is cruel to everyone, and especially to those who are different. How do you let your kid be who they are while still protecting them so they don't emerge traumatized?

I feel what is most important is not to let your kid feel ashamed of who they are. If they've got a spark to them, they've got things they're interested in, don't kill it by making them conform. Most people lose that spark naturally when they get older; there's no reason to do it prematurely. Don't take away one of best things your Aspie has going for herself: her passion for living life, even if it's living life on her own terms. If she wants to fit in, she'll ask you how to fit . It'll come, but let it be when she's ready for it rather than force her into a cookie cutter existence.

Some Aspies go through middle school so excited about their passions that they barely notice they're the odd ones out, or if they notice, they don't care. Probably not a lot, but some. Read more >>

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  1. Trust me, you will create far problems if you insist that she acts "normal." I still have scars left from when my mom tried to insist it, even if it were in a gentle manner.

    Would you tell a deaf child that she should stop using sign language with her deaf friends, and start spending more time with hearing kids using lip-reading? That way, there will be less for other teens to judge her for?

    Would you tell your gay son that he needs to do more stereotypical straight man activities?

    The worst advice anyone could give to someone with a disability, no matter how "mildly" affected they are, is to pretend that their disability does not exist. It may make them less targetable to bullies, but it will not teach children how to stand up for themselves in an incredibly ableist world.

    What children with ASDs need is self advocacy skills, not the conformity bullshit which many autism professionals will dish out to you. They will be much happier in the long run, and they will be able to ask for accommodations without feeling ashamed of their their differences.

  2. Thank you for your insightful and passionate view Chelsea, very much appreciated.