Eighty percent of adults with Asperger Syndrome do not have full-time work. This not because they can’t do the work. It’s that they can’t manage to be socially acceptable while they get the work done. ”

Countless studies show people would rather have pleasant and personable co-workers than a co-worker who is always right. I try to keep this in mind each day, and consequently, I spend a lot of time planning my interactions.

But sometimes my plans fail. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’m going to walk you through my most recent parent-teacher conference. Which was a disaster. And while it was a meeting in a second-grade classroom, it could have been a meeting with anyone, anywhere.

1. I can’t tell the difference between social niceties and reality.
I think I’m late. I am bad with transitions — I space out from the stress of change so I drive around the school a few times without noticing before I go in. I am bad with time, because I don’t totally understand how to predict what the next number will be. So sometimes I forget where I am in the hour.

But then I get to the school and I think I am early to the conference, and I go to the bathroom, because the school halls are bustling and I want calm.

I get to the room and the teacher is sitting at her desk. Doing nothing. I think this means she is waiting. So I ask if I’m late. She says no, but I am pretty sure she means yes. I know some people say the answer they think would be good manners instead of the right answer. I stare at her body language for a clue.

2. I get sidetracked by insisting on telling people what they don’t know.
I forget to listen to her talking because I’m stuck on if I’m late or not, but I perk up when she says that my son’s cursive writing is too slow and he needs to print like the rest of the class.

Because I need her to know that spending any time on kids’ handwriting is stupid. I tell her there are no jobs that require people to have decent handwriting, and definitely no jobs—besides wedding calligrapher—that require cursive.

She thinks I’m saying kids don’t need to learn to construct paragraphs, or book reports.

I try to clarify that I mean good penmanship is useless.

She says she’s sorry that I am upset.

This is when I realize that I picked a fight, and parents do not pick fights with teachers unless the parents are jerks or idiots or both. And I don’t even know what I’m arguing for any more. So I try to get out of the argument. I tell her that I will explain to my son that cursive writing is for at home until the rest of the class is doing it.

3. I interrupt constantly and don’t realize it.
She tells me my son is great at math. I tell her that it’s typical of boys with Asperger Syndrome to be great at math, so that’s not what I’m worried about.

I tell her I’m worried about his spelling. She tells me about his spelling and I tell her that he can spell the words he’s missing but he can’t listen and spell and write all at the same time.

I start to tell her about sensory integration disorder, but I see that I am lecturing, so I stop. And then she is hesitant to talk again. That’s when I realize that I’ve been cutting her off.

I feel terrible and tell myself I have to be a better listener. And then I start focusing on how terribly I’m doing and I forget to be a good listener. I am upset that I am offending her. I think about the psychiatrist who says people often mistake someone with Asperger Syndrome as a narcissist. I think this is a moment when the teacher is thinking that I am totally self-absorbed and not caring at all about her.

4. My mind is too scattered to focus on being nice.
Just when I start thinking of how to care about her, she says, “in conclusion” and then I panic. I will not have time to show her I appreciate her.

I remember a photo of the Obama’s going to their parent-teacher conference and Michelle is carrying a vase of flowers. I should have brought a vase of flowers.

I try to focus.

I look at the teacher to focus on what she is saying and she is saying my son is delightful to have in class. I hear this as something she says to every parent. Then she gives me an example, which is that he is very easily redirected when he is not doing what other people are doing.

I tell her that his problem is not that he can’t be redirected. People with Asperger Syndrome are dying to please everyone around them. People with Asperger Syndrome don’t want to stand out or be the center of attention. They just want to get along with people and have things run smoothly.

So of course if she tells him what to do to fit in, he’ll do it. The problem is that he will not have someone around him for the rest of his life telling him that. I tell her it would be a positive thing if he could tell things were going badly and then he knew the right way to get help in order to make himself do what is expected.

I look at the teacher. She is clearly exhausted from dealing with me. It occurs to me that teacher conferences are only fifteen minutes. Of course we cannot cover anything significant in this time. This is a friendly, get-to-know-each-other moment. It’s a small-talk-and-smiling moment. And I should have known to ask someone to come with me, to cue me, so I would do what is expected.

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  1. Clare
    Clare says:

    It strikes me that the teacher could also have done more listening, to be able to answer your concerns about your son’s spelling or how to help him realise on his own when things are going badly.

    Maybe it was a disconnect between what you wanted to achieve (an assessment of your son’s progress) and what she wanted to achieve (a meet and greet the parent session).

  2. delia
    delia says:

    does the teacher know that you also have asperger’s?
    why don’t you wear a watch, since that really seemed to derail you? or does knowing the time do little to help? sorry, i dont really know that much about it, which is why i’ve been enjoying your series on it.
    i think it’s kinda funny how you lamented not bringing someone flowers in a post right after one extolling the importance of sending them to people. perhaps you could still send them with a note thanking her for her time?

    • Catherine
      Catherine says:

      If you look at the caption of the Obamas you linked to, it says they are LEAVING a parent-teacher conference. So, you’re fine; appreciate her as a teacher over the course of the year and you’ll have a friend for life.

  3. LPC
    LPC says:

    Oh, Penelope, make sure she sees this post. She wants to do a good job of teaching, just like you want to do a good job of being a mom.

  4. Le
    Le says:

    I totally second that-please share this with her! Being a teacher is challenging and it will help her to understand your expectations and reactions to a parent teacher conference.

  5. barchbo
    barchbo says:

    As a former teacher, I LOVE this post. And seriously: you don’t have to tell the teacher of an Asperger kid that you have it, too – we know.

    Your son’s teacher probably DOES love having him in class – he’s bright, interesting, and easily redirected. What’s not to love??!

    My favorite thing about you EVER is that the moment we met you told me that you had Asperger Syndrome and you knew it. That endeared you to me forever and I will always champion you because of it.

  6. Deb
    Deb says:

    I’d send her a card, saying something like: I’m not sure if you know this, but I have Asperger’s too, and I don’t always function the way I want to in face-to-face situations, but I wanted to say thanks for all that you do for my son, and it was a pleasure to meet you, and here’s my email address — please feel free to contact me with any concerns that you have, whenever you need to.
    Flowers are lovely too, and I’m sure they’d be appreciated (as long as she doesn’t have terrible allergies or something), but probably the words are the most important thing. Teachers like knowing that parents appreciate them, and although I’m sure they have official contact info for you, it may help the relationship if she feels welcome to let you know what’s on her mind. (And she probably won’t take up much time contacting you about non-issues, because she’s probably way too busy for that.)

  7. Danilo Campos
    Danilo Campos says:

    This Aspergers business makes your cyber bullying of that guy from Ohio, as well as your (soon to be illegal) undisclosed paid postings seem a lot more understandable. I just wish you’d been more open to criticism you received from your less sycophantic readers as a result of your inability to parse the subtleties of expectation in a modern social contract. You did unnecessary, irreperable harm to your reputation as a result of what could easily be Aspergers-related blindspots.

      • Danilo Campos
        Danilo Campos says:

        Like it all you want. Lotsa traffic. But it’s hard to take your career advice seriously when you come unhinged and call the employer of some nobody just because he was an ass to you on Twitter, then take the feud public on your “professional” blog. That’s not how to manage your career. Dig in your heels all you want on it but it’s interesting that you began a prolific, nearly daily spell of writing after that which lasted just long enough to get that post off your front page.

        I think it’s good and admirable that you’re learning to admit you’re ill-equipped to deal with other humans. It would mean more, though, if you applied that to the manifold mistakes you’ve made in the relationship you have with your readers. I used to believe in you.

        Now I feel nuts for giving your advice any weight.

        • Brenda
          Brenda says:

          and yet after reading your letters and hers…I like her and I don’t like you. She also writes better than you. :) Have a nice day.

    • Rebecca
      Rebecca says:

      Actually, I think in this situation, Penelope has provided some very modern, serious career advice: Don’t F#ck with people who have a substantial media following. It’s their backyard, oftentimes their livelihood! You can’t attack them without repurcusions, so think twice: don’t be an idiot!

      Nowadays, the same goes for old school professionals (like lawyers, in my case) who think they can mess with a client with little to no repurcusions… guess what? This new fangled thing they call the “internet” just made the world a little smaller. So if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out. No tears for your buddy who attacked someone with a prominent online personality… and got attacked back.

      It’s called “consequences”… not something many people “nowadays” can comprehend.

      (I may sound like I’m 80, but I’m actually 37…)

  8. JR
    JR says:

    Teachers just love being told that what they teach is stupid or useless. But at least you realized after the fact how you came off, which is better than a lot of parents.

  9. ziggy
    ziggy says:

    Hi, I have a question, I know that Asperger’s causes those who have it to make some stuff up, or exaggerate greatly on the stuff that happens in every day life.
    Nothing ever seems to be linear (Did A, then did B, and the expected C result occurred), and even the simplest task, such as going to a Parent-Teacher conference and getting there on time, turns out to be a big long twisted ordeal.
    So, Penelope, do you think that some of your writings might be slightly exaggerated/embellished due to the Asperger’s?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I have never heard that exaggerating is related to Asperger’s. Do you have a link or something? I Google and find nothing.

      I think Asperger’s makes someone very literal. Which might actually be the opposite of what you’re saying.

      Penelope

      • ziggy
        ziggy says:

        Penelope,

        Did a quick google search: Here’s a link to a board written by parents whose kids have AS, detailing the problems their kids are having for lying and embellishing.

        http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Asperger_Syndrome/advice/1868318-lying-stealing-anyone-having-these

        Also, a dear co-worker of mine also has AS, and although I really like her, she tells things that can’t possibly be true (e.g. “The boss got so-and-so fired b/c she complained”, “These 2 co-workers got into a big argument over the use of hand gel and alomost came to blows”, etc. — none of these things came close to the truth).

        It’s something you may want to consider exploring, especially if you and your kids have AS.

    • barchbo
      barchbo says:

      Ziggy,

      Actually, people with Asperger Syndrome (or many people with ASD) have MORE difficulty telling a lie – it’s actually very difficult for them. Their perception is often different because of their neuro-processing and overstimulation, but they don’t exaggerate or embellish as a characteristic rule. Normal interactions are so phenomenally challenging (as Penelope has both bravely and astutely shared) that the extra burden of intentional exaggeration would be extraordinary.

      • cocobeans608
        cocobeans608 says:

        Because persons with Asperger’s see things so literally, they could see a person being fired after she complained as causal without realizing the contextual clues. Perhaps it was the way the person complained or that there were other, more subtle reasons but, because they were not explicit, the person with Asperger’s missed that and concluded that the person was fired because of complaining.

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:

        Ziggy. It may be true for some Aspergers people that they don’t lie well, yet this doesn’t apply to all. I live with an adult aspie that lies and extremely manipulative. Its worked for her and unfortunately I doubt she’ll ever change.

        I want to commend PT on this post. If only my room mate would take the time to analyze her interactions, I wouldn’t be moving. Its refreshing to join a blog like this. Its very therapeutic and refreshing. Thanks.

  10. Lylah
    Lylah says:

    Our oldest son (my stepson) has Asperger’s, and his mom seems to, too. What you’ve written is exactly what I’ve experienced, from the teacher’s perspective, in discussing things with her. Thanks for writing this and giving us NTs better insight and perspective. It’s too easy to get hung up on the quirks without trying to understand what’s triggering them or going on in the background.

  11. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I think this series of posts on AS will serve at least three purposes for your son when he reviews them in the future – 1) educate him about AS in the workplace and in general, 2) relay to him your own experiences with AS, and 3) show him how much you have worked to provide him with the best resources as he has grown up even as you have struggled with AS yourself.
    I also think your biggest concern is the second to last paragraph. Knowing when, how, and not being afraid to get help when necessary is important. He may not be able to do this himself very easily so a good support network is very important.

  12. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    Don’t beat yourself up about it, Asberger’s or no. I read this, thought about all my parent/teacher conferences over the years and wondered if maybe I have Asberger’s! :) Point is, it’s often an awkward meeting for anyone. So much to say on both sides, it’s hard to fully understand each other in such a short amount of time.

    I was a very young Mom and my son was a handful. There was often a lot to say. I finally realized the power of reaching out to the teacher outside of parent/teacher conferences. It doesn’t neccessarily need to be a big sit down meeting. Sometimes a short note, phone call, or time spent helping in class can make all the difference when it comes to understanding the teacher and the teacher understanding you & your child. Little reminders add up and familiarity can make all the difference.

    BTW, I managed to get my son to graduate high school last year. Unbelievable! It’s amazing the things we make it through. You’ll do great. I won’t say it gets better, but it gets more natural. Just like business.

    • jcc
      jcc says:

      I agree. I’ve had a few awkward parent/teacher conference interactions too –made especially so after the other parent cue’ed me after the fact. I could be tempted to see myself as having Asperger’s too –but I find it to be more closely tied my feelings about whether the teacher was a good fit for my daughter’s needs … hard to not get right to the point when looking out for your children’s best interest.

  13. Matthew | Step into the Flow
    Matthew | Step into the Flow says:

    It’s funny; I don’t have aspergers, but I sort of have some of the characteristics. Why? Because both my only sibling and my father have it. I was surrounded by the atmosphere for most of my life.

    I can read social signals – when I was younger I didn’t – but to me it’s like a subtext of “oh, this means this”. It really has no effect on me. So I can come off a bit bland because enthusiasm and reaction are an important part of that lightweight interaction.

  14. elemjay
    elemjay says:

    One thing that is interesting here is the potential interaction between AS and your Myers Briggs type, specifically the Extraversion part. Being an extravert when you are not sure you are reading the social cues properly might exacerbate what you describe. E.g. sometimes with extraverts, the more uncomfortable they feel, the more they talk.

    I had always imagined that people with Aspergers would be more likely to be introverts – but perhaps that’s just part of the stereotype.

  15. jrandom42
    jrandom42 says:

    Okay, you’ve described the problem, now what can we Aspies do to develope workarounds that actually work?

  16. Wayne Allen
    Wayne Allen says:

    Hey P,
    Clearly stated as usual.
    My wife teaches gr 7-8 (admittedly, she works with kids with challenges, incl. Asperger’s) and she’s delighted to sit with parents to discuss “what’s up,” both for them and their kids. While (as another teacher said, above) she’d likely “know,” she’d want to strategize with you about what would make the dialogue move more elegantly next time. She certainly wouldn’t respond negatively to your approach.
    My initial “therapist” thought was (and I teach/suggest this for most of my clients) mindfulness/zazen to learn to slow down and focus in challenging situations (aka “life.”) So I googled it, and low and behold, there’s a book called: Asperger’s Syndrome and Mindfulness: Taking Refuge in the Buddha (Paperback)
    I do enjoy how things are as they are!
    Warm hugs to you!

  17. Joe
    Joe says:

    Does your son get any special education support from the school system? He is entitled to services by law and should be getting additional services beyond the general education curriculum.

    Also, the school’s special ed staff should be educating the general education teachers on your son’s needs, and providing reasonable accommodations and therapy (e.g., occupational therapy) as part of your son’s IEP for common issues like poor handwriting.

    It seems odd that the special ed teacher/case manager was not present at the meeting to help provide context to the discussion.

    • Wayne Allen
      Wayne Allen says:

      Now there’s a good point. My ref. above is to the Ontario school system, and what you describe is precisely what happens “up here.” (I’m guessing you’re Canadian from the IEP ref.)
      I wonder what happens in Wisconsin? Hmm.

      • barchbo
        barchbo says:

        We have IEPs in the United States, too!

        As a case manager, I was not always present in parent-teacher meetings – especially ones such as this one, that Penelope described as a “meet-and-greet”. ARDs, meetings related to behavior/attendance/grades – of course.

        And while I believe that special ed teachers are often in the unique situation of dealing with the whole family, I would (and have) encouraged parents to meet with general ed teachers without me, especially if they want to. Of course, I attended any meeting if the parent requested it.

  18. Alyson Bradley
    Alyson Bradley says:

    Penelope I love your post and find refreshing as can so relate to what you say, I also have Aspergers along with quite a few co-morbid’s so see myself as neurologically complex. To be honest as I get older I find its harder for me to pretend to fit, far to exhausting, so in a way I am allowing my eccentricities and self. As I so relate to all 4 points, I will add my take on each:

    “1. I can't tell the difference between social niceties and reality.”
    Myself I just simply get frustrated at times saying things that seem irrelevant to me, endless effort to please others to please others… like “fine” or “ok” without reason. And at my age I guess I am happy for individuals if they choose to walk off in mid-sentence, I do the same myself these days, more respect for those that do, I hate pretence…

    “2. I get sidetracked by insisting on telling people what they don't know.”
    Myself I am well aware I am often more interested in my own thoughts than others, if what I am hearing bores me, watch out I may go into a rant, of course I know when I am doing this, but unlike you my mind processing information extremely fast and meeting an endless frustration as when some at picking at point “A” I am well on the way to “Z”zzzzzzzz!

    “3. I interrupt constantly and don't realize it.”
    Myself I know I do it and can control to a point, but its like if I know what’s being said is wrong, how I know sometimes who knows I also seem to have different reasoning… but its like an urgency, a need to reply otherwise my mind clutters overloads with that thought and I always have other thoughts cueing to be said!!!

    “4. My mind is too scattered to focus on being nice.”
    Myself is my mind scattered it sure seems that way, but I know often overloaded like a computer the processor on full power and somehow I have a need to offload, its like a release before the intensity overpowers and I shut down.
    At times I feel like I speak a alien language, it can be exhausting having to translate what seems obvious to me, why can you not read my mind!
    Aspergers Parallel Planet – http://www.asplanet.info

    • LaDolceVeta
      LaDolceVeta says:

      Haha! Very clever, and while I see you’re point, personally I am grateful for the Farmer… grateful, and encouraged, knowing that even for those of us who are occasionally &/or often &/or always odd in our ways and understandings, there is someone willing and eager to love us every inch!

      • Kerry Kimble
        Kerry Kimble says:

        Penelope’s ex-husband loved her every inch. It led him into the worst conceivable disaster.

        I don’t know much about Aspberger’s, but it sounds — like any severe handicap — like it requires a lot of accommodation and understanding from the people around someone who suffers from it. Just as my heart aches sometimes for Penelope’s kids (as when she describes yelling at them when she becomes overwhelmed with her own frustration), I feel very sorry for this teacher. I’d like to see Penelope make an effort to protect the people she crashes into. One of the new directions this blog is going in involves Penelope’s teaching us about Aspbergers and helping people with Aspberger’s negotiate the world of work and so forth. I’d like to see an equal effort go into Penelope trying to minimize the confusion, frustration, anger, and fear her behavior causes in others. No blame here: just a plea to meet in the middle.

  19. cornwalker
    cornwalker says:

    Holy crap. As I read each sentence I suddenly had a moment of eerie self-recognition in each behavior and mannerism described. Now I’m afraid to pull the DSM off the shelf for fear of confirmation (well, mostly for fear that I’ll have to admit that my wife was right).

  20. mrs. kirk
    mrs. kirk says:

    i love your self awareness, and i love this post! i feel like all my interactions go awry like this… so who knows if there is anyway to NOT have them happen?!

  21. Mascha
    Mascha says:

    I’m going to make sure I’m better prepared for the next meeting. I was already working on a (short) list but now I’m worried. I need to think more strategy, planning. Thanks, Penelope

  22. Greta
    Greta says:

    Penelope, I can’t adequately convey how much I enjoy (yes, enjoy) and appreciate your blog. I know a high school student who has been diagnosed with AS and I’d love for him to read this. To my knowledge the parents aren’t ready yet to share the diagnosis. I would love to know your opinion on disclosure. I haven’t had time yet to go through your archives, so please refer me to specific blog dates if called for.
    Thanks for being an inspiration.
    Greta, retired special needs teacher

  23. Hollie
    Hollie says:

    I’m surprised by how much I relate to this post, as someone with Panic Disorder instead of Asperger’s. Your minute-by-minute recap that describes what’s happening in front of you as well as what’s happening in your own head is very similar to what’s going on for me when my body and brain are in the beginning of an attack. I find it difficult to focus on what someone is saying, I’m preoccupied with appearing “normal” and doing what’s expected, and I’m completely distracted by stuff in my own head – to the point that I’m sure they think I’m completely narcissistic.

    I love reading your blog, specifically because you’re very good at describing your experience in a way that is both interesting and very relatable. This post is a great example of that.

  24. Isao
    Isao says:

    “People with Asperger Syndrome are dying to please everyone around them. People with Asperger Syndrome don't want to stand out or be the center of attention. They just want to get along with people and have things run smoothly.”

    This line struck me most, as I recall my days at school desperately trying to “read the air” as if trying to read instructions on the wall written by an ink invisible only to me. It took a long time for me to accept unwanted attentions as outcast and turn it into my advantage.

    Reading your post, I reaffirm myself the “lack of emotion” label associated with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome is totally misleaded.

  25. Janice
    Janice says:

    I have one child who’s autistic and while I’m not on the spectrum, I’m a professor. I fall into a lot of the same behaviours you describe and have to quite literally sit on my hands in some meetings at the school to remember to STFU and listen to others. So even NT people can face these same problems. We just have fewer excuses!

    I think the idea of a letter of thanks that includes your email/phone if she has further advice or questions is a great one. So many teachers give so much to our kids and there are not enough thanks in the world for all of their care and attention!

  26. J-
    J- says:

    Hmmm,

    I read this and I’m not sure what to think.

    I don’t want to sound like a naysayer to a medical condition, but these sound pretty minor and correctable though meditation.

    Do you really have Asberger’s? Or do you just not know how to wait?

    I used to find myself doing many of these things. I don’t feel I have Asberger’s, what I felt like I wasn’t doing was waiting for a response in a conversation. Rather, I was trying to anticipate the response and formulate an answer to the next statement a person would make thinking I already knew what their answer would be.

    I didn’t. And you don’t either.

    I think (being the armchair expert on nothing that I am), you need to buy a book: Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist. Find a piano and play the hand exercises at least three times a week. This will train you to first slow down your brain. Life isn’t chess and you cannot predict every move. Second, it’s very meditative, as in you’ll have to stop thinking a million miles a minute in order to play the exercises correctly. Finally, it will train you to listen. You can’t play these exercises correctly if you’re thinking of other things or if you’re anticipating what a note might be, or thinking about work-farmers-kids-exes-business. It will train you to be “in the moment” listening, and not in the next.

    Also, I’m an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church and I’d be happy to officiate a mixed faith wedding ceremony for accommodations at the farmers place and a decent bottle of rum. Or scotch. But no Crown Royal.

  27. Blog Subrscriber
    Blog Subrscriber says:

    I don’t think you have Asperger’s.. .I think you just like talking about yourself, and hearing yourself talk. Have you read your blog lately?

    Sincerely,
    On the fence about hitting the Unsubscribe button

  28. Sue
    Sue says:

    People with AS can’t help talking about themselves a lot.
    It’s natural inborn egocentricity rather than narcissism, though.

  29. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I think the teacher also needs to listen to the parent at a parent-teacher conference. They might find a friendly meet and great easier and less awkward but it doesn’t really help anyone. I think you were right to try to explain things about Asperger’s and sensory dysfunction.

    I agree with the suggestions to wear a wrist watch, follow up the conference with a note and try meditation.

  30. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    Once again you just described my oldest son to a T. He is also Aspergers. And I agree, I wish the school would tell him what he is doing wrong and the correct behavior– instead they are confrontational with him and cause him so much anxiety that it escalates him to act out.

    As a side, all of your commenters who somehow think they have medical/psychiatric degrees and tell you they don’t think you have Aspergers have obviously never experienced this syndrome first hand. It is so clear how clueless they are.

  31. Lisa Earle McLeod
    Lisa Earle McLeod says:

    Without negating the very real symptoms of Asbergers, I wonder if you’re getting enough sleep sweetie.

    Any problems with attention and reading social cues are magnified if you’re trying to power through on 5 or 6 hours a night. And as a fellow business owner and working mom, I suspect you might be.

    Give your business, your kids, and yourself the gift of 8 hours.
    Lisa Earle McLeod

  32. Liz
    Liz says:

    This might sound odd, but have you ever considered trying meditation? It might help you calm your racing thoughts and allow you to focus better. Its seems like you are constantly thinking about what to do or say and not listening. It might help you to slow down those thoughts, relax, and listen. Not sure if having Asperger’s makes any difference in terms of the effectiveness of meditation.

  33. Sean
    Sean says:

    I had been reading the blog for a while before the post you had made about Asperger’s at work, but that focus actually kept me here, seeing how I am in the spectrum, and this is a constant point of severe depression for me. I’m male, 23 and have yet to work at all, so any and all advice about the subject, especially from someone who has accomplished a great deal while still harboring some of the same anxiety, is more than welcome.

    I’d love it if you could keep posting more about how ASD affects day-to-day things, it’s endlessly fascinating to see the little reflections here and there.

  34. Jillian Davis
    Jillian Davis says:

    Penelope, what a great post – I never knew anything about ASperger’s before you wrote this, or what it felt like.

    ever thinking of coming up with 2-3 sentences that explain it before encountering someone you are new to and about to have a talk with ?

    or hand a little card?

    anything to allow them some info to proces as you interact with them? too weird!?

    I feel for you,

    Thanks for writing, Jilllian

  35. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Sometimes you try to tell a teacher something that’s really important -what they don’t know- and they won’t listen to their detriment and everyone else’s. They interpret your information through the sieve of their own experience.

    My son was sent home from school once because he had head lice. He was considered to be the vector. I know unequivocally that he was not. My response fell on deaf ears because they thought my protest was personal; that I interpreted the situation as their assessment of the quality of my parenting or hygiene. That was not my problem. My problem was that they thought they’d solved the problem but the source of infection was still out there meaning other kids would still get it and worse, my son after having been treated, could be reinfected. In the end, both came to pass. More kids got it and my son was reinfected.

    I love teachers but I think the greater problem is the tendency of many NTs (non autistic people) to rely on cognitive shortcuts to make inappropriate judgments based on how they would feel or how they think someone feels. Just as any good teacher worth their salt admits they learn from their students, a teacher can learn from the student’s parent.

  36. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    Because Asperger’s is invisible, NT people don’t know what to make of it, so they form their own conclusions. They’re not being mean or judgmental, it’s human nature. We are hardwired to want to know the intentions of strangers.

    To make the teacher okay with you, end every conference with: “These are just ideas to help you cope. I know it’s hard. I think you’re doing a great job.”

    I write this on every report card, every test I have to sign, every chance I get. I’ve watched them struggle with my son, giving extra time, failing, trying again, failing — it’s as hard to teach an Aspie in a regular class as it is to parent one.

    And people like you based on how you make them feel.

    Also, give the teacher a book on sensory processing. I sent you one earlier this year. I gave my Aspie son’s school lots of books on AS issues. They do read them. It’s easier than trying to explain complex ideas during a conerence.

  37. Sara G
    Sara G says:

    Regarding embellishing, distorting facts and Aspergers: it’s called “confabulation” and Hans Asperger first talked about it when describing the condition. Not everyone does it, but some do. Some think it has something to do with holes in memory. If you look up confabulation and Asperger’s, you’ll learn more about it.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      Sara G,

      Do you know if drugs like Ativan or depression can bring on confabulation? I’ve really have tried to understand someone’s behavior I’m dealing with. This really hits home when you brought the topic of confabulation up. Thanks.

  38. PDW
    PDW says:

    I don’t have any particular “advice” to give you, but your ability to self-reflect is really amazing. Not sure how your Asperger’s makes this more or less a quality you possess, but it really helps me to realize how much human behavior is on a continuum. Reading how you think reduces the social distance between what we experience, which is really meaningful. Thanks.

  39. JUrema
    JUrema says:

    Hi, Penelope!
    I’m brazilian, so sorry about the difficulty to express myself.
    I loved to read your latest post because I’ve just arrived from a parents conference in my children’s school and we had a big argue about cursive writing. Some of parents are upset that their children are having a huge difficulty in cursive writing. So I just asked them where, today, we have to use you it. Even graphology in our time is asking people to write the way they naturally write in their lives, so I don’t see the matter. I am convicted that they just got to know cursive, but if they will do good is another story.
    And about been a good/bad listener, I want to ask you if you have ever heard about active listen. Active listen can de used as a exercise of listening. In the begining, it would be just an exercise, but then, you will do normally.
    Regards,
    Jurema Carvalho
    Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil

  40. Charles Gupton
    Charles Gupton says:

    Thanks for your continued ability to allow others to see themselves through your struggles. I’ve not been diagnosed with Aspergers but I recognize many of the qualities in your descriptions.

    I find myself exhausted after a day of interacting in business situations where I’m not working based on my creative strengths – primarily photography or creative problem solving. Days spent in business meetings and business networking leave me wiped out because I invest so much energy trying to be self-aware and reading cues from the people I’m with.

    Charles Gupton
    http://charlesgupton.wordpress.com/

  41. Susie
    Susie says:

    Hey Penelope. I just sent you an email, complimenting you on this post. Then I happened upon all the comments and read through many of them. Overall, it seemed like people were trying to fix you.
    I say, forget that!!!! You are as the old saying goes, a breath of fresh air, and I like you just the way you are (yes, I love Bridget Jones, too).
    I have five kids. The oldest is now thirty. When I went in to register him for the year for high school, they had split the registration up into two days, separating the freshmen/sophomores registration from the junior/senior registration. I thought zach was a sophomore and it was junior/senior day so I went home and told him it was the wrong day. He said, and I quote. “Mom. I’m a junior.”
    Hah! So I definitely failed at that kind of momness, but I had my good features, too.
    The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, I think. And the main thing is that you love both your kids to distraction, as all moms should, and your days are filled with enough interesting stuff to make people like me participate in them.
    That’s way cool, if you ask me.
    And btw, someone posted that Obama’s wife was leaving the conference with flowers – maybe you are justified in getting a little pissed off that your son’s teacher didn’t present you with flowers! Ha! Right-on!
    Keep doing what you’re doing is my vote, Penelope.

  42. Doug
    Doug says:

    Penelope, thanks for posting this, very useful series of posts, I’m learning a lot about things I do as well as co-workers that might not be full-blown AS, but are somewhat similar.

  43. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    I think you’re being too hard on yourself – and you’re worrying too much. So what if you’re not perfect? Some people yell at their kids teachers – or swear at them. Some don’t even show up for the conference. So what did you do? Show concern? Try to explain? Doesn’t sound so bad to me.

  44. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    I’m guessing that parents and teachers have always had these misunderstandings, but that we didn’t know about the spectrum, and couldn’t label the misunderstandings as “due to Asperger’s”.

    And there have always been people who want to dispense with the small talk and cut to the chase (the issues). This doesn’t make you a misfit in social situations. Hey, you were late (you thought), and you had a mere 15 minutes to discuss the learning issues on behalf of your son. I would say that what you did was a good thing for an advocate (of a child) to do.

    Penelope, you are a good communicator. This conference was two ships passing in the night. The rest of your contacts with the teacher will be much better.

    DO check out the need/availability of a 504 or IEP for your son, if you haven’t already done so.

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