One of the hard things about having Asperger Syndrome is that sometimes people think we are rude or naughty, when we don’t really mean to be.
Sometimes we know immediately when we’ve goofed, and sometimes a teacher or a parent or a friend will have to tell us. Both things have happened to me, and they still do (even though I’m a grownup!). Sometimes I get a terrible sinking feeling in my stomach, and I think “Oh no… I really blew it this time.” And sometimes a friend will take me aside and say to me, “That wasn’t very nice, what you just said.”
Either way, it’s really embarrassing and it feels absolutely awful. 😦
Partly these sorts of things happen to us because our big complicated “Asperger brains” sometimes make us say and do things before we really think about the consequences. (Consequences include things like hurting someone’s feelings, bothering or annoying people, or scaring people with our tempers or angry words.)
And partly the trouble is that we Aspergians look like everyone else. You wouldn’t think this would be a problem, but it means that because we look like everyone else, people expect us to act like it too. And when we have an “Asperger moment”, and say or do something unexpected or “weird”, people get offended or upset, or just very, very puzzled.
“That kid looks so normal!” they think. “Why is he acting so nutty?”
It would be like seeing a nice cat sitting in the sun — and suddenly the cat stands up and goes MOOOOOOOOO! like a cow, or rhymes off some swear words!
Anyway, I’ve found that the best remedy when you goof up and say or do something inappropriate is just to “fess up” to the person you’ve hurt or offended, and say “I’m really sorry. I had an ‘Asperger Moment’ just there.”
That might sound a bit crazy (and a bit embarrassing for you), but chances are that if you’re a kid, most of your friends and teachers and family members already know you have Asperger’s (this is a good thing!), and have learned a little bit about it, and they will actually kind of understand what you mean.
But more importantly, when you say the word Sorry, they know instantly that you are trying to mend things, and that you still want to have friendly feelings with them. It’s like a code word that disarms a bomb, and it makes everyone stop, put their “weapons” down, take a deep breath, and start working to resolve the situation.
Adults might want to talk with you a bit about what happened, and family members might give you a cuddle, if you like those.
Other kids don’t really talk all that much about stuff — after you say Sorry they might just say “Oh, that’s OK”, or “OK, well, don’t do it again”, and then get back to playing or watching the movie or whatever.
The words “Sorry, I had an Asperger Moment” are actually a very good set of tools for mending and building friendships!
However, like all tools, you have to use them carefully.
For example, no fair using Asperger’s as an excuse for more naughty behaviour, or for getting out of things you don’t want to do. Look at it another way: suppose one of your classmates had a broken arm with a cast on it. It means he can’t do certain things for a while, like swim or play baseball. But if he said, “Oh, I can’t possibly do my math homework! I have a broken arm!”, or “You have to give me that toy. I have a broken arm!”, then you would probably want to put him in a smelly little spaceship and send him on a one-way trip to another planet, right? 😀
Same with Asperger’s: people understand that you have trouble doing some things because of it, and they will forgive you if you slip up. But it isn’t an excuse to be naughty or rude.
Preventing Asperger Moments
However, the BEST remedy of all is to try and avoid the Asperger Moments in the first place!
Partly we can do that by remembering helpful things like manners (I will talk more about this in another post, because it’s super-important). We can also observe what our good “role models” do (teachers we like, friends who are good at social stuff) and try to copy that behaviour.
I talked about “copying good behaviour” in another post (here), and I also talked about the “Red Alert” feelings before you have a meltdown or get frustrated and angry. If you have been collecting data about your Asperger’s, you might already have a list of things that bug you, and that sometimes lead to meltdowns or bad behaviour.
My own personal list includes:
- annoying noises like a dog constantly barking, a squeaky fan or machine, or a song I dislike on the radio
- people with whiny or loud voices
- people wearing stinky perfume or cologne, or who have bad breath or body odour
- the sound of other people chewing
- sitting for too long without a break
- someone grabbing me or touching me unexpectedly
So if I possibly can, I try to avoid all the things in that list.
If I can’t avoid them, I try to cope as best as I can. (For example, if someone at a party has a loud, whiny voice I will go in the other room to help with the dishes, or concentrate very hard on talking to someone I like!) If you’re a kid, you can ask an adult you trust to help you cope. That might mean saying “Psst… Dad, can I talk to you in the other room?” and then quietly explaining what’s bugging you so that you both can figure out a solution.
My Asperger Moments are worse if I’m tired or have too many interruptions to my routines. So that means one of my Coping Strategies is to make sure I get enough sleep (I go to bed on time and get up on time), and I also try not to load on too many tasks in a day.
And if I feel that meltdown coming then I take steps to avert disaster (I also discuss this in that other post, here)! Get away from the situation, and get somewhere safe if it’s going to be really bad.
The “Bad Asperger Day”
However, there’s one situation where you basically have to admit defeat, and that’s something I call the Bad Asperger Day.
We all have them. It’s that feeling where you wake up in the morning and you feel like your brain is full of angry red ants setting off fireworks and bombs. You’re mad at everyone and everything. Nothing seems to make you feel better, you hate things you normally like, and you have no patience with anyone or anything. You might even “regress” a bit, meaning you act like you did when you were quite a bit younger.
No one really knows why this happens, but sometimes I think a Bad Asperger Day is like when a computer malfunctions and has to be “rebooted.”
And that’s where you just have to tell someone “I’m having a Bad Asperger Day” and ask for help.
It’s like waving a white flag and admitting, “That’s it, I give up. For today, I just can’t control my Asperger’s and am having a very hard time with everything. Please help.”
And again, you will probably find that people will be glad to help you if you’ve asked. (Most people really do love to help, and want you to feel better!)
You may have to experiment to find out what will make you feel better, and it will be different every time. You and your mum (or dad, or grampa, or teachers) can start gathering data to find out what works, though — try everything!
Some of my things include:
- a nap
- reading quietly and having a cup of tea
- listening to very loud music
- listening to very soothing music
- going for a run or a long walk or a bike ride
- watching a TV show or movie that makes me cry (tears contain chemicals that help “reboot” your brain!)
- going to a fitness class (because it’s part of my “routine” and routines often make me feel better)
- cleaning my house (when I was a kid I cleaned my room) because tidiness & organization make me happy
Like with the “Asperger Moments,” though, the Bad Asperger Day is never to be used to get out of things! If you have a math test, no fair saying, “Uh, darn it! I’m having a Bad Asperger Day!”
Well, that’s it for now. I hope this has been helpful!
If you have any comments or suggestions, or if you have a list of things that help you out, I’d love to hear from you! If you put your comments in the “Comment” box below, I will reply.
And if there are other topics you want to ask me about, please use that box as well. I’d love to hear from you! 🙂
— Asparagus Girl.