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Is it true that you shouldn't push someone who has Aspergers to be more independent?

Question

My brother has Aspergers and dyspraxia. I can’t help but feeling that my Dad is halting his independence. My brother has traveled to London with my dad on average every month to spend the weekend with our mum since he was 6 my mum met them in London as the half way point and took him to her home on the Isle of Wight. Since my brother was fifteen he has traveled to the Isle of Wight from London alone (thanks to my mum encouraging his independence) this involves a coach and then getting onto a cat across to the island. He is now 20 and my dad still say's that he is not ready to travel to London alone (1 train, no changes, no underground) "London is a scary place" he said. I think my brother is capable of doing this alone easily. I asked my dad when was the last time he asked my brother if he thought he could do it alone and he replied the last time they went my brother said he preferred to have dad with him. My dad said he doesn't want to push him to do something that he's not comfortable with. I replied that sometimes everyone needs to be pushed a little, he replied "EVERYONE DOESN'T HAVE ASPERGERS". My brother was pushed slightly to do the second part of the journey alone and is fine with it. Is it true that you shouldn't push someone who has Aspergers to be more independent?


Answer

To your dad:

The balance between holding-on and letting-go is one of the most difficult things that moms and dads have to face with their Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) teens. At this time in your Aspie’s life, it may be appropriate to take more of a back seat in many instances.  While others may want you to back away, you can still keep the lines of communication open with your teen and help him do what it is he is trying to do.

For all adolescents, we are expected to be in their lives and out of their faces at the same time. Your Aspergers teen may have many good opportunities to reach out to peers if he is interested. If he doesn’t know how to, while it is now inappropriate for you to set up ‘play dates’ or constantly organize his social groups, you can offer occasional suggestions and coach your teen from the sidelines.

Keep in mind that some Aspergers adolescents do not want more interaction even though their moms and dads may feel it is important for them to have it. It is important to be sure that the social goals you set up for your teen include what he wants now and not just what you think he should have or be doing. He may never be the life of the party and may always be a little on the periphery, but for him this could be a comfortable place - and one that he is used to. It could provide social interaction and friendships, and yet offer a comfortable distance and not a lot of pressure. If he wants more, you can help him learn to move in and reach out for more at his own pace.

When to hold on, when to let go, when to push, and when to pull ...these are some of the themes that every parent struggles with (both with “typical” and “special” teens). The outcomes for kids and adolescents are best when moms and dads and professionals work as partners with mutual respect and shared decision-making power. Moms and dads, by virtue of their bond with their youngster, are true authorities in their own right, with information to contribute that no one else has access to. Professionals, on the other hand, through training and experience, can offer expertise and a broad perspective that moms and dads alone don’t have. Each has only partial knowledge, with complete expertise possible through team work (often with some trial and error however).

Letting go may sound too drastic, and perhaps so. Maybe a more realistic way to look at this dilemma is to just loosen your grip and see what happens. If your Aspergers teen seems to slip backwards, this may convince others that he needs more support than they thought. If he is somehow able to meet that challenge, you may be pleasantly surprised. There are inevitable and unavoidable road bumps and pot holes in this process. We cannot control that, but we can control how we respond to them.

Your Aspergers teen will need continuing support and guidance, some of it from experienced professionals to continue his social development. While this may pose a financial strain, the long term benefits usually outweigh the cost of not getting him this support.

It’s a long and winding road to launch an Aspergers teen out into the real world. It’s hard to know at any given moment what to accept and what to work on. A parent’s job never ends—it just changes. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for getting this far. Take good care of yourself as well.

Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want my Aspie to be as independent from me as he can. He is 10 how and I have worked hard to achieve this and his teachers have said its working....how can this be bad !!!

Anonymous said...

I agree. My daughter is 13 and although middle school has been very difficult I know she will have to learn to function in difficult situations and that this is preparing her for the future. I have seen great improvements in her. The more she is pushed the harder she tries to get by.

Anonymous said...

I want my 15 year old son to be as independent as possible. He has made great strides in accomplishing this. I will not always be here to help him. He does have an older sister who will watch out for him after I am gone, but if he can do it for himself, then I want him to be able to.

Anonymous said...

I have every reason to believe my son will be successful & be on his own & go to college! He believe`s he can do anything because I tell him he can. He is 4 & has come leaps & bounds from where he was a year ago. He can identify every letter of the alphabet. Cant say his ABC`s, who cares, if he knows the letters & words that start with the letters.....I could go on forever, I never get tired of talking about Vance. He just turned 4 in Nov. So he is on the right track. He also has ADD & AD/HD.......a lot going on with him. One day at a time :) he does learn different, but by God he is SMART!

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