Hello again, readers! My perfectionism has created a lot of writer’s block recently. I have about five posts in various stages of incompleteness, but I find myself looking at them and saying “Who wrote that?” Let’s see if I can get things moving again on the general topic of Asperger’s in adolescence.
A while ago, I posted about how I was worried about becoming a teenager because I thought it meant I would be rebellious and fight with my parents all the time. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
But there were changes in my thinking and behavior that I didn’t expect. One of the most significant was this:
I became more aware of other people, and of the fact that they were aware of me.
Hopefully I’m not overstating things, but I believe I honestly didn’t care what my classmates thought when I started elementary school. They were just other kids, after all, and I usually followed the rules about sitting quietly and keeping my hands to myself better than they did. I took my cues for how to behave from my teachers or whoever was in authority. I was taught to be polite from an early age, so I hopefully wasn’t rude. But I saw no reason to be bothered by the fact that I kept mostly to myself at recess, for instance. Comparing myself to those around me didn’t usually occur to me.
That gradually began to change as I got older, though– I began to think about the fact that my classmates had interests, thoughts, and feelings of their own. I suppose that means I developed my “theory of mind.”
Looking back, I think one reason that I wasn’t caught totally by surprise by this was that I had one good friendship from early on in elementary school– in first grade, I became best friends with a boy named Ryan. I think it started with something as simple as him choosing me to help him pass out papers to the class for the teacher, but I am very thankful he so easily accepted me as his friend. We sat together at lunch and talked about our favorite TV shows and video games, and we stayed over at each other’s houses several times. In addition to being fun, it meant that I actually developed a few social skills. : )
Social interaction gets much more complex very quickly as you get older, though. I had learned how to make friendships on a childlike level based on mutual interests, but there began to be a quality to the conversations of my classmates that I found very hard to connect with; they talked about things I understood very little about, like popular music and sports. They joked about things I didn’t know how to laugh about. If I tried to participate in the conversation by doing what had worked for me as a child– copying how other people sounded– it felt horribly awkward, as if it wasn’t me speaking. So I mostly kept quiet and listened.
I eventually realized that I had gone from feeling more mature than most of my classmates (because I was able to handle the rules and schoolwork of elementary school so easily) to feeling like I was much less mature than they were. I began to think of myself a lot differently.
I’m not sure how much of this discussion is revealing things about Asperger’s syndrome; it very well may be that this is just a part of growing up that everybody goes through– understanding that you have weaknesses as well as strengths. Whatever the case, I had a lot more to learn about both.