Saturday, July 21, 2007

Boys' Psychology and Asperger's, Pt. II

Yesterday's post outlined the general ways that Asperger's and boy-code behavior. We also met camper Will, a sensitive, highly literal-minded Aspie who, by dint of his defecits, gets hit even harder by the boy code than most.

(To reiterate: All persons are fictional composites here.)

Envision now a highly boisterous game of keep-away, involving seven campers and three counselors. Will – a good athlete – is in the middle, and, at a blatantly easy opportunity, fails to gain the ball.

Now, Camper Evan is in high spirits (the more so because he is one of the boys exchanges teasing quite good-naturedly, and there’s a lot of that going on with his friends at the moment) and he quickly calls out in a playful way, “You suck, Will!” Things are happening fast in this moment, and, though he’s quick physically, processing delays prevent Will from making any interpretations to counteract his natural literal interpretation (though he’s quite intelligent).

In other words, Will simply knows that, “Evan just told everyone very loudly that I suck.” And that’s all he knows.

Confusion and shame almost instantly slam Will like a big ocean wave, followed quickly (faster than his delayed thoughts can mediate) by anger and fear. I think you have the general idea of what follows; space doesn't allow for details.

I want to reinforce here that what Asperger's kids go through socially often varies only in degree from what neurotypical kids go through. I can admit that I had many moments like the one above while growing up. However, Aspies go through more extreme versions of social distress because their unique characteristics make them more apt to experience social awkwardness or cruelty. The situations and attendent emotions might feel familiar, but don't let that fool you. Aspies are different.

I’ve probably raised more questions with these posts than I’ve answered. I would have to write a bona fide academic paper to thoroughly address all the issues. I mainly wanted to describe how interesting it is that the code of neurotypical boys comes into play so directly with our campers, too – yet with a twist that can make it all the more confusing and damaging.

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