Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Now Entering the Swampy Middle-time

I have to admit, for all my high-minded posts lately about how enlightened I want to be in my approach to my campers, who all have Asperger's Syndrome, or something similar (but a few of whom are also just annoying teenagers), I'm not doing very well walking the walk.

I know they might be reaching out for connection through their oppostional behavior, pseudo-violence, and inappropriate or profane language. I know that being a teen is hard, and that being a teen with a disorder that makes you even more "weird" than typical teens feel is even harder. I know that I would be better off "going with the flow," (as I wrote about so elaborately on Sunday) and letting them blow off steam, and come around to us on their own terms.

See? I know a lot of wise things. And I also know that, by the end of the day, it's all I can do to keep myself from yelling my head off at them. They do wear me down.

It's great to remember that various of the less trouble-making kids have taken some wonderful and visible steps forward in just the 10 days since we started. Certain parents have written high praise for we counselors in their responses to our daily notes. And also... tomorrow's another day.

On a more global note, I never cease to be impressed by the difference between knowing all about a disorder intellectually, and actually being in the room day after day with someone who has that disorder. Some of the differences sneak up on me; some have to be pointed out by more experienced counselors, or the clinical director. But when I step back, sometimes I feel the forcefulness of their difference in a tangible way.

I hope I will always feel fascinated and delightfully challenged by such differences.


Muffy St. Bernard said...

It takes a special sort of person to do this sort of work, while still maintaining their sanity AND still genuinely caring.

I worry that if *I* were in your shoes, I'd tend to view them more as "opportunistic" or "lazy" as opposed to having a genuine chemical problem.

But this is one reason why I decided that such work was not for me. :)

Thinkulous said...

Thanks, Muffy. Believe me, there are many times when I do think those things. Usually, a supervisors or co-workers can remind me of the bigger picture. (And sometimes, that doesn't help.)

One of the questions in the air is what kind of "population" I want to work with in the long run, and this program will be providing more info for that decision. Ideally, you work with types of people who you naturally empathize with (most of the time). That way -- lower burnout rate!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Have you found a sympathetic population yet?

Thinkulous said...

Not yet, really. It's still a bit early for me, since I'm still in school. There'll be a fair amount of smorgasbord action for me to come.

Some folks know before they even enter grad school, but they generally get experience in the field between college and grad school. I didn't have that advantage!

John Elder Robison said...

First, just the fact that they have Asperger's does not ensure that they are nice. They may be basically nasty, irregardless of what they have. I am basically nice, myself, but not because I'm Aspergian.

Second, if they are teenagers they may already be pretty alienated by the way the world has treated them to date. You therefore may be starting from a pretty bad place.

Third, your own tolerance for abberant behaviour may be less than you hoped it was. So they may just aggravate you more.

Without knowing more about what they do, it's hard to offer any constructive suggestions.

Thinkulous said...

John, thank you for your thoughts. I think you're right when you say that they have already been a bit alienated by the way the world reacts to their Asperger's-influenced behavior. The "cool kids" behavior might be one way they've found to fit in and garner esteem from their peers.

Thanks, and enjoyed your blog, too.