How do you teach and aspie compassion?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by TerryJ2, Aug 10, 2008.

  1. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Assuming that my difficult child is an aspie, I'm re-reading the books on my shelf to figure out a game plan. Asperger's Syndrome and Difficult Moments (Myles and Southwick) has a section on Social Narratives, where you spell out social guidelines for kids so they learn the clues and guidelines for social behavior.
    At what point do these kids go from rote memorization to truly "getting it"? I know they can get it because I know adult aspies (or in the case of Jim Robison, Aspergians) who are compassionate and aware of others' thoughts and feelings. Jim had to "get it" on his own, (although he does say that a psychiatric buddy pointed it out to him, and knowing how obsessive-compulsive some aspies can be, I can only assume he bought a boatload of books on Asperger's and memorized them all :) )

    Also, assuming that the new tests we have done confirm that my difficult child is an Aspie, I should tell him what we're testing for, right? He's going to be in denial and want to argue. Any ideas?

    P.S. How do you teach an aspie compassion?--can't fix my subject heading.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2008
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I didn't tell my son about the testing. I waited and let his therapist try to explain.
    My son has always had compassion, just trouble showing it. It fallacy that Aspies lack compassion. It is just hard for them to know how to appropriately express their feelings.
  3. ML

    ML Guest

    I think MW mom is right. Our kids do have compassion, they just express it differently. My son has an emotional experience every time he sees that commercial with Sara McLaughlin and the abused animals. He gets sad and angry and talks about wanting to kill those ba*&#$ds. Yet most of the time he's pretty self absorbed.
  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Thank you! I'll check out that site.

    Maybe compassion is the wrong word. Today I was talking to him about the panties and told him I really want to know where he got them so we can return them. People will want them back. (Yeah, right, like THAT would happen, but you never know!)

    He said he would be too embarrassed. I told him that I've had many embarrassing moments in my life, but I had to weigh and balance my need for privacy and lack of embarrassment against someone else's need for truth or an object that belonged to them. I even held out my hands, palms up, like scales.
    He just looked at me blankly and said he didn't see the point.

    We went through the same thing when he took his friend's Ipod.

    Am I explaining this clearly?

    I just think that he doesn't get the main concept. It doesn't matter whether it's a friend's Ipod, the campers' or neighbors' panties, or what. We'll clear this up, and next time it will be something else, and we'll have to explain it all over again.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Terry, I think the problem you're dealing with here is that from difficult child's perspective, HIS embarrassment is far greater than an abstract, remote, "other person's right to know" or "other person's right to have possessions back". He IS balancing it all out, and for him, the balance comes down squarely in "I feel terrible when I'm embarrassed. I must do all I can to reduce this bad feeling to a tolerable level."

    You could use this. Instead of working on returning the items (for now), work on this:

    "We are stuck in a bad situation. You feel bad because you feel really embarrassed. But if you hadn't taken those things, you wouldn't feel embarrassed now. So what was it that persuaded you to take those things? It must have been really strong, to be able to overcome this end result of strong embarrassment; or this embarrassment now must have not been considered when you got the urge to take those things."

    He needs to talk about this, to try to describe what compelled him to take the things in the first place. Try to work on getting his recollection of why he stole, connected with the embarrassment he now feels. Ramp it up if you can and try to again directly link the 'urge to steal' with the visualisation of how he would feel having to personally face the people he stole from in returning things.

    Next step - role-play. Teell him this is role play, this is practice, this is necessary to help him be able to overcome these temptations in future. You need his cooperation for this. You are helping him, not punishing him. He needs to know this or it won't work.

    Get him to practice trying to steal undies (or something else) from you, with you supervising. Now, as his hand reaches out, tell him to visualise how he feels having to face the owner and return what he is trying to steal NOW.

    You may only need to do this once. Or he might need to practice it a couple of times. But if you can really make the visualisation vivid, once should be more than enough, believe it or not.

    Next step - after the visualisation, you need to do something good with him, something that makes him feel really good about himself. This should not be related to him eating or drinking anything himself, or being given something material. He needs to get a positive kickback from something non-ingestion, non-material. Maybe he could go with you to feed someone else's dog, or run an errand for someone, or bake a batch of cookies to give to a neighbour. Basically, get him hooked into a random act of kindness so he can get the warm glow from someone thanking him for his kindness.
    Or you could both sit and watch a video together, or you could play a computer game with him. But it needs to be as close after the visualisation as possible, so he can mentally contrast the feeling good, with the previous 'feeling bad' and make it easier to FEEL the right way to behave.

    Next step - work with him on how to return the things with a minimum of fuss. If he wants you to do it for him then I would consider it (but only AFTER you've done the role-play). However, he needs to have a letter of apology he's written himself, to accompany you.
    And he needs to know that if he ever does it again, you will make him return the items personally. And he has to keep this image of himself doing this in mind, if he is ever tempted to steal again.

    Also important to let him know - Aspies are generally very bad at lying. They try it, but get caught. it's easier, it's safer, you feel better if you make a choice from this moment on, to never try to lie. And if you do something which is going to require you to lie to maintain the fiction or to cover something up - you will get caught, sonny Jim. So if you are ever tempted to steal and try to say to yourself, "I won't get caught - I will lie about it if I am," then he must remember to tell himself, "I am VERY likely to get caught out if I try to lie because I am bad at lying. I shouldn't attempt it."

    Think of it as obvious and basic as training a puppy to go on the newspaper. You need to keep it as simple and direct as that, and use his own feelings, emotions and drives as the engine for the lesson.

    And keep in mind always - this is not punishment. This is not punishment. This is a positive lesson. I am his helper. I am working to build him up to be a good, honest, decent person.

    Good luck. Yes, this works.

  6. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Terry, I think my son has compassion and empathy but I don't think he has the social understanding on how to evaluate a situation and which response is required.

    I think role playing works wonders. Then repetition, repetition.
    Ex) my father was in his final hours of life in our home. difficult child didn't know what to do about it. His frame of reference for death were "ghosts". He knew this was an intense time but didn't know how to respond. I explained that this was my father and he was leaving us. I needed his support and his understanding at how difficult it was.
    The next day we had him practice his behavior at the funeral home. How to shake hands, how to thank people for coming, how to be social in an appropriate way. He did great. I'm not sure he felt like the rest of us felt but I know he was sympathetic and wanted to be appropriate out of respect for his mom and her family.
  7. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    This is a really good question! I agree that they have compassion, empathy as well, but they just don't "get" where it applies to others. If it's not something that impacts THEM, then they can't seem to get a grip on it and wrap themselves around the problem.

    Have you tried "Social Stories?" There's a great website where you can inexpensively personalize a story (your child's name, coloring, likes, dislikes, interests, etc) to fit whatever it is that you're trying to put across. They even let you do a free one as a sample to see if it will appeal to your child.

    But if you really want to get insight as to how you're difficult child is thinking, do the freebie and then the two of you sit down and write a social story of your own WITH HIM writing the story. It was really insightful to see what his thought process was (totally skewed!) and gave me easier ways to spell things out to him.

    I found that giving him a comparison of the emotion to a situation that impacts HIM made it much clearer for him.

    For example: He loves YuGiOh cards. His brother loves Bionicle toys. difficult child 1 broke one of the Bionicles and couldn't get "why" his brother was so upset. I told him to close his eyes and imagine that I accidentally put his YuGiOh cards in the washing machine by mistake - I didn't mean to-it was accidental - but how did he feel? Whoa! What a po'd kid! He got the point and went and apologized for breaking the toy (after a lecture to me about making sure that there were NEVER cards in the clothes before I did wash! ;)).

    I can't wait to see what the testing turns up...I've got dollars riding on you being right!

  8. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    One of the tools I used in understanding my difficult child was trying to find out how they see the world.
    Temple Grandin's book "Emergence" was a great help. Although my difficult child doesn't necessarily parallel her life path, it gave me great insight into how he thinks.
    One of the examples she gave was when she had graduate students on her ranch in Colorado or N.Mexico(can't remember which) One of the students voiced her awe at the magnificant sunsent over the Rockies. Temple looked and saw the sun going down just as it does every day. The student saw a moving, piece of art. It's the black and white without all the poetry so to speak.
    If you try to see a situation through an Aspie/difficult child eyes, it helps to understand why they see and do what they see and do.
    I have tried to read information that talk about what and how they see the world. A young boy in India whose mother worked tirelessly to get her non verbal autistic son to connect to our world, found that he could learn to write. He was and is very articulate. He describes his "disconnect" to his body. He was a brain until 4 yrs old until he realized he had a body. So hungar, toileting etc were not connected to his brain until later. Our experience has been similar and a cause of difficult child's obesity and late toilet training. He still doesn't know if he "feels" hungry or what he is hungry for. Food is fuel. Some tastes better than others but all is fuel.
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It's also important to remember that it is very different form one child to the next.

    For example, difficult child 3 can appreciate a lovely sunset. He's taken photographs of them. But there are other things which I'm certain he views very differently to us. Shiny things, faceted gems, falling rain or snow, lava lamps - he can lose himself in these. He also expects everybody else to share his extreme fascination.

  10. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Thank you all! I will definitely try this.
    I appreciate it.