So­cial dis­tor­tion

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­nie Lane

I have a hand­some 23-year-old son who has been deal­ing with Asperger’s syn­drome for about 20 years. He has grown from a very young child who didn’t look at or talk to peo­ple other than the fam­ily to a young man who can even share small talk with peo­ple, at­tend col­lege and be a suc­cess­ful track and field ath­lete.

How­ever, he still has a ter­ri­ble time know­ing how to act around women, and he ob­serves peo­ple around him for clues. He re­cently re­ceived a phone call from the cam­pus po­lice ask­ing him to stop by. A woman had re­ported him be­cause she felt un­com­fort­able around him at a dance. He had danced with her, sat and talked with her, and got­ten her some punch, but then he put his arm around her. He did this be­cause that’s what he had ob­served while watch­ing other guys and girls. He felt ter­ri­ble be­cause he re­ally liked her and is still miss­ing the friend­ship that could have been.

In the next day or two, another woman com­plained to the cam­pus po­lice. He and this other girl had a class to­gether and had talked a few times. She ac­cused him of stalk­ing her. But what she said was “stalk­ing” was his know­ing a few things about her that he had got­ten from her Face­book page — and she had ac­cepted his friend re­quest.

He was banned from all the dorms and or­dered to stay away from th­ese two women. There was an ap­peal process, and the school lifted the ban on the dorms af­ter ev­ery­one un­der­stood that with Asperger’s, a per­son doesn’t read body lan­guage or fa­cial ex­pres­sions very well.

He went to the speech pathol­ogy depart­ment last year for coach­ing about so­cial sit­u­a­tions. Now, af­ter this in­volve­ment with cam­pus po­lice, the Ti­tle IX depart­ment — which we didn’t know ex­isted — has got­ten in­volved. It has some classes that will help him to un­der­stand body lan­guage and fa­cial ex­pres­sions. I hope this will help him, but I also hope and pray that peo­ple, es­pe­cially women, will give him a chance.

Please tell women that if some­one has made them un­com­fort­able, they should gen­tly but firmly tell the per­son, “You are mak­ing me un­com­fort­able be­cause I don’t know you that well.” My son would never hurt any­one, but th­ese women ended up hurt­ing him deeply. And as I’m his mother, they hurt me, too.

— Heart­bro­ken Again Thank you for shar­ing your son’s story. Although I would never fault young women for re­mov­ing them­selves from sit­u­a­tions that feel un­safe, it sounds as if th­ese two women sim­ply felt awk­ward. A lit­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion can go a long way in such cases. We should all be com­pas­sion­ate and keep in mind that we have no idea the strug­gles a stranger may be go­ing through. I wish your son all the best.

I re­al­ize you meant well with your re­sponse to “Girl Who’s Gotta Eat,” whose co­worker was both­ered by her fre­quent snack­ing. How­ever, as the par­ent of a child who has been di­ag­nosed with an au­di­tory pro­cess­ing dis­or­der, I think you should have gone fur­ther and re­searched miso­pho­nia.

This is one of the per­ils and costs of the open­office trend. Your reader with the high me­tab­o­lism has needs. How­ever, they may not be on the same level as a fel­low em­ployee who has a gen­uine psy­cho­log­i­cal or med­i­cal con­di­tion.

My daugh­ter is a suc­cess­ful stu­dent. Her con­di­tion is rec­og­nized and ac­com­mo­dated for. With­out ac­com­mo­da­tions, her aca­demic per­for­mance suf­fers.

Per­haps a less flip an­swer and ad­di­tional re­search on your part are in or­der. A more holis­tic per­spec­tive might call into ques­tion the em­ployer’s need to op­ti­mize em­ployee per­for­mance in an open­office work area.

— Think Again

Send your ques­tions for An­nie Lane to dear­an­nie@cre­ators.com.

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