This very lengthy emergence transcript is excerpted from a long series of emails between the mother of a teen with Asperger's and myself. In these emails, we together worked on developing a way to teach normal folks to speak to people with Asperger's.
On June 28, Caroline wrote and asked for my help ...
I'm feeling depressed, and I need you to cheer me up! My son, Paul's, behavior seems so illogical at times. Is this an Asperger's trait or something else?
He desperately wants to be independent and I think this is good. However, he seems unable to connect the dots on what he needs to do to become independent.
For instance, he began to hate working at his fast food job, so he just didn't show up for work and got fired. This is the second job he's done this at. Now he's riding his bike all over town attempting to get another job, but won't use my car in an attempt to show me that he doesn't need my help.
The result? He shows up drenched in sweat to apply for a job because it takes him an hour and a half to ride his bike when he could do it in 15 minutes by car. It doesn't make sense.
Then yesterday, he got mad when I disciplined him over something. So he packed his back pack with a few things and left home. This was yesterday evening. We assumed he went to a friend's house but had no way of finding him. At 1:30 a.m., a policeman called saying Paul was found riding the streets. Since he is 17 and wasn't breaking any laws, they had no right to make him go home. But since his bike doesn't have any lights, the policeman convinced him that it wasn't street safe, so he came home but stayed outside.
Will some of this type thinking improve over time? The Asperger's conference I went to recently really depressed me, even though all the kids they profiled were much more severe than Paul.
I car-pooled up there with a behavioral specialist in my district and we discussed Paul's traits. She said he sounds too social to have AS, and that his use of language seems too good. I told her yes, that he is social and that he had twenty kids at his 17th birthday party. He also has people call him all the time. I also shared some of his writings with her.
You write great and obviously are social, so does this just mean that Asperger's simply manifests itself in different ways?
On June 29, I responded an offer ...
The pain in your heart is the very kind of thing which has motivated me to understand Asperger's. And if the people who come to me are any indication of how accurate my understanding is, these people alone would almost be enough to prove my theories true.
Even so, I sit with these people face to face, and none of them, for less than a year now. And you are so far away. My point?
Your description of the Asperger's conference sounds similar to my own experiences, and if there were nothing more to Asperger's than the kinds of things people already know, then these conferences would actually be useful. They're often not. More over, if you want to be even more depressed, you could also try the conferences on ADHD and learning disabilities. Or on any "mental illness," for that matter.
Caroline, most of these folks are well meaning and are actually quite skilled at describing what "failure to help" looks like. However, because they define "health" as the absence of either dysfunction or symptoms or both, they are usually just plain clueless as to what they are missing.
Is Paul's behavior typical of someone with Asperger's?
Is what he does illogical?
To a fuzzy minded person, yes.
In his language, is it illogical though?
Caroline, to Paul, it is everyone else who is illogical. If you doubt me, just ask him.
How can what he is doing or saying be logical?
It is logical. However, in order to understand his logic, you would need to focus on the same fussy detail he was focusing on when he said whatever he said. Trying to discern these details are, in fact, a core component in leaning to understand his way of thinking.
Which detail was he focusing on here?
You'd have to ask him. And get him to believe you'd listen to him without then telling him how illogical he was being.
He, and you, seem to be feeling so misunderstood, especially by each other.
You are. And this is sad to watch.
So is there any hope?
Caroline, for you, and for Paul, the hope is that I, or someone like me, can manage to point you both toward a way in which you both can begin to learn the other's language, the two languages being what I call,"fussy" and "fuzzy." This one thing could make all the difference.
Please know that for now, trying to force changes on Paul is probably the most difficult, and fruitless, way to go about helping him, although as a parent, you must continue to do what you think best. And as you mention me and how I function, please, you can use how I now am to find hope if you need to, but know this. I did not simply outgrow any of my Asperger's traits. Not one bit. This would be like saying I outgrew "English." I did not.
What I did do was to discover the existence of these two languages. And begin to learn the one I had no knowledge of; fussy.
So what do we do and where do we begin?
Well, if you feel OK with anonymously having your words published on my site, and if you will commit to having me try to teach you these two languages, then I will commit to trying to teach them to you.
How much can you expect this to accomplish?
Honestly, Caroline, you know, and have already heard from me, my standard disclaimer: I am not God. Still, I am sure there is much you and I could do to make a difference here. In Paul's life. And in yours. And perhaps, we can also make a difference in the many lives of those who might someday read these struggles.
Finally, please hear this. Do not give up your hopelessness. Yes, I mean what I am saying. Despair has been the route traveled by many great beings on the road to their salvation.
At the same time, do not give up your hope either, for without hope there is nothing at all, other than a kind of black oblivion.
You, and Paul, deserve so much more. And if I have anything to do with it, you, and Paul, will get better. And learn to speak each other's language.
Please hold tightly onto your faith today. Your good and loving heart, and the spirit of love in the Universe, will carry you through.
And in your language, God Bless,
On June 29, Caroline accepted my offer ...
Ok, you can post what we say, but it makes me a little uneasy (sheepish grin).
You are correct in everything you said. Paul views himself as the most logical person in the world and me as the most illogical person in the world. In fact, I have often tried to get him to see his illogical-ness, and it hasn't gotten me anywhere.
We have a very stained relationship. In part this is because Paul won't share any of his life with us. So we don't have anything to talk about except what we perceive he is doing wrong. And we love him so much.
It is very disheartening at times.
I will remain hopeful that you can help.
Thank you for your offer,
then later she wrote ...
I forgot to tell you something important. A few days ago, Paul's dad and I had a long talk with him and told him that we think he has Asperger's. We tried putting it in as positive a light as we could and gave him some positive articles on high intellect and Asperger's.
I don't think he took the news very well. He fluctuated between saying he didn't have it and maybe he did but didn't care. He said something like, "So what? Who cares? People have no meaning to me."
Of course this isn't true. But maybe some of his hostility is directed at us because, once again, we've told him that something isn't right about him.
I'm going to have to admit to you that I felt so defeated today that I found myself unable to pray. I always feel like a failure when I feel so empty I can't pray. I'm feeling better now but I feel so despondent when I feel this disconnected to Paul. Like it'll never get better.
You made me feel better. So thank you.
So when and how do we get started on my learning his language?
On June 30, I replied with STEP ONE ...
I've been working on trying to make what I do with Asperger's understandable to you. And to others.
As an aside, I got a call from the mother of a ten year old boy I recently assessed for Asperger's. Indeed, the boy did have a text book case of Asperger's. Surprisingly, his mother reported she saw changes in him from just that one session, something about how he now recognizes when he corrects people.
Even I was impressed.
So now, let's do this together. And please try to stay as focused as you can. You can do this in part by writing only about what I ask from you. Please do your best.
Here's step one.
Step 1: My thought is that it would be best if we could start by getting you to write five things you'd like to know about Paul. Or five things you'd like him to do. Either question will do, although I'd prefer you use only one of these two guidelines and make five questions from the one you choose.
What I'm intending to do is, I'm going to do my best to translate what you say into his language (fussy), unless, of course, you write something in fussy yourself. Let's start with this and see where we go.
And please. Say a few prayers for our success, will you. We can use all the help we can get.
Later that day, Caroline sent me her STEP ONE answers ...
My Step One five questions are:
1. Why did you stop drawing?
2. Why did you stop writing creatively?
3. How does spending time envisioning things functionally impact your life for the better?
4. Since it is so important to you to know God's will for your life, how will you determine that you know it?
5. What am I doing that makes you feel disconnected to me?
Just so you know, I won't be able to access my e-mail from Friday at midnight until Sunday at 6:00 p.m. while they update the system.
I'll be praying,
On July 1st, I wrote back with STEPS TWO and THREE ...
Well, as usual, I'm writing this on the run. Hopefully, over the weekend, I'll get more time and will be able to do our work together justice. In fact, I am now committing to doing this, this weekend for sure.
As for the next step, here's step two in this "Learning to Speak Fussy" exercise.
Step Two: Think about the answers to the five questions you sent me, one at a time. Now imagine how Paul would answer each, one at a time.
Please do not ask him in order to get this information nor remember what he's said in the past. Just try to imagine what he'd say and use only what you imagine he'd say as the source for what you write.
Now, still imagining this (meaning, while still picturing what he'd say in your head), write down what you imagine he would say to you, as far as the words he might speak. Nothing more though. By this, I mean, please do not write what you imagine his reaction would be. Only what he might say in response to your questions.
Also, as best as you can, literally use the words which come into *your head* as you are imagining this. Please know, this last part is especially important. It is, in fact, the first request I'm making here which may help you to have something emerge; that you write down what you imagine his words would be literally.
Finally, since you have the whole weekend before you can get or receive email, you might want to also try the next step, step three.
Step Three: Step three is, wait one whole day after completing step two. In other words, do nothing more, neither reading nor writing nor asking Paul for one whole day.
Now, go to Paul and ask him your five questions, remembering what he says so you can write it down. Please write down what he says as literally as you can, in his words only, nothing more. In fact, you might want to tell him, before you ask him the questions, that you will not respond to what he has to say. This would probably build a little trust between you two, and as I remember, it did work well the one time I suggested it to you.
Now, after having written down what he says in his words only, fight the urge to respond at all, even in your own head. This too is especially important. So much of what prevents you two from connecting happens in your two heads yet is never spoken. Thus, please try very hard not to continue the conversation in your head.
Not surprisingly, this is one of the primary meditation skills in the Insight Meditation I practice; observing without response or judgment.
Now wait another full day, after completing what I've asked you to do so far. Then and only then, send me what you've observed.
Finally, fight the urge to edit what you send me. Why? Because the real problem between you two is hidden in what you two don't say and not in how well you say what you do say.
And thank you for going through this with me. I know I'm trying to help you and your son, but also, your willingness to have what you do anonymously posted may mean we, you and I, help a whole lot of mothers and fathers to connect to their kids. Why? Because "fussy" is the language of choice for most adolescents. This, in fact, is part of what makes it so hard to connect to them. This and the fact that they switch back and forth between fussy and fuzzy almost constantly, and only when it suits their needs.
People with Asperger's simply have fussy as their primary language and in a way, once you learn to speak fussy, it is actually easier than trying to speak to adolescents. Being as Paul is an adolescent though, perhaps you can now realize that a part of what is making this whole thing so hard has nothing to do with Asperger's.
Hopefully, this will be encouraging news. Why? Adolescence ends. Always. So hang in.
On July 3, Caroline wrote back with her STEP TWO and THREE answers ...
Ok. Here are the results. I had one glitch. I hope it doesn't negate the assignment. I am afraid it may have since this is about how we communicate.
I told Paul I had 5 questions I would like him to answer. I told him that I wouldn't criticize anything he said and wouldn't ask him to elaborate by asking follow-up questions.
He said he'd answer the 5 questions but only if I'd write them down and let him respond in writing. I didn't know if that was ok, but I didn't feel like I could very well tell him no, he had to verbally tell me. I couldn't tell him it was an assignment, and we had to do it a certain way.
Is that ok? I can do it again with a different set of questions, if not.
Here is the assignment:
1. Why did you stop drawing?
Caroline: It has no value.
Paul: I stopped drawing because I got tired of it. Maybe I thought I wasn't good enough.
2. Why did you stop writing creatively?
Caroline: Philosophical thoughts are the only thing worth thinking about.
Paul: I stopped writing because it is hard work and it was never perfect.
3. How does spending time envisioning things impact your life for the better in a functional way?
Caroline: It is how I connect with God.
Paul: When I rock, I can see beautiful, powerful things. I can play them out and enjoy them. Indeed they are better than my real life, but there is hope they could one day become my real life. They help give me perspective.
4. Since it is important to you to know God's will for your life, how will you determine that you know it?
Caroline: I just will.Paul: God's will is not something the Bible gives you, or something you pray for and receive. God's will is built into the core of every person and can be inherently known. I will know it by studying life.
5. What am I doing that makes you feel disconnected to me?
Caroline: You are trying to control me. You are trying to make me be like you.
I haven't said one word to Paul about what he wrote, and I've tried not to even think about it.
Thanks for your help.
Later that day, I responded with STEP FOUR ...
To me, what you've uncovered is amazing, especially in that it has taken only five questions to make it visible.
Somehow, I get that you don't feel the same amazement I do. You will.
To start with though, can you see how differently you two communicate? More over, can you see how many times you assume Paul feels negative things about you when in fact, he simply has a different view than yours? Or else just another, more detailed way of saying the same thing you have said?
If you can not yet see what I'm saying, please don't worry. This inability to see both the commonalities and differences is simply the evidence that you speak fuzzy and your son speaks fussy.
Now for the next step, step four. It will come in two parts.
Step Four - Part One:Take the sets of answers to the five questions you answered and, one at a time, in your own words, try to summarize the differences in each pair of answers. In writing. And rather than giving you hints, please know, I'd rather you do this for yourself.
Step Four - Part Two:Ask Paul if he would be willing to do the same thing as I've just asked you to do; to write on paper, in his own words, how he sees each pair of answers as being different. You, of course, will have to hand him the answers you gave me, both his and yours.
Please know, to me, the differences in how you each answered these questions clearly reveals the fuzzy / fussy language difference between you two. Very clearly in fact. However, until you have learned how to read and speak some fussy, this difference will probably seem invisible, and uncertain, and vague at best. Similar to how you probably now experience your communications with your son.
The good news is, the way for you to heal this difference is all there already. In just five questions. We simply have to keep doing what we're doing and see where this will lead.
As an aside, have you considered how openly your son spoke to you in writing? Caroline, his answers are very personal.
I'm also sure, they very, very accurately represent his beliefs. People with Asperger's welcome these kinds of questions given they are received as what they are; very carefully considered self disclosure.
Caroline, his answers are like gold. Please treat them as such.
Now do your best and please keep going. You are doing great.
P. S. I have to confess, my Asperger's keeps kicking in with urges to correct you with regard to the way you've been describing me; you seem to see my having been raised Catholic as being very important. In a way, I guess it is in that, it certainly directed a lot of my initial searches. Even so, to me, I am and will continue to be so much more than the reflection of anyone's religious beliefs. In fact, Paul's answer to question 4 is very close to how I feel too.
It occurs to me, I may be feeling somewhat similarly to how Paul does with you right now. In this moment anyway.
Please don't try to change how you speak to me though. Just know this same language thing is happening between you and I.
On July 4th, Caroline sent her STEP FOUR - PART 1 answers ...
Paul is out with friends so I am going to go ahead and send you my part 1. If Paul is in the mood, I'll see if he will do his part when he gets home tonight.
I want you to know that I tried hard to follow your instructions: not basing what I thought he'd say by things said in the past, not continuing the conversation in my mind, just visualizing what I thought he was going to say. This isn't an easy thing to do. In part because I am always trying to "read" Paul since he doesn't talk much and only shares personal things on his own terms. But I think I did a pretty good job of following your instructions.
As I compare our two responses, I am going to have to bring the past into play somewhat and how I feel about it all.
First off, I do consider his responses to be gold. They actually make me want to cry. For several reasons. The first being that I know Paul is most comfortable communicating in writing. I know that and yet I persist in not honoring that. I keep trying to make him into something he isn't, because I am hung up on thinking he needs to be "normal" to be happy. So I am sad that I have wasted so many years not honoring his preferred mode of communication.
Questions 1 & 2:
My first two questions both reference two areas that Paul is gifted in, so I am going to lump them together. This was a major miscommunication and lack of awareness on my part in part due to ignorance.
I am not gifted in anything. How I long to have the ability to create something beautiful. Now I see, this is probably just ignorance on my part.
When I experience something beautiful, whether it be music, writing, art or whatever, I only see the magnificence of it. And I think, if I had that ability, I'd put my all into it and bask in the inward joy.
I'm not talking praise from mankind, I'm talking about the exquisite joy I get from reading something that touches my soul or hearing the notes of a lone violinist. It takes my breath away, and I've always assumed it takes the breath away of the person performing as well. You see, Steven, for a long time I have had this dream that Paul would be an artist or a writer.
I see the beauty and he sees the imperfection. I derive joy; he does not.
When Paul draws and writes, it looks effortless. He never erases; he never edits. He sits and creates, and it looks like it just flows from him. Now I've always known that Paul doesn't think what he does is good enough. How? Because everything I have of his was retrieved from the trash. But it never occurred to me that he had simply grown tired of drawing or that he found writing hard work.
So why would he draw or write if he's bored with it, it's hard work, and the end product isn't good enough? Why, indeed. And it will never be good enough because he is seeking perfection and nothing manmade is perfect.
And I was wrong; it isn't that he doesn't value it. If anything, he values it so highly that anything less than perfection isn't good enough. at least, anything less than perfect from him.
Question #3 - on envisioning things:
This one is too complicated. I have viewed Paul's rocking as an escape from reality. Detrimental to real life. Life saving if it helps him to become organized. Perhaps a dysfunctional attempt to connect with God.
Now I realize it is functional for Paul. First off, why would I want to take away the one thing that gives him pleasure?
I don't understand it. A part of me feels sad because he says it is the best part of his life. And then another part of me is relieved that something in his life gives him pleasure. In his words, "beautiful and powerful." All I know is that I have no right to ask him to give it up.
Question #4 - on knowing God's will:
First off, on this one I may prove to have a better understanding of you than you think I do, and you may prove to know me less than you think.
My immediate thought on this was that I bet Steven has similar thoughts.
My next thought was that I actually agree with Paul. This is a good example of Paul's saying something that shows spiritual insight beyond his years.
I thought Paul would think he was supposed to experience something dramatic during one of his euphoric moments that would just lead him to know God's will.
I am actually pleased that he recognizes that it is inherent. Many people spend their lives trying to figure out God's will for them, as if it is some secret that God has hidden from them.
The only time Paul told me that he knew what God wanted from him was about 17 months ago when he woke me up at 12:30 to tell me that he just realized that God wanted him to be perfect.
Well, I have been very frustrated over that because I have not been able to convince Paul that God does not want him to try to be perfect.
It just occurred to me though, that I am wrong. According to Christian beliefs, God can't look upon sin / imperfection. God does want Paul to be perfect. Paul just needs to realize that he can't be, but that is ok. God has an alternative plan.
Question #5 - on feeling disconnected:
On this one, I must use past actions to influence my feelings. So much of the time Paul does not share his life with me, his father, or anyone.
I can't tell you how we have spent our lives trying to engage him. The results have often been flat and empty. It is not unusual for him to say we don't have a clue about how he feels. If we did not coerce him into participating in family activities, we literally would just be people sharing housing space.
Steven, the thing that makes me so sad is feelings cannot be self-created. Paul cannot will himself to feel connected to us, anymore than I can will myself to love or forgive someone. Paul so often seems to do things the hardest way in what appears to be an attempt to demonstrate his independence. Much of that may be his age.
But I was afraid that Paul misinterpreted normal desire for independence as a disconnect stemming from our attempts to "control" him and make him like us.
The fact that he recognizes that his disconnect has nothing to do with what we are doing is a double edged sword for me. You see, it just reinforces that there is nothing I can stop doing that will make him feel connected to me.
I often observe Paul observing other people. When we were in the emergency waiting room with his blood clot, there was a mother with 3 teenage boys. The mother looked like she'd been around the track a few times and was rather scantily clothed. The boys looked like skate boarders, long hair and just a general unkempt appearance.
But the natural affection between them was almost mesmerizing to watch. It even pained me because it ran so diametric to my relationship with Paul. I commented to Paul that they were certainly an affectionate family and with wistfulness he said he had noticed.
He wants to feel connected. He longs to feel connected.
Maybe if you feel disconnected to people but have learned the secret, you can help me help him to feel connected.
P. S. I forgot to tell you something. Since you didn't allow me to respond to Paul's words, I realized that if I had been allowed to, I would have done what I always do, that is, try to correct him. Try to convince him for the 100th time that his drawings/writings are good enough. Ad nauseam
Now I realize that I am not respecting his perspective. It doesn't matter if I think or other people think he hung the moon. The only thing that matters is how he perceives himself and I need to respect that.
On July 5th, Caroline wrote and said about STEP FOUR - PART 2 ...
I have tried three times to get Paul to put into writing a comparison of our answers. He says he doesn't see why he needs to do that and he doesn't understand what he is supposed to do.
I've tried explaining that I am trying to understand the differences in how we communicate.
Pressing him on it anymore will only alienate him.
I'd like to talk to him about what we each wrote, but I will wait for guidance from you.
One other thing I failed to communicate to you is that when I looked at the differences, what I also noticed is that Paul's reason for doing the things he has done is actually quite normal and rational.
Hope you had a nice 4th,
That day, I wrote back and suggested ...
About your son not seeing the value in writing the differences, you can try two things. One, try telling him you learn better on paper when you have time to compare the differences. (This is actually true for most fussy's.) Or you could ask him if you could write down what he says, and if he wants, give him a copy when you're done.
If none of this works, then, I'll try to think of something else.
P. S. You might also try telling him the insights you've gained so far, especially how normal his responses seem when you get to read them on paper.
Then on July 6th, Caroline wrote ...
I did exactly what you said about trying to get Paul to finish his part. The more I tried to convince him the more anxious he became. He began grabbing fistfuls of his hair and pulling. He does that whenever he is being forced into a conversation he doesn't want to have.
He kept saying that what I wanted him to do was stupid, and he didn't have anything else to say about it.
That our differences were obvious: His were right, mine were wrong.
I even tried just discussing them with him, but he wouldn't.
Not much to go by, but that's about all I'm going to get out of him.
The more I look at it, the more I see that in my answers to the first two questions, my thoughts were more on an abstract level, and his feelings were very concrete in nature. I was looking for a deeper reason for him to have stopped. He simply was tired of it, it was hard work, and it wasn't perfect. Of course, how does one define perfection? That can be kind of abstract.
My brain's too fried to look at it anymore.
I want to tell you something I did a few days ago, though. Remember when I told you he got angry and told me he was tired of me trying to enact societal constraints on him? I had then asked him what he meant by this and he told me that he wasn't talking to me. Finally, I had asked him why he was mad and he said, "What part of not talking to you do you not understand?"
What I didn't tell you was that later, I tried treating him the way he treats me. I kind of got that idea from reading your article on the boy with whom you played that game on correcting people.
Well, I always try to model good relationships for Paul. I treat him the way I want him to treat me in the hopes that he will also feel connected to me.
First off, I asked him if he wanted me to be a part of his life, and he said, "no." So, I said, "Fine; I'll stop trying." I then removed everything I had recently given him as an attempt to be a part of his life: a photo album I had put together, books, etc. Then I treated him exactly as he treats me. I spoke to him only if he spoke to me and then only in as few words as possible. More over, I wouldn't make eye contact with him and walked past him as if he weren't even present.
Within a relatively short amount of time, I began to notice that he was watching me. He then began to make excuses for coming into the room where I was. He'd make comments to solicit a response from me.
He began to be very nice and would ask permission to go places. He normally doesn't ask but informs me of his plans: "I am going ..."
Last night he said, "Mom, do you have any special plans for me this Saturday? If not, would it be ok if I went to a party with a girl named Melissa?" When he left the room, my husband said, "What was that? Since when does he ever ask?"
What do you think of my approach and how he's responding more socially?
On July 7th, I responded with my thoughts and STEP FIVE ...
First of all, thanks so much for your help with the editing. I had an email ready to send you regarding the name changes and getting your input, but I never got around to sending it. The gist, though, was that should you want me to edit something you've written, you have but to ask. More over, I do plan, eventually, to edit what we've both said down to the essence of our exchanges: the idea of fuzzy / fussy. And I will. Soon (grin).
As for what has happened so far between you and Paul, obviously, he is exhibiting the rigid kind of social interactions typical for people with Asperger's. However, please remember, he is also a teenager. Thus, his behavior is not at all unusual.
In addition, you, yourself are exhibiting behaviors typical for the mother of a teen; e.g. your strong urges to connect despite his requests that you leave him alone. Again, this is not at all unusual behavior for the mother of a teen.
My point? Your son's responses are probably a pretty even mix of both being a teen and having Asperger's.
This brings up what to me is a pretty important idea regarding knowing if someone has Asperger's or not. This idea is that, often people can mistakenly attribute symptoms like rigidity to age appropriate behaviors alone. It is, after all, very common to see this kind of rigidity in both babies during the "terrible two's" and in teens. On the other hand, people can equally mistake these socially awkward exchanges as the evidence and proof the person has Asperger's.
In truth, it is never "just" Asperger's. What I mean is, it is always important to see a person with Asperger's as a complex mix of normal and atypical.
In addition, all human beings have BLocks which result in socially awkward exchanges. In each case, these BLocks literally limit and impair our abilities to picture parts of life, including social exchanges.
In effect then, whenever we experience one of these BLocks, we relive the shock of a wounding event. This means we respond to others in a way typical for a person in shock to respond; blankly or badly; with emptiness or aggression.
More over, no matter how seemingly insignificant the original event, whenever we relive this particular kind of event, in some way, we will experience a restricted degree of choice with regard to how we respond to others, at least in this particular kind of life situation.
Here, my point is, neither you nor Paul are free of BLocks. Thus, what you report may have holes in it too. In fact, from what you've already reported, as far as things like beginning to see his answers as being open, you may have already begun to heal some of your BLocks. Feeling effortless love where it used to be hard to love is always the evidence of this healing.
As for Paul's refusal to continue the exercise, please know that regardless of what happens between you two during these exchanges, that nothing will be wasted. To wit, perhaps we can use his refusal to continue as a way to help you understand what to me is a very common example of being "fussy."
Fussy people discuss things, and talk in general, for primarily two reasons;  to learn, and  to teach.
Fuzzy people, on the other hand, as a group seem to have no particular bias in this way. Thus they often appear to interact with others for, what to us Fussy's, seems to be no apparent reason.
Of course this is not true. The reason, which is perfectly obvious to Fuzzy's, is to socially connect to one another.
Two common examples of this kind of Fuzzy interaction would be  seemingly shallow exchanges about the weather and  casual inquiries with regard to how another person is doing.
In both cases, Fussy people find it hard to understand why someone who, in truth, does not know diddly about the weather would ask someone about the weather. They also see as hurtful casual requests as to how you are if the person asking does not actually want a complete and detailed personal report as to how they are doing.
"Why ask if you don't really want to know?" might be what a person with Asperger's would think. The answer? It's obvious. To connect. Thus, to Fuzzy's, the words exchanged are not meant to be taken literally. They are simply an excuse people often use to connect to someone.
Fussy people, including those of us who are extremely Fussy; those of us with Asperger's; tend not to notice the personal meaning of these kinds of exchanges. Why? Because we are mouth reader's, not eye readers. In other words, we Fussy's literally focus on peoples' mouths when we converse, rather than on peoples' eyes. Fuzzy people tend to do the opposite. They tend to read peoples' eyes rather than their mouths. Or in difficult times, they tend to avoid looking at people's faces completely.
What all this means is, we Fussys tend to speak and interpret what others say exactly as the dictionary would define the words; as ideas, and not so much as what Fuzzy's use these exchanges as; the excuse and the way to socially connect.
The gist of what I've been saying then is that Fussy peoples' motive for connecting to others is mainly to exchange ideas. In a sense, the ideas exchanged are more important than the people exchanging them. For Fuzzy people though, connecting to others is the main reason to exchange ideas and so, Fuzzy people can often talk about what seem to us Fussy people to be wasted conversations; conversations that seem to be about nothing.
These conversations are not wasted, even if the content is about nothing. More important, these conversations are, for the most part, very meaningful.
Unfortunately, most Fussy's never learn to recognize this meaning. Why? Because this meaning is visible only to people who have come to know what the two people are focusing on. And what are they focusing on? On something we Fussy's are almost totally blind to; on socially connecting to others, not to exchange ideas but rather simply to feel the connection.
Caroline, you take this motive for granted. Thus, when Paul refuses to talk, you reinterpret his refusal to talk to you as a personal insult.
Is it? No, not at all. But for you to know this, you would have to know what it is like to be entirely motivated by the exchange of ideas; by the possibility that you will either learn something or teach something or both.
Caroline, I'm sure it hurts to be on your end of these conversations. It must seem like your son does not care. In truth though, he does care. More than you have ever realized. He simply takes for granted that you know he cares and so, he never stops to consider how you feel in these exchanges. In fact, were you to ask him if he loves you, he would probably be surprised or even hurt that you didn't know he cares.
Fussy people mean what they say. Literally. Thus, unless he tells you otherwise, if he has told you he loves you then he still loves you. Period.
Are you beginning to see why I call these two perspectives two entirely different languages?
They are. Literally. But only a Fussy would be able to discover this difference.
As for your behavioral intervention, there is a whole lot I can and will say about it when I have more time. For now, just know, you are hurting him much less than you could ever know. Why? Because he simply does not understand your new behavior.
This means he will be highly motivated to connect to you. Why? To learn and understand what has changed between you two and not because you have "hurt him into realizing how it feels to be ignored."
Said in other words, Paul does care how you feel. Very much. But he rarely checks in with you as to how you feel because he assumes that once he knows, that you will feel the way he assumes you feel.
Confused? Don't worry. You are already beginning to understand his language. And if I have anything to say about it, he will come to understand your language too.
As for the next exercise, try this.
Step Five:Try watching your exchanges, to see how literally he responds to what you say. In fact, to formalize this exercise a bit more, try five separate but simple exchanges, something like, "When do you want to eat?"
Then notice how literally he expects things to proceed.
Then write me and tell me how this goes.
Have a good day,
P. S. I almost forgot. You asked me what I thought about how Paul is responding more socially. What I think is, the loving route to connection is often very confusing. Always, though, it is wonderful. More important, Paul is very lucky to have you as his mother. Keep following your heart.
P. P. S. At this rate, we'll have the makings of a heck of a good book on Asperger's. I have a feeling we're being directed in ways we have yet to consider.
On July 11th, Caroline responded with her results ...
I am pleased to be able to say that Paul has mastered the art of small talk with friends in some huge areas of his life. I assume he was able to put those pieces together in regards to building friendships. Surprisingly he chats about nothing for hours to friends via the internet and on the phone with girls. I think in person, his ability diminishes considerably, but he is still able to contribute satisfactorily, as evidenced by the constant invitations he receives to go places with people. All his friends are very outgoing and the fact that they carry the bulk of the conversation in person probably fulfills their need as well to express every thought that pops into their heads.
Kind of a funny aside, not too long ago a friend of mine rode next to Paul on a 5-hour youth trip. Toward the end, she asked him why he didn't talk much. To which he retorted, "I don't enjoy inane conversations." She asked him if he meant the kind she had been having with him for the past 5 hours and he said, "Yes." Fortunately, she wasn't offended and just thought it was funny.
And I will further have to admit to you, Steven, that I have been very guilty of feeling hurt when Paul won't share chatty social things with me. I always feel like I don't demand much interaction so the least he could do is tell me a few things about his social life.
I have interpreted it as "He doesn't care about me." And I am going to further admit that one a couple of occasions I have even asked him if he loves me. That sounds so desperate, doesn't it? I would never dream of asking my other children. The fact that they seek me out to share their personal thoughts and interests affirms within me that they love me.
And the further sadness of it all is that, when I asked Paul if he loved me, I knew he did and that he would say that he did, but I needed him to say it.
Your explanation has helped me to understand that, in his mind, he assumes that, of course, I know that he loves me and therefore, he doesn't need to convey it. It still isn't easy, but coming to an understanding of this helps me more than I can convey to you.
I tried your next assignment with Paul. I knew it was going to be a hard one because, in part, Paul is allowed to lead as independent life a life as we can afford him.
As a result, he has become more flexible in response to how we respond to his requests. He recognizes that in comparison to his friends, we don't hound him about anything except what we consider to be of utmost importance.
So here are the things I set a time on to see how he would respond to the literal time frame.
1. He wanted to borrow the car and go buy a CD. It was 10:08. I told him he could go at 10:15 but that had to clean up the game room first. He made 3 trips upstairs removing glasses and such. I noticed that every time he unloaded dishes or trash into the kitchen, he glanced at the clock. On his 3rd trip down, he glanced at the clock (which read 10:14), said his job was complete and could he now go.
His father asked him if he had ever spot cleaned the carpet like he had asked him to do a couple of days ago. He said no. His dad told him to go do it. He sighed, but didn't complain. Came back down at 10:22, said he had done it, and asked if he could now go. We let him go.
2. I asked him what time he wanted to eat dinner. I've never asked him that before so he was somewhat perplexed by my question and said he didn't care. I said I'd have dinner ready at 6:00. He said, "fine." Dinner wasn't ready at 6:00. He never inquired. He is allowed to eat whatever he wants throughout the day, so I'm sure he wasn't even particularly hungry when 6:00 came.
3. He wanted to get on the computer when I was on it. I told him he could get on in 10 minutes. He became absorbed in a TV show and never returned.
4. He wanted to go meet some friends at the mall. I needed the car so I said I'd drop him off. I asked what time he wanted to go. He said about 2:30. At 2:26 he asked if I was ready. I said, no. He went to his room. I had to knock on his door to get him at 2:40.
5. Last night he wanted to get on the computer. Again I was on. It was 11:30. I asked him what time he wanted to get on. He said, "Right now!" I said to give me a few minutes. He returned within a couple of minutes and said, "Ok, you've had your few minutes."
I think Paul has really learned over the years to not be so literal with requests. In the past, when he has given me a difficult time, I have scolded him and pointed out how often I have to wait on him for various things. We've also granted him a lot of freedom on when he completes a task. We have done this in part because he would become so stressed out when we told him he had to do something immediately. We've learned it is counter productive on things that are really important and not worth the melt down, so we try to give him ample warning of time constraints. That said, we also make immediate demands so that he can work on being more flexible. It is a constant tightrope we walk with him.
I often wonder if we should be more rigid with him to help teach him self-discipline and delaying of self-gratification. I still don't know that answer. We do both. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Probably much like parenting a neuro-typical child.
I hope this information was useful.
As always, thanks for your guidance,
This exchange is still in progress ...
(I will be adding updates as we go along)