I have recently started mentoring a sixteen-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome and am finally going to invest the time to mail in the rest of my paperwork. Locked and loaded. Just “get g**ng already!” I despise that phrase with a passion because it brings back traumatic memories from those days of yore. Therefore, I shall use asterisks as though it were a genuine profanity. Perhaps the reason for my delay is more than the lack of time to complete these mundane tasks. I could be afraid to take this step out of fear of failure.
“Justin” and I became acquainted during the interview process and I found him to be a remarkable young man. The staff told me all sorts of wonderful qualities that endeared him to staff members and even some of his peers. They also warned me. “Justin” would try to manipulate me into buying him gifts at the mall and taking him to all sorts of exotic places. He does not always understand why certain actions will endanger friendships and a sense of trust. And once trust is broken, it may take an exorbitant amount of time to rebuild. “Justin” is indeed guilty of the manipulation and severe inconsideration that is stereotypical of the Asperger’s population. The behavior that tragically justifies societal contempt toward my peers. The nonsense that I have certainly been guilty of in the past and has nearly ruined my life. But I eventually had motivation to change when there was finally something to fight for and then some.
Human beings are not able to function without the essence of motivation. It is not a theory, but a concrete law of nature. For nearly three months I have been depriving myself of all the caloric foods that would produce a temporary state of euphoria, but did so knowing it would help me lose the abominable amount of weight I have gained from a sedentary year of answering my constant e-mails. I had a physiological entitlement toward success. While I am not a smoker, I know people quit smoking with the motivation it will dramatically decrease their chances of dying from lung cancer/a heart attack/a stroke. Without a modicum of motivation…there is a dark, empty space without even flecks of dust floating around for ambience.
I asked a lot of questions prior to the moment when “Justin” came inside the room. One of the first questions was, “Let’s say he, you know…works on his inappropriate behavior. If he shows dramatic improvement then will his peers at the Home show mercy? Will they give him the ‘break’ he deserves?” Their response was chilling. “The other kids at the place don’t really give too many ‘breaks’ to anyone.”
As a child, I was told that people would not like me because of my inappropriate, weird behavior. “What are you doing to bring this on yourself?” Nobody told me about the absence of mercy when tolerance is warranted. Nobody taught me how to look into the mirror and show himself the mercy that will not always come from other people. Justin must give himself a fighting chance to have some peace within his soul. I will try to help him find that tranquility…
Perhaps we should start off really small and just arrange a trip to Splashdown or Roller Magic. I am very fortunate that he enjoys some of the same carefree pastimes as me. And we will have plenty of time to discuss the brutal realities he will have to battle like Harry Potter in the final duel with the sadistic Lord Voldemort.
If you are a friend to someone on the autism spectrum, the best thing you can do for them is show them the mercy that will not always come when it is deserved. If their behavior is not appropriate, then show them what they must do to earn your profound respect. Lead them on the path toward a fighting chance or anything at all…