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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
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EARLY THOUGHTS ON FRIENDSHIP

Copyright 1998 Roger N. Meyer

 

 

     [This is a brief response to a parent's question about childhood friendships on a listserv to which I was a member for about two years following my diagnosis.  It was written just before I started the Portland AS Adult Support Group in September, 1998.]

 

Jean:

 

     Of course the issue of childhood friendship is individual, but the problems AS kids have with friendship has made it a diagnostic characteristic.  Many parents are so thrilled when their child is able to have a friend.  In my case, and I only speak for myself here, it was no picnic.  I never was able to sustain any more than one" friendship" when I was younger than ten, and only "two" while in high school.  Except for my one hanging-around acquaintance's family in primary school, I always related better to the parents of the other friends than I did on many occasions with my contemporaries.  In both of those families, I felt a genuine warmth and acceptance from these parents that was different than that of my maternal and paternal grandparents. It was simply more unconditional.  In primary school, I always felt "tolerated" in every situation, not only by the boy but by his entire family, except for his high school-aged sister. We weren't even close to one another, but we did share a common wavelength.

 

     In high school and college, I did go out canoeing with both of my buddies, often with girls.  I had a perfectly awful date with every girl I took out, even with some "many time repeaters."  Those dates usually were around social or religious school social events.  My synagogue class was too small for me to escape unnoticed, and going to the parties and dances was a teeth gritting and grinding experience.  The same was true with my high school class.  We were 59 kids when we graduated, and because our classes were so small and so good, we knew one another intimately as only one can know another high school student in a small school.  That was what made "mandatory" attendance at school events inescapable.  I always felt better if I could take someone who was NOT a fellow student, but regardless of who I escorted, I felt just that, an escort, not a date. College dates were no different.  By the time I became an adult, I didn't know the first thing about dating, and as each year passed, I cared less to learn.

 

     Every report I see on this list indicates that AS kids rarely do social things successfully, even when doing things together.  That is certainly true of the few failed groups of AS young adults I've recently learned of.  The Portland AS group, drawn together by a couple of researchers and some parents, lasted for about a year, with fractious cliques and backbiting, paranoia and ultimate collapse as members continued on their own way, the same after as before.  There was also deep resentment by every person in that group of about a dozen young persons about being presented as panelists through other's motivation, certainly NOT theirs.  I think of what they must have gone through as "Jerry's Kids" gone terribly wrong.  We all know what the disability movement feels about such displays of "poster children."  That poor guy, at it for years, and he STILL doesn't get it.

 

     Drawing AS kids together always seems more strongly motivated by parents' concern and desires than those of the participants. It isn't that the  kids part as enemies; they just remain the strangers they've always been, often to themselves as well as others.

 

     I can understand the anguish and hopes dashed of teachers and parents wanting the best for their kids.  It just doesn't seem to happen this way.  It is hard to avoid feelings of failure when this occurs.

 

     The tragedy lies in the fact that all are victims.

 

 

 

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