Thursday, September 2, 2010

Facebook and the Aspergers Teen

I have to be one of those moms who noses around in her sons business.  I try to do it discreetly so I don't totally piss him off. Now that school has started and he already starting to show some obsessive tendencies towards a couple of friends.  I feel it's in his best interest for me to know what's going on.  I periodically check in on his "facebook" page to make sure that he is staying appropriate.  Sometimes, he comes out of his room suddenly angry and I know that something has happened with a friend online.  If he won't talk to me, I trace his "facebook" steps to see what is going on.

Recently he reconnected with a friend "M" that he has know since kindergarten.  She was always very nice to him throughout elementary school.  They parted ways when he went to another middle school, but have met up again in the same high school.  She has a boyfriend and has made it clear that she would love to be good "friends" with my son.  He says he accepts that, and has even gone to church with "M" and her boyfriend.  They are Christian kids who seem to be trying to be inclusive with my son, despite some of his strange behaviors. He has started to talk about them a lot. I know that he is jealous of their relationship.  Since he has no edit button, he also made that clear to both of them.  Still, they generously let them hang out with their crowd at school.

Last night as the evening was winding down, instinctively I decided to take a peek at what he was doing on  facebook.  I found a chat log going.  Some dude was telling "K" to back off from "M" and her boyfriend's relationship.  "K" responded by ripping this guy a new one with every expletive he could think of. The guys language was teasing and taunting, with lot's of "ha-ha's", but no cursing.  Other friends chimed in on the conversation, but no one was out and out rude.  Still K-was cursing up a storm!  He must have been so proud of his curse word vocabulary.  Personally, I think cursing to express yourself shows a real lack of imagination and thought.  In my opinion it makes you look dumb! Especially when others around you aren't talking like that.

I've read in Ross Green, Ph.D.'s book "The Explosive Child"  which basically says, for children with Aspergers, cursing is like barking when you step on a dogs tale.  They're hurt or upset and they feel there is no other way to let you know just how much.  It's like an exclamation point for them. And of course since "K" lacks perspective, he doesn't think about how offensive it is to others who don't use that kind of language.  Believe it or not, none of the kids on the chat responded or used one iota of fowl language.   

It was really getting out of hand so I had to step into his room and as gently as possible said to him, "Son -I think you should really rethink the kind of language you're using on facebook.  I noticed that even though some of the boys are being rude, not one of them is using that kind of language. Not one.  Don't you think it makes you look a little weird that you're the ONLY ONE talking that way?"

"I don't care!"
"I think you should apologize because not only that boy is reading this but there are girls, and others who want to be your friends who are reading it, and may be offended by it."
"They don't care! I'm not apologizing to that jerk!"
"Yeah...well I understand how you feel, you may be making yourself bad."
He didn't agree to apologize.  I left the room.  Soon after he posted:

"I'm deleting my facebook account.  I can't be friends with anyone. This is not a joke.  I'm not coming back. And I'm never coming back to school either.  I'm just going to juvenille hall. This will be the last time you see me."

That was the sympathy card.  It worked...there were 14 replies -all of them positive.  Here are just a few:
"Dude what's wrong? Don't talk be talking about yourself like that! If you ever need someone to talk to...text me anytime before 10:30.  Then I have to turn my phone off."
"I'm here for you buddy!" (from a female...a cheerleader no less).

"Dude...don't worry about a girlfriend.  If you really want one, just be friends with them.  Almost every relationship starts by being friends. And if you EVER need someone to talk to I've got your back! Just get your schoolwork done, and let everything fall into place. God has a plan for evryone! Let his light shine through you."
"Don't delete it!"
"I'm here for ya!" (from another cheerleader!)
I was so excited, I couldn't help myself...I chimed in, "Wow! You are so blessed to have friends with such good advice!"  Three people "liked" my comment.

Reading these posts brought tears to my eyes.  I could just see God all over that page and in the hearts of those young people.  I knew at that moment that God has not forgotten us.  He is answering my prayers.

When I go in to kiss him goodnight I say, "Dude! do you know how blessed you are?! You have some real friends out there who really care about you.  Can you try to focus on them? I mean, you've got cheerleaders who are in your corner!  That puts you in a great place! Can you try to focus on that?"

And that was the prayer I prayed over him as he drifted off to sleep.

To read more of my stories check out my personal blog -


  1. Wow - how fantaqstic. I often worry about my younger and his explosiveness and language, and he is my NT child. The older does not use bad language at all, but is more likely to cause upsets by chastising those who do.

    Both are on FB, but I monitor it very closely. (PS - how do you see their chat thingy? I thought that was only between those who are invited to chat?)

  2. You're right. Cursing is very much like barking. If I bump into a wall, I'll often curse at it even though it's an inanimate object. I guess I can't help it.

    Why have words if you're not allowed to say them?

    Also: Believe it or not there is empirical research which concluded that swearing actually helps people to feel better.

    Of course, the effect on those who don't swear is another thing entirely.

  3. Madmother I wasn't looking at a personal chat. These were posts that all of the kids where commenting on.

    Gavin -thanks for reading, commenting and following!

  4. Having Aspergers, I can see both sides of this issue having engaged in this sort of behavior albeit minus the cursing online (I reserve that for real life) I can understand the desire to blow off steam at the person who has caused the anger especially when I was a teenager. As I grew older I realized that such behavior had repercussions mostly through ruined friendships and the like, so I learned to try and put a muzzle on things. Sometimes that does not always work and as you say the missing edit button is in full effect but once I calm down I quickly apologize and delete my comments. It took me a long time to learn this as I am now 32. I sometimes still do the explosive or cryptic status update but those too for the most part eventually get deleted.

    Robert Moran

  5. As an adult with Aspergers, who didn't have the internet as a teenager (as it wasn't around yet!), I actually find the internet to be an easier place to edit my reactions than real life. I've found that the time it takes to compose my words in writing, and then the act of reading them over, has given me more control over what I say, and also given me insight into how other people might read my words. So I'm very careful to word and reword things to express myself clearly in a way that isn't offensive.

    I'm not sure that I'd have had this control as a child (probably not!) but as an adult, the internet has actually enabled me to better understand the social world and my place in it, because it streamlines interaction into only words on a screen, so I'm not distracted by sensory stuff and all the complexities of body language. I purposely observe how others interact and learn from it. So maybe it will get easier for your son as he gets older.

  6. hello, i am a mother of a 5 year old recently diagnosed with ausberger's and a 2 year old diagnosed with classic autism. plus my eldest child has severe cerebral palsey. I have a four year old who at this point appears to be developing typically. I am so lost in all of this. my 5 year old is explosive, and has been since she was 2. she has violent temper tantrums. she bites, hits, smacks, spits in your face, breaks things, throws things and screams for 6 plus hours most days. she has had episodes that have lasted 12 hours. she is now seeing a psychiatrist and awaiting an appt to an autism clinic. i dont even know what to do. have any of you experienced this? i need help, i am drowning.

  7. Wow, Karen, I can relate to every word of this! Girlfriends, language, friends, seeing all of it through a black and white lens. I have found trying to teach 15yo Asperger's son about proper use of the internet particularly challenging. (Particularly because he is not interested in being taught!) Part of the problem lies in the uncharted waters of the internet. Many teens and adults are inappropriate online and the social rules are grayed. I recently had to put him through a course I designed to teach him about internet predators. I hate to scare him but they need some healthy fear as they navigate the virtual world without "an edit button". This is an issue that going to become more of a concern for everyone, especially Aspies.

    Thanks for your openness and bringing this to attention.


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