More on Autistic Empathy

Sometimes my child doesn’t succeed at understanding the feelings of others, than there are those times when I believe he’s beginning to get it.

A recent incident involved a bunch of teenagers and a Smash Bros. game.

What happened?

One of the teens can’t play this popular Smash Bros game because this teen gets over stimulated.

My kid plays it often—so much so that he’s practicing for his first tournament. And, he’s learning from a different teen who has attended one of these tournaments.

What happens when a group of teens want to do something that one cannot?

That was the problem recently.

And, it has been a problem in the past.

My autistic child with an obsession in full bloom, and with the group playing what he wants to play, verses one of the teens who has a strong sensitively to this particular game.

There was a plan made by the teens earlier in the week. They want to include this one teen in their social group, but they also want to play this game.

The plan was to play the game for an hour, and then the teen can choose another game to play.

Was I involved?

Well, no, and that was something I pointed out later.

If I had known about this plan, I would have talked with my very literal, concrete-thinking child who is currently obsessed with Smash Bros.

However, after downloading all of what happened during this social visit, I’m here to report that my child did succeed in some areas.

How did this situation break down?

Well, the teen came to the house and was ready for the group to switch to games that the teen could play.

And, the group wasn’t quite ready. They wanted to do one or two more “quick” one on one matches (which, apparently take 5-6 minutes each).

The teen waited through one of them, but began to become agitated when the teen thought the kids weren’t ever going to play games the teen could play.

Additionally, in the past, this teen would tease my son about one character in particular—one that my son loved, but the teen didn’t.

While playing, the waiting teen made a few comments about this beloved character that my son was playing.

My son has a very good memory of things like this, and he didn’t respond well to the teasing.

Things escalated to the point where the teen began to feel unliked and shut out.

The teen took this very hard and began to mention the word, “suicide.” I know this particular teen has done this in the past, but, to my knowledge, never in front of the teen’s peers.

How did my son react?

We had never talked to our son about this teen saying those things before, so bad on our part when it comes to explaining just how much this particular teen sometimes struggles. My son is fourteen and he is at the age—especially with a kid he knows—to tell him that so and so has some serious struggles.

He likes this teen and wants to play with this teen.

But, he also gets locked into his obsessions.

However, when this threat came about to the roomful of teens, one of them being my son, I believe my son acted in a rather neuro-typical way, for part it.

The way he did acted accordingly was when he told me that he became worried about the teen. He even went after him to try to stop him from going outside because my son thought that maybe he would do something outside right after threatening suicide.

I was proud of my son when he told me this.

Then, there were other times, (I found out later) that he was less than helpful.

For example, when it was explained that this teen has low self-esteem, my son said, “I have high self-esteem.” (Which is fairly honest, I think.)

When I asked my son why he said that, he said he thought it would help the teen.

After I socially scripted how maybe that wasn’t the right time to say something like that, he understood.

He really thought he was helping the situation. And, he tried.

Now, he knows why maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say.

A learning experience, and again kudos to my son for trying.

Later on, though, my son did admit that he got angry at this teen. He brought up the fact that the teen doesn’t like this one character that he loves. And, that he had said something about that character.

Within this very emotional scene, my son used the word “betrayed” right after the teen had used it when an explanation was asked for how the teen was feeling.

Again, later on, I went over a social script of using a word like “betrayed,” even though the teen had used it, I felt maybe my son didn’t quite mean to use that word. He was hurt and had been in the past. But, maybe just “hurt” was a better word.

This is a case of a child with autism fumbling his way through social situations, having an obsession while learning how to navigate the feelings of others. One person more rigid and rote and literal while another person is very emotional and sensitive. Yet, they are friends and have been for a long time.

Just another rung on the autism ladder of learning. My son got some of it, and learned how to deal when a similar situation occurs, and there will be a similar situation.

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