One of the more confusing aspects of the boys' issues for me, at least lately, is the notion that they are perfect in class when the para is there but have trouble functioning on their own. An interesting aspect of this scenario is that the para basically does nothing for them when he is in class. Once in awhile he may interject and give them a social pointer but honestly as they and he tells me, he simply is THERE. At times I can say it becomes frustrating to me that the boys seem to not be able to control their own sense of self unless someone is physically in the room with them (as the issues that occurred this semester dramatizes). So I finally asked the psychiatrist what his take on this reality happened to be...
It's their Id and their Egos. He said. He explained that the way their brain works is that they cannot control both aspects of their personality at the same time and need to have a physical manifestation of their EGO to remind them to control that social part of themselves. I'm not one for psychobabble-gobbledegook, but this actually made sense to me. The boys need a human manifestation of their own social conscientiousness in order to function in these social situations. My next question is, how do we get them then to the place that they can function independently of the para? How do we get the locus of their identity internal to themselves?
Looking at the boys' lives, I realized that at no time are they truly ever alone. They are either with a para, behaviorist, me or hubby. It is interesting to remember that when they did not have support in the workplace there were issues with social interaction. CM1 has held jobs with and without support. The only time that working without a para was successful was when his boss had had experience dealing with person with special needs. When it was a person who had no idea what they were doing, it did not go well to say the least. The person truthfully violated CM1's civil rights. Sadly it was even a Dean at their college. We even offered to put the para in the workplace, but the Dean wouldn't let CM1 come back after the semester because of his social issues. (Old story, it was an on-campus job and we didn't sue the school because of how inclusive and understanding they are overall for the boys. I wasn't going to bite the hand that feeds me, so to speak. Besides this bigoted Dean of the Drama Department was about to exit the school so why punish the school when the "criminal" was leaving. We told the school to drop it. Listen part of being a warrior-parent is knowing when to pick your battles.). It is interesting to note, that at no time did anyone ever have an issue with CM1's work competency. His work has always been above and beyond. It is the social aspect of the work place that gets CM1 and I would not hesitate to guess that it will also be CM2's nadir in the future as well.
Interestingly, I just watched a Livestream of the New York Jewish Federation's Hilibrand Autism Conference that included an on-point presentation by Alison Singer of the Autism Science Foundation. She reported that aspergean adults who had been fired were generally never let-go for shoddy work, but because of social issues surrounding their jobs. It was how they interacted at the "watercooler" that did them in. (The conference was interesting because for the first time all aspects of the lives of adult autistics were the focus. Including how society is failing adult autistics, especially the higher functioning ones.)
Work-place appropriateness is an issue that the hubby has been harping on for years where the boys are concerned. Social face-to-face contact and how you react under work-pressure will dictate your future more than the fact that you have a genius IQ. They actually call it EMOTIONAL IQ. How to help the boys access this is our new goal. We have always concentrated on the social aspect of school and society in general. How to behave in a classroom, how to talk to peers, how to go the grocery store and find what you want, how to use public transportation...but never truly thinking that the workplace environment is really that much different. (Well I never thought it was that different, hubby, being in the workplace, knew better.) The reality is that the workplace is very different. Work related social skills are something that needs to be taught as soon as they reach the age of employment. There are different rules coupled with different requirements of behavior in the workplace and our children, like with everything they encounter, need those rules spelled out and they need to practice under this new societal norm.
What I have begun to realize is that in any new and stressful situation the boys seem to forget their self-help techniques and become overwhelmed by situations. The more social the situation the more stressful it becomes for them. The more unstructured the situation the more stressful it becomes for them. The more varied the situation the more stressful it becomes for them. The more stressed they become, the more the Ego cannot assert itself to stop the Id from overreaching. Perhaps this is the biggest issue with a workplace environment, the inconsistency and the unknown. Or as CM1 says, the curveball effect. Teaching them to deal with the vagaries of the everyday workaday world is the hard part of the equation.
In truth they cannot go through life with a para. Yes, the Tony Shalhoub character MONK does just that, but our goal needs to be true independence and true adulthood (and honestly Monk is TV and "play pretend" how people would accept someone with such issues in a professional position). The trick is how to get the boys to this level of independence at this moment in time. How do we actually get them to access their inner-EGO when their Id takes over with abandon?
Other than continued practice and practice and more practice, I am not so certain right now. Making them understand how they need to function and how they can help themselves is very important. To get them to realize their triggers for anxiety and rely on themselves to take a step back instead of needing that physical manifestation of their EGO is very important. Having them understand that it is all in their hands is the important aspect of this project. I'm not simply sure how to do it at the moment. Letting them fail is also not an option. I do not think children or anyone truly learns by outright failure. That is an old and anachronistic cultural idiocy. Thinking outside the box, preparing for any eventuality and making sure the rules, limits and boundaries are in place, is the way to go.
Without a doubt, workplace social skills education begins with finding an appropriate job placement for them that includes understanding bosses and office mates. Respectful people who will not be afraid to positively correct them when they make a social error and point out how the social contract in the workplace is just as important as what you produce, meanwhile applauding them for what they do right. Job coaching is the term of art. But sadly that reality is practically nonexistent. Not too many people understand how job coaching works and not too many people understand that it is temporary. Eventually the aspergean has to deal with the workplace on their own. They will make mistakes. We all do. But their learning curve needs to be accepted, expected and worked through
In the end, success for aspergeans in the job market, comes with an atmosphere of acceptance. An acceptance that needs to be taught simultaneously to the employer while teaching our aspergeans workplace survival skills. A survival skill that includes teaching them to use their own invisible EGO when their Id goes on a spree.
I'll keep everyone posted.