Friday, January 6, 2017

Another Aspect of Social Skills

By now we have all heard the horror story out of Chicago, about the autistic teen who was kidnapped and then tortured for two days. It is without a doubt one of the nightmares we live with. It is believed, that the victim went with the group because he knew one of them from school. He probably felt secure, and unafraid, due to the familiarity with that person.

So the issue becomes what do we do in order to keep our children safe from predators like the sociopaths in Chicago? I will tell you the truth....I have no answer. The older my sons have gotten the more I have feared a scenario where someone they trusted took advantage of them. That some predator will see a vulnerable human being, and harm them.

Recently hubby had even turned to me and wondered how do we keep the boys safe, after hearing about a robbery near Mr.GS1's office. "People are just evil," he said. Yes, his was an overgeneralization, but then again,  it is not the average person you need to worry about having contact with your child. It is that pathological individual from whom we all have to be protected.

It is the truth of the matter, that our autistic children are more vulnerable than their peers in this social situation, because they lack the natural protection of being able to read signals, body language and in general they have a naive, very positive look at the world around them. It is one thing to always think well of people. It is another to not know how to protect yourself, and see before you when a situation, or persons, may be a danger.

How do we teach our very trusting children to pay attention to those social signals throughout their lives that they are apt to miss? It is of course one thing to worry about the lack of social awareness in typical situations. It is one thing to need to teach your child manners (etiquette), how to interact with respect, take turns, even modulate their tone. This is simply teaching them how to navigate the times when they don't understand normal social convention. But beyond the everyday niceties that we find so important,  how do we teach them the signals that the rest of us learn about self-preservation?

Now MrGS1 learned at a young age that those you consider your friends may not be your friends. He had peers, who were supposed to be part of his support system, join with his bully-tormentors and partake in the abuse. He had been so alienated throughout high school by students in our town, that it took years at college before he even decided to open up and talk to other students. But even with therapy he was loathe to try to make friends. He may be safer that way. No hurt, and no harm. But it is not a good way to live in the longrun, and we are still working on getting him more integrated into life. Heck, even at work, while people are kind to him and understanding, they are decades his senior and no one exists there to simply befriend, and hang with.

MrGS2 on the other hand, never had the alienation and bullying issues that his brother dealt with, and never was leery of his peers. He did try to be socially adept at college, and even at graduate school. The issue we have here, is that he is trusting and not concerned enough about the people he talks to on social media. While he understands that there are predators in this world, and especially on line, he thinks he can spot them, and that he is smart enough to work around them.

In truth this is not only an issue with those with autism. We hear about the teenager who has met someone on line, and has run away, or the person who has a date from an online service, (men and women) then ends up being a victim of a terrible crime.

One of the first incidents of this kind, was a youngman in France, who had met someone on line and went to innocently meet her for a date. He was kidnapped and tortured to death by a group of  the date's friends, she was happily part of the conspiracy, because he was Jewish. There was no special needs situation with this young French man. He was trusting, and thought he knew the person on line well enough to meet her.

We can teach our children not to talk to strangers.
We can teach our children not to get into  car with someone you don't know.
We can teach our children that when you befriend someone, make sure that a family member has a phone number, a name, and an address where that person lives.
We can teach our children what to do in an emergency.
We can teach our children selfdefense, and where to run for help.
But what do you do, when the predator is actually someone they know, whom they trust, that is part of their circle?
But how do you prepare them, without scaring them, that not everyone who pretends to be your friend, is actually your friend?

I have no answer, except to try to get them to understand how they need to not trust everyone,  that everyone they meet is not their friend, and that even when people say they have your best interest at heart, some really do not. It is not a nice way to live. But it is part of the world in which we live. In fact, we all live that way in our world. It is something they need to learn to traverse as well.

Just another aspect of their confusing social world.