Monday, July 14, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

"If you're happy and you know it...."

Unless you don't know it.

People with Asperger Syndrome often have difficulty expressing their feelings; assigning a word to something going on inside that brings about an emotion. This can cause all sorts of trouble when conflict inevitably arises and problem-solving using "I feel/you feel..." is a mystery.

During his first few days at the School, Wolf was given six feelings to memorize and use on a daily basis to describe himself at any given time. Anger, happiness, sadness, hurt, fear, and shame. Six words as a general round-up of feelings for a kid whose usual description of his day consists of "good" or "bad". Wolf, like so many with Asperger's, lives in a black or white world where everything, including feelings, are all or nothing.

It may seem strange that Wolf must carry a list of feelings around and use that list as a reference, but many things that are instinctual in nature to most of us must be learned, studied, and remembered like French verbs. And it is easy to forget.

For Yukon and I, the realization that Wolf cannot process feelings as we do was sobering and enlightening. Try, for a moment, to explain what "happy" means, using words. A bit difficult? You betcha. Combine that with a misunderstanding about the tumble-cycle of emotions swirling around inside my teenager, and whew, we've got our work cut out for us.
We must figure out a way to explain the difference between tears of sorrow and tears of joy; anger at another person and anger at yourself. And underneath it all, convey to Wolf that other people possess these same feelings and reserve the right to express them.

Atticus Finch perhaps said it best:

"You'll never understand how people really feel until you step inside their skin and walk around in it."

Somehow, Wolf has to figure out a way to do just that.

1 comment:

dorothy said...

So true - I think my AS boy is about to receive his own list of feelings - today if he makes it through the confusion of day camp undamaged(day two.) Feed me any other lists he's using -we are working on the other side - how things 'feel.' Hot/cold, hard/soft, tight/loose those things - nothing like jumping into the cold lake and screaming about the hot water burning you to get other families attention. And as you know, there is no changing his mind when he's in the midst of it - it's hot and that is the end of it. Period.